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Mexican food virgin... (Ed. Now with menu)

well.. more of a born-again virgin.. given the last time I ate Mexican it was from Taco Bill's about 20 years ago and was freakin horrible. CC corn chips with Ole El Paso canned sauce/salsa and pre-fab guac.


I see all these mouth watering posts about Mex food, and you've inspired me.

Which is actually kinda scary, given I live in Melbourne Australia.. not a place known for it's mex food.

What should I be looking for?

What are your tips?

Speak to me of mole and quesila-thingumy-bobs.

I have a booking for a Mexican restaurant tonight.

Ed:... rang the place and asked for a menu to be faxed. Here we go CH'ders!!

Chile Con Queso- a spicy melted cheese and sour cream di[
Frijoles Con Queso-blend of mexican beans and melted cheese
Chile Con Carne- ground beef, beans, onions, tomatoes and spices
Guacamole- avocado, lime, onion and tomato

Trio of dips served with corn chips and warm tortilla strips
Mexican Spring Rolls- chicken, corn, spinach and cheese, served with salsa and guacamole
Cajun Cheesy Bites (**ok, this is where I start to get nervous!!*)- mozzarella cheese sticks coated in Cajun Seasoned bread crumbs, deep fried until cruchy with a melted cheese centre. Delicious! Served with dipping sauces.


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  1. Wow - good luck....great country you have there - but I'd look for actual Mexican folks and ask or a recommendation...check online for the locan Hispanic community and ask around....Vegemite Mole?

    8 Replies
    1. re: jbyoga

      Vegie Mole.. el barfo-rama!!

      We got some great Spanish places here in melb.. and what is touted as a "great" Mexican restaurant, but sadly, our booking this evening is at an unknown place right outta town. I was hoping to ring them this afternoon and find out what is on their menu and suss it out.

      And while I'm asking.. what is a tamale??

      (yes, I know I can google it, but I want the chowhounders description)

      1. re: purple goddess

        One is a tamal. The plural is tamales.

        It's almost impossible to tell you what a tamal is--there are so many kinds. Sometimes it's corn masa (dough) with a filling, wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. Sometimes it's corn masa with a filling, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Sometimes it's corn masa (with or without a filling), wrapped in corn leaves and steamed.

        The fillings can be savory or sweet. The masa can be savory or sweet. Masa can be beaten with lard, with butter, or with no fat at all (those last aren't very common).

        You can see that the common features are corn masa and steaming. After that, it depends on what region of Mexico you're in, whose kitchen, and whose hand is making the tamales.

        I hope you find what you're looking for! If not, though, book a culinary tour with me and come to Mexico for an adventure.

        1. re: cristina

          see, the thing is, Christina, I don't KNOW what I'm looking for.. I certainly know what I'm NOT looking for...

          But I see all these lush posts about mex food (and/or tex-mex) and I just HAVE to know what chipotle is and what the hell it tastes like.

          I cannot die a happy and fulfilled woman until I know.

          Sad isn't it.

          1. re: purple goddess

            A chipotle is a dried pepper that is smoky. Usually anything with it picks up the smokiness. There are few things I've had with chipotle that I didn't like.

            Tamales are ok. It wouldn't be my first choice, but as an appetizer to try and split with someone. The quality varies wildly. As others said, basically masa (think more solid grits or polenta) wrapped around a filling and the whole shebang is wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves. Some can be bland, others flavorful.

            1. re: rworange

              The best tamales I've had are home-made. But it seemed to be quite a process!

              1. re: rworange

                "A chipotle is a dried pepper that is smoky."

                A minor technicality: not any chile, it got to be jalapeño.

          2. re: purple goddess

            First, it's tamal ( no final "e" ), plural: tamales.
            Corn husks wrapping corn flour with stuffing, usu. meat + spices + chiles + younameit.
            Can go anywhere from sublime to unedible.

            1. re: RicRios

              Just as what Americans call corn is "maize" in English and "maiz" in Spanish, I suppose that a tamal in English is a "tamale".

        2. I have a neighbor who moved here (Louisville, Kentucky) from New South Wales four years ago. She is (by my standards, at least) a picky eater. She loves enchiladas (tortillas filled with cheese, beans, and/or meat, rolled like a crepe and smothered with sauce and cheese).

          Tamales are a mixture of corn meal paste, vegetables and/or meat that is stuffed into corn husks and steamed. They are delicious.

          I'll look for a link to a Mexican food description/translation.

          Good luck!

          1. This is not exactly what I had in mind, but it has definitions for various common Mexican dishes, plus definitions for all of the words that are underlined on the menu.

            Hope it helps!


            2 Replies
            1. re: mamaciita

              Thanks Mama.. that's eggzactly what I needed... I am certainly not a picky eater but caveat emptor, eh... I do NOT want to be forking out $$$ for stuff that I could make at home.. or as in previous Taco Bill's experience, crap I would be embarrased to serve at home.

              Will be sure to report back in.

              1. re: purple goddess

                Two takes on Mexican tamales:

                Cold early morning in a town in the highlands of Guatemala or Mexico. Mist lifting and mountains coming out of the clouds. Fresh, hot small tamales of two or three types from a woman on a street corner, or in the just getting started central market, or where workers are getting picked up for the coffee harvest. Sit on little plastic stools. Ask for the plastic squeeze bottle of chile sauce. Tamales with a hot maize drink, atole, in a styrofoam cup! Heaven.

                Peach harvest in the Central Valley of California in the 60s: Up since 4:00 in the morning, no breakfast. By lunch, the temperatures are above 100 F. Family members (of Japanese descent!) sit down to fat unctuous delicious hot spicy tamales made in our huge steamer pots by a woman from Chiapas hired for the duration. One is done when all the golden maize husks are heaped around the now clean plates. Good to go until 7:00 in the evening when work finally stops for the day.

            2. Here is a much more comprehensive glossary of Mexican food terms.


              PS Chipotles are addicitve!!

              1. OK, need more info about the restaurant. If it is a place like Amigos

                or Taco Bill

                We are talking the Australian version of Chevy's. Not REALLY Mexican, sort of Mexican for mainstream tastes. Not that there is anything wrong with that. However, stick to chips, guacamole, faitas and margaritas ... lots and lots of margaritas ... but ask if they are using a mix for the margaritas. Not that mixes are awful, it just gives you a frame of reference.

                Most, if not all of the incredible food you read about is at hole-in-the-wall joints. Don't know if any of these qualify.

                If you have a mom and pop place, go for the soups if any ... pozole, chicken soup, tortilla soup ... you might skip menudo as a first-time experience unless you are wild about tripe .. but Australian Mexican menudo ... shudder ... sorry, it was involuntary.

                Stick to small things rather than plates. I am never usually impressed with the rice and beans. Get a bunch of tacos with different types of meat ... carnitas, al pastor, carne asada, etc ... don't just chicken out and get the pollo which is usually the least impressive.

                I don't suppost Melbourne has taco trucks, eh?

                Good or bad, hope you will report about it on the Australian boards so others can benefit from your experience ... you might attract other local posters which is good for you since you can get some Australian food chat buddies. Link us to the report should you decide to report.

                Grab a menu to bring with you if they don't have a website or are a small joint so you can get future recs.

                3 Replies
                1. re: rworange

                  It's Amigos Waterfront Cantina in Rye... not to be confused with the Amigos chain. and that's about all I know.. 'cept that it's the ONLY mex restaurant on the Pen, which is why I chose it, cos I got me a HUGE craving.. and it's all CH's fault (pout)

                  And I am all good with tripe... maybe not the greeen ones.. we get fabulous tripe in out Vietnamese dishes here,.. but I see your shudder-worthy point about OZ-Mex tripe...

                  Off to learn about the differences between an enchillada and a burrito..

                  **skips gaily into the void**

                  1. re: purple goddess

                    Sounds like you already left, but from he name, I'm guessing it is the same type of joint as the Amigos Chain and Taco Bill. Oddly enough Taco Bill's website has a "roadmap to Mexican food" wih pictures and descriptions.

                    Order in that case what you are not familiar with so you know what a buritto and enchilada taste like.

                    1. re: purple goddess

                      An enchilada is a corn tortilla, slightly fried, filled with ground beef, shredded chicken or cheese. I add onions. cover it with enchilada sauce.
                      Burritos are flour tortillas filled with beef and refried beans and rolled.
                      I noticed here in OZ, they are filled with beef or chicken and they add tomatoes, lettuce. to me that is what we call a flour tortilla taco.

                  2. Carnitas! Good old braised pork that ends with a high temp roast to carmelize bits and tips. Slap it in a warm corn tortilla with some onion and pico de gallo. NO CHEESE!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: M_Dub

                      hehehe on the no cheese thing... I was just posting the same thing,

                      But, there is a specific type of cheese (is it called "white cheese" or something) often used in some dishes. Anyone know? Never had it.

                      1. re: littlegreenpea

                        Queso Blanco is my go-to white mexican cheese. It's rather inexpensive, but pretty good for melty stuff. BUT NOT ON TACOS.

                        1. re: M_Dub

                          Thank you, that is it! I had "fromage blanc" in my head because I first saw it in a Mexican store in Quebec. I know that it is not used for tacos, but what is it used for?

                    2. I've never had mole, so I can't say I know from experience, but I believe it's a savory sauce served with meat... made with chocolate! Yum! (Please correct me if I'm wrong anyone.)

                      I'm sure the links the others provided will fill you in on all of the delicious details of Mex. food. But, some of my favorites include:
                      - ceviche (this should be good for you, given your access for great fresh fish)
                      - tomales (the above description is great)
                      - quesadillas (corn tortillas folded in half, and pan-fried with cheese inside); generally served as an appetizer
                      - refried beans
                      - tacos (my Mexican friend thought I was loco when I said that most N. Americans put cheese and sour cream on their tacos).

                      I think the dishes (and the various approaches to dishes) differ by region in Mexico. In fact, I've never been to Mexico, but my Mexican friends all taught me how to cook! Very lucky indeed.

                      Good luck! And remember that a lot of these things are very easy to make at home.

                      1. Is there a Latino/Hispanic/Mexican community in Melbourne? I've never been there, but alas, if the Mexican restaurants are like those I found elsewhere in Oz (most of my travelling in Australia has been in Sidney and Queensland), you may not really be able to get a good sense of what Mexican food can and should be without a fairly long airplane ride.......

                        The presence of good Spanish food unfortunately won't really tell you one way or the other.

                        I'd look for places that make their own tortillas in house, especially if they are corn tortillas, and that use fresh tortillas to make their tacos. If you find that (I am doubtful that you will) I'd spend some time getting to know the menu: you will probably have found a spot that really does serve Mexican food. I'd also be learly of places that 'smother' the dishes with cheese: cheese will be a component but shouldn't be the predominant taste. I notice that Amigos, linked by rw below, says that they use a taco shell for their tacos, and offer a side of flour tortillas, but no side of corn tortillas that I saw. Both of those are clues that you won't really find Mexican food there. (Though it could still taste good if fresh ingredients are used).

                        I would also look for mole: I didn't actually see any moles on the menus of the Melbourne Mexican places that I could google. I agree with rw to go for the soup if they have it at a Mom and Pop type of place (and if you find a place with albondigas, which are meatballs, in a beef broth, please do report back on the Aussie Board! Who knows when I will be in Melbourne and need a fix :-))

                        I did love how the Amigos menu lists 'capsicum' as an ingredient in the fajitas! :-) (In the US the ingredient would be listed as 'chili' or 'chili peppers').

                        One thing that might help you would be to go buy a good Mexican cookbook, such as one of the Diana Kennedy books. Even if you don't cook from it much, reading the recipes would give you a sense of what the food should be. Given the overlap of many Mexican ingredients with Pacific Rim ingredients, I suspect you should be able to find a fair number of raw ingredients, even if you strike out looking for a restaurant.

                        Good luck; it is a very worthy quest!

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: susancinsf

                          Spanish food is HOT in Melbourne.. heaps of places, and I love it.. Mex is not so easy... There is one really well recommended place Mexicali's.. and we're planning to try it one day.. but we're currently out of Melbourne.. right down the Peninsula.. about an 2 hours out of town.

                          I have rung the restaurant and they're faxing me a menu...

                          Scarily, the owner didn't know what mole was... even I know what the hell mole is..

                          Stand by...

                          1. re: purple goddess

                            Spanish food not equal Mexican. Long story short:

                            Spanish = olive oil
                            Mexican = lard

                            Imposed by the Inquisition, to smoke out the marranos...

                            1. re: purple goddess

                              Mmmm, that"s not a great sign! You might be better off having Mexican at home (if you can find some good South American shops for corn tortillas and the like).

                              1. re: littlegreenpea

                                I heard Safeway Melborne has some good corn tortillas ... but check the ingrediant list. You don't want a lot of preservatives.

                            2. re: susancinsf

                              Agreed that you might not find "real" Mexican food in Australia. I have good friends in Sydney and Melbourne, and that's one of the first things they asked for when they visited here and LA. And for the OP: Spain and Mexico really don't have much in common in terms of cuisine.....so having one doesn't mean the other will be good. Remember, one thing that makes Mexican cuisine unique are the unique ingredients....many of which are native to that country. One of my favorite murals is the smallish Diego Rivera one (its really almost a side panel) in the National Palace of Mexico City. It shows the food items that Mexico supposedly gave to the world:
                              among them corn, tomatoes, chocolate, certain peppers, avocados, etc, etc....
                              makes you hungry looking at it.....

                              1. re: janetofreno

                                Some of the etc, etc, include crops that were found in Mexico at contact and that originated in different areas of the new world, includingg Mexico: cassava/yuca, squash, amaranths, some of thte beans, nopal, hiutlacoche, chayote, epazote, vanilla, and...turkeys!

                              2. re: susancinsf

                                "I did love how the Amigos menu lists 'capsicum' as an ingredient in the fajitas! :-) (In the US the ingredient would be listed as 'chili' or 'chili peppers')."

                                In Australian English, capsicum means sweet bell peppers, not chiles.

                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  You are right. I had forgotten that usage since my last trip.....and makes sense since these are fajitas.

                              3. Be nervous....be very nervous...

                                The guacamole could be good I suppose; that sounds like a fairly simple preparation. Chile con carne is not Mexican as such (More like Tex Mex although to be honest I think of it as an American dish).....and Spring rolls? um no. That would have made me nervous even before I got to the Cajun Cheese bites!

                                26 Replies
                                1. re: susancinsf

                                  but wait!!! There's more!!!

                                  Schnitzel Mexicana- crumbed chicken breast with mild salsa and melted cheese the topped with guacamole and sour cream. Served with fries and salad.

                                  Schnitzel Acapulco- crumbed chicken breast topped with prawns in a garlic and chile and cream suace served with fried ir New mexican potatoes and salad...

                                  or how about this??

                                  plump scallops and prawns pan fried with zucchinni (that well know Mex vegertable, **eye roll**), garlic and cream with just a hint of chile, served in a tortilla basket on a bed of rice and salad.

                                  A tortilla basket doeds NOT a mexican dish make!!! Nary an albodongas or a mole or a tamale to be seen.

                                  Lots of varieties of nacho's tho.

                                  Should I do it, just for the sheer awfulness factor???

                                  1. re: purple goddess

                                    Oh come on ... anything that combines schnitzel and Mexican probably should be tried.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      you realise I will be passing up country raised and aged beef at the ArseL to do this, don't you.

                                      I mean, I know I'm new here, but no-one warned me about the weird initiation rituals.

                                      So I guess if I go and eat at this **ahem** establishement, I am totally IN, right??

                                      1. re: purple goddess

                                        Skip it and save your Mexican outing for Los Armates. I'll post more on the Australian board. Excellent web reviews. Sounds like the real deal.

                                        For heavens sake, they have sweet tamales which are difficult enough to get in Calif.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          Is there some kind of weird virus or something with that url? When I click on it I see the very attractive website for about five seconds before it goes away and google results on emachines or some such thing show up.....same thing happens if I type the url into my browser ....

                                          1. re: janetofreno

                                            I got the same thing, and then IE's Auto-Protect popped up - looks like the website has some kind of auto-download attached to the URL?

                                          2. re: rworange

                                            and barbacoa....not to mention house made masa in the sopes. Unfortunately, only the brunch menu is linked....

                                            1. re: rworange


                                              I totally want to have your babies, now!! THAT's what I want... a menu that has "stuff" I see here on CH!!! Words and flavours that I have never tried before!!! I can imagine the smells and the delightful new combinations.. ohh ooohhh I am doing a little "happy dance" here at my desk!!

                                              I am getting all unnecessary now...

                                              We're returning to town next week, and I will surely make a booking there and let you know how it went. Adios Amigos Waterfront, Helllllooo RSL Hunka Hunka Burning Cow.

                                              1. re: purple goddess

                                                having rw's babies would take more of a miracle than it appears finding good Mexican food in Melbourne may turn out to be :-)

                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                  Well, she could always be a surrogate mom for me.

                                                  Thoughts for elsewhere in this topic.

                                                  Thanks all for the pasilla info. I forgot that pasillas were peppers. Info about the dried version.

                                                  "pasilla chile = chile negro = pasilla negro Pronunciation: puh-SEE-yuh Notes: This is the dried version of the chilaca chile. It's long, black, and wrinkled, and a standard ingredient in mole sauces. Ancho chiles are sometimes mislabeled as pasillas. "

                                                  Info about fresh version

                                                  And thanks QueenB. I did mean Rick Bayless

                                        2. re: purple goddess

                                          well, in all fairness, zucchini (and squashes in general) are used in Mexican cooking....I hate to say this, but, other than the tortilla basket (which could be ok, or more likely would be awful), that dish sounds like the best of the lot!

                                          but no, you couldn't get me to try that Schnitzel on a bet!

                                          I'd go with rw's sleuthing below....

                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                            Right. Despite the fact that in American English we use the Italian name (in British English they use the French "courgette"), squashes are New World vegetables -- much more "authentically" Mexican than either Italian or French! "Real" Mexican restaurants often feature seafood as well.

                                          2. re: purple goddess

                                            Actually.... Zucchinni pretty much originated in Mexico. The Italian version is a deeper green exterior, thinner & a bit more bitter but it decends from what in Mexico is called a Calabacita:



                                            1. re: purple goddess

                                              Actually Mexico does have a version of schnitzel, it is called 'millanesa'. Usually it is thinly sliced beef, breaded and fried. Typically it is served with French Fries, as opposed to rice and beans, or on French style roll.

                                              I would think that the hardest Mexican flavoring to find in Australia would be the medium hot chiles (ancho. passilla, guajillo, poblano, etc). These form the flavor base of sauces such as mole (there have been lots of threads about moles). However, if Spanish food is popular there, you might find a substitute. One Spanish cook book suggests using ancho chiles as a substitute for 'nora' peppers, which implies the two have a similar heat level.

                                              Some make a point of saying Spanish and Mexican cooking is not the same. That is particularly true if you focus on the street foods and snacks based on corn, such as tacos. But the differences are less glaring if you look at soups, stews, and items that would be served at restaurants that don't cater to tourists.

                                              For example both have a garlic soup, sopa de ajo


                                              1. re: paulj

                                                I have had milanesa in Mexico many times, but it is as you describe, which in no way matches the description of 'schnitzel' on this menu...(well, I guess perhaps both involve breaded meat, but beyond that...)

                                              2. re: purple goddess

                                                (Aurora 50, running away and tearing her hair out)
                                                Seriously (after I've regained my composure):
                                                1. Do NOT eat at this place.
                                                2. As others have suggested, get a Mexican cookbook or two and see what real Mexican food is all about. See if you can even try a dish or two - there's been a recent thread about making your own tortillas. VERY easy, and VERY good!!!
                                                3. When you can, get your sweet little butt to Mexico for the real thing.

                                                1. re: purple goddess

                                                  Actually zucchini is widely used in Mexican cooking, but from the sound of it this place wouldn't know that. Haha. I have a delcious Mexican recipe for zucchini and wild mushrooms prepared with roasted poblano peppers and a light cream sauce, it sounds quite "modern" but it's actually quite traditional.

                                                  1. re: ballulah

                                                    My 'Mexican' take on zucchini is to saute slices with onion and/or garlic, and finish with chopped cilantro and lime juice.

                                                    Lime juice, cilantro, salt and chile peppers to taste also turn a wide assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables into a Mexican style salad.


                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      My deepest apologies to the humble Zucc. Here's it's seen as a predominantly Mediterranean vegie.

                                                      Lime, corriander (cilantro) salt and chille, to an Australian palate, gives things a Vietnamese/Thai twist.

                                                      1. re: purple goddess

                                                        Some Mexican regional cuisine can be quite similar to Thai & Vietnamese particularly in the Southeast where the use of Coconuts, Mint, Mangoes, Fish Sauce & Banana Leaves is fairly traditional. We cannot forget that the Acapulco-Manila trade route had a huge role in shaping the culinary world - everywhere - over the last 500 years.

                                                        One question for you.... do you still have Nopal Cactus ( http://www.wegmans.com/kitchen/ingred... ) in Australia or was it all eradicated? If so... you are looking at one of the most important vegetables in the Mexican diet... as it has a huge growing range & season. Any restaurant that has cactus on the menu is almost sure to be authentic (and worthwhile).

                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                          Ahhh.. prickly pear!!!

                                                          It has a long and not particulalry proud history her in Aus. Some dill imported them, they spead like wild fire (one of the botanical wonders of the world, apparently) and then we imported the cactoblastus moth the eat 'em all. (one of the most amazing examples of weed control, apparently!!) and when the cactoblastuses (?!) got sick of the prickly pear, some bright spark decided to import the Cane Toad to eat them. Lets just say the Cane Toad is to Australia what Agent Orange was to Vietnamese forests.

                                                          I sometimes see fruits for sale in Viet markets, and the Maltese community here in Melbourne still prize them (and manage to have a nice little 'underground' supply) but growing a prickly pear is actually illegal in Aus.

                                                          I remember eating the fruit once, years ago... delicious!

                                                          Ed to add: Apparently it's now being farmed for commercial use south of Sydney..

                                                          1. re: purple goddess

                                                            Yeah... I read about Aussie use of cactoblastus... unfortunately some of it reached Cozumel (the island off of Cancun) thanks to some dill on a cruise ship. It has virtually wiped out the Nopal on Cozumel.. and threatens to wipe out Nopal on the mainland which would be the greatest ecological disaster in Mexican history. There is currently a tense face off in the Yucatan.

                                                            Attitude towards Cactus is a perfect example of what Mexican cuisine is all about... here you have one of the most intriguing vegetables & fruits around... and no one else can really figure out how to appreciate it... yet Mexicans see its value... so much so, that is on the Flag and it is emblazoned in our persona... and we love to eat it.

                                                            Basically, you wait for new paddles to grow, and when they are about 4 to 6 inches long, you cut them off, scrape off the still tender thorns... then you can griddle or grill it whole, sauce it or you can slice it & steam it, then chill it and mix with chopped onions, cilantro, serrano chiles, salt... let the flavors meld and voila you have Nopalitos a la Mexicana (cactus salad).

                                                            The Prickly Pears have a refreshing flavor, but they usually have too many seeds so you really want to juice & strain them... they are packed with anti oxidants.

                                                            BTW, the pads are scientifically proven to add with diabetes & insulin resistance.

                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                              The fruit I see here are the reddish bulbs that grow on the ends of the paddle.

                                                              kinda like mango/peach/nashi from memory

                                                              (a bit of pg trivia, a prickly pear fruit was the fist time I realised I was a chowhound.. I was 13 and bought one from a market with my pocket money, simply because I HAD to taste it.. My mother thought I was mad and my friends as well.. A fruit instead of an ALice Cooper poster!!! I still think I got the better deal.)

                                                              1. re: purple goddess

                                                                Yes that is the fruit... but the paddles are typically edible as well.

                                                        2. re: purple goddess

                                                          Ahhhhh...but it really depends on your chilies doesn't it!? Haha. Some Asian chilies have a distinctly Asian flavor, not sure what that means exactly, though! And some of them are lethally hot little buggers! Thai Reds? Holy smokes! Someone in an earlier post mentioned that medium hot chilies are the flavor bases for so many Mexican dishes, and in my opinion the poblano is the Queen of those. Very delicately spicy, and has a rich, dark flavor that I haven't found a sub for. When I find nice ones at the green grocer they are such things of beauty (dark dark green, almost black and shiny, thick skinned...mmm), I get giddy as a little kid, and I end up sniffing the bag of produce all the way home like some kind of chile junkie! When a poblano is dried, it's called an ancho, and added to sauces it adds a smokey, spicy, raisin-y quality to a dish. And if you roast them fresh in your house, the smell is unbelievably mouth watering. Oh boy. I could go on and on and on about different chilies, and now I've made myself hungry! The other chile that is hard to find that is ESSENTIAL to Mexican food, is the ubiquitous "green chile" and in different regions it's a different species. They are brighter green than poblanos, and longer and flatter...sometimes they are generically referred to as Anaheims, but that's just one kind of green chile that looks similar to others.

                                                          I think the key to real Mexican food is the layering of different degrees of spice from dried and fresh chile. Whether it's in the meat preparations and the braising, or the rub and the grilling, or the adding of roasted or dried chilies to almost everything.

                                                          1. re: ballulah

                                                            Hello... I would point out that all the Asian chiles have recent (last 500 years) Mexican ancestors and they haven't evolved that much. For example, Thai chiles are very similar to the Cora & Cayenne chiles; and Japanese chiles (commonly used in Cantonese cuisine) are almost exactly like Arbol chiles.

                                                            The actual fruit isn't that different... what changes quite a bit is the treatment and the use. Chinese hot sauce is much more pungent than anything we have in Mexico etc.,

                                                2. Here you go …


                                                  Los Amates looks so good … actually better than a lot in the San Francisco area.

                                                  First of all, chat it up with the owner. Tell him your interest. From what I read he is friendly and looks for feedback. He sounds perfect to expand your Mexican food knowledge and understand what you are eating.

                                                  If you read a lot of LA posts you’ll notice that’s how people get the good stuff and even some things off the menu by talking and showing interest in the food. It always works for me.

                                                  One thing ... early on .. if you don't like something ... suck it up and don't complain. Tell them you are full and take it home. If you act like a gringo, they will give you gringo food. The place sounds really good though so it shouldn't be a problem.

                                                  Some stuff to order off the menu in my own order of preference. Specials are always good to select. They are described in the links provided on the Australian board. :

                                                  - pollo con mole negro ... homemade (He uses chicken breast. Maybe you can ask if he ever uses dark meat which is always better)
                                                  - adobo de la huerta: potato, sweet potato and pumpkin baked in an adobo salsa with almonds (Cool. I’ve never seen that)
                                                  - Puerco en Pasilla (don’t know what this is)
                                                  - BARBACOA DE BORREGO CON CONSOME Steamed lamb with broth, salsas and tortillas … but wait … this is Australia … move this up … the lamb has to be really good\
                                                  - tamales … three to an order. Ask for one of each kind … sweet, pork with chile verde, pepper & cheese. Note that sweet tamales don't have a filling, just finely chopped fruit in the masa ... or raisins.
                                                  - tacos with chorizo and potato
                                                  - CHILAQUILES VERDES CON POLLO Baked of fried tortillas strips, salsa verde, cheese, chicken and sour cream
                                                  - Rajitas con queso quesadilla (rajitas – peppers, I think)
                                                  - sopes
                                                  CHICHARRON CON GUACAMOLE Y TORTILLAS (I’m not a chicharron fan, that’s just me)

                                                  One of the reviews says of the mole poblano …

                                                  “it takes two days to make and uses five types of chilli, only one of which is spicy hot. The trace notes emerge slowly: cinnamon, almond, sesame, plantain and palm sugar. The chocolate is there but it's restrained. You'd never mistake this for a dessert.”

                                                  - Agua de frutas naturales … aqua frescas are great. Jamaica is my favorite. Horchata is usually good. Tamarindo is tangy … and any fresh fruit is good. Those first three are the most common
                                                  - hot chocolate
                                                  - Café de olla

                                                  Supposedly they have a good range of tequila. Find out what they have and talk to the owner. You can also post on the Spirits board for more info when you find out what he serves.

                                                  I don’t follow the Australian board often, so hope you will email me when you report back.My email is on my “My Chow” page. I'd be interested to see how you like this place.

                                                  You can always post about specific dishes on the General Board for more info and to get some discussion going.

                                                  If you decide to try cooking, then the Home Cooking board will get you help. Rick Steves books are also good cookbooks of real Mexican food. Don’t know if you get his program in Melbourne. Even if you don't cook, reading them will give you an understanding of what you are eating. You can then inquire about some of the dishes at the restaurant.

                                                  Happy Mexican munching. Sounds like a very cool restaurant to explore. I’m jealous.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                    If I'm not mistaken, I believe you mean Rick Bayless, not Rick Steves.
                                                    Mexico, One Plate at a Time is a great place to start in Bayless books, in my opinion.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      Isn't pasilla a type of chili? So 'puerco in pasilla' would simply be pork in a chili sauce...

                                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                                        Yup.... it is a very, very distinct chile... it is very spicy, dark and has some interesting flavor notes that... under a novice can be repulsive, but under expert treatment are very intriguing and complex. Usually involved in some fabulous moles.

                                                        Edit... I should note, that due to regional differences in places like Michoacan they refer to Poblanos as Pasillas... but Pork in Pasilla definitely refers to the Southern Mexican definition of Pasilla... not Poblano.


                                                    2. Ask them if they make their own guaccamole with fresh avocados or if they buy it already made. If it's bought already made, leave immediately, go buy yourself a mexican cookbook and try making it yourself. 'Mexican Spring Rolls' and 'Cajun Cheesy Bites' do not qualify as Mexican food.

                                                      1. Purple Goddess... I think tacos (as the most commonly eaten casual food in Mexico) are the way to get to know Mexican cuisine... then you can move on to the real food (a proper main meal etc.,).

                                                        Check this thread out, it will give you an introduction on what you should look for in tacos:


                                                        1. wow what a great thread...

                                                          coming from california and studying latin american history in college, i love all things "latin" including mexican food =) i'm more into the authentic mexican food as opposed to the chevy's style, but i'll eat that too because i still enjoy it =) and yes, (this thread is too long to credit all the wise input that everyone gave, so props to everyone ahead of time) ... anyway, yes... spanish food is very different from mexican food. my opinion is that mexican food has lots of influence from the indigenous people, so like many people mentioned, mexican food has a lot of corn influences, etc. i associate spanish food with european food (namely because it's in europre hahaha) and i find it to be very rich and savory as opposed to mexican food which i find to be more rugged, yet very good...

                                                          rick bayless is indeed the chef who has one plate at a time. although i've never tried his recipes before. if you want to make your own mexican-american food at home, you may want to try searching on the america's test kitchen website. i've made numerous recipes from their website and have always been satisfied with the outcome.. remember that when cooking, the quality of the ingredients can make or break the dish... i've never been to australia (although it's on my to do list) so i'm not sure about the ingredients there, but i would assume that being such a lush place, fresh quality food would not be so difficult to find....

                                                          i especially like carne asada, or carnitas, tamales, enchiladas (i prefer green tomatillo sauce, but it also comes with a red based tomato sauce), and ceviche (all with great descriptions above).. remember that spanish is a romance language, so when reading/speaking, everything is pretty much phonetically pronounced... so "mole" wouldn't be "mole" but instead "mo-leh." it's rich chocolate sauce, but it's not the sweet chocolate that many of us are used to. it's black and often accompanies something... i usually have mole with chicken and rice, etc... a popular mexican dessert is called "flan" which is similar to creme brulee without the carmelized sugar crust. if australia has it, horchata is a sweet rice drink which is really really good. in california i still get excited when i see a place that serves horchata =) and at many bbqs, a bottle of corona with a lime in the neck is very popular =) hahahaha

                                                          tortillas are also popular as people mentioned, but there are different kinds. i mostly enjoy flour tortillas, but it depends on the dish. mexican cooking also has a lot of cilantro and peppers for seasoning...

                                                          i don't consider cajun as mexican, but more of an southern/southwestern style of cooking... i think the flavors are somewhat similar as in the dished may be spicy, but my opinion is that it is different... so those cajun cheesy bites that you described sound more like plain old mozarella sticks... odd...

                                                          sometimes when i go out, i don't feel like eating beans, so i just ask to double the rice (usually a tomato flavored rice)... most restaurants are used to this request...

                                                          i'm sure you can find other mexican restaurants in australia than the ones you mentioned, but it may take some digging and unfortunately, it may take multiple "miss" type of spots before you actually find a good place (case in point: who knew in hawaii of all places that there is a great mexican restaurant in north shore with a kickin' spinach and chicken green enchilada and spicy tabasco sauce/beer concoction! yum!)

                                                          but once you find a really good authentic mexican restaurant, or even mexican american restaurant, you will be pleasantly surprised... it's not all that foreign... just different names and flavors that comes together with lots of flavor, if done right =) good luck to you!!!

                                                          oh and ps, i'm with the other chowhonder who posted that he/she didn't think they had taco trucks in australia... HAHAHAHA i love it.. some of these taco trucks are yum yum yum!!!! =)

                                                          1. BE THANKFUL OF GREEKS BEARING GIFTS:

                                                            Our lovely Greek neighbour greeted us at the door last night with fresh.. amd I mean still wrigglin' fresh SQUID!!!

                                                            To think that I may have suffered thru the sheer horror that could have been Amigos... but instead I got salt and pepper squid with chile mayo on garden fresh arugula

                                                            **happy sigh**

                                                            Will most definitely be making a booking at rw's suggestion in the next fortnight.. and will report back,

                                                            Fanks youse guys... as an aussie will say, "You are STAUNCH, mate!!"

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: purple goddess

                                                              A squid at the door, this discussion no more...

                                                            2. purple goddess,

                                                              did you go to the suspect Mexican resto?

                                                              I have just moved to Melbourne and tried Los Amates and was pleasantly surprised - Blue Corn is on the list next.

                                                              I am Mexican and Spanish is my first language, so if you (or anyone else for that matter!) want to join in with my attempts at trying Mex in Melbourne, let me know - I can certainly guide you through the menus!

                                                              Drove by Tres Tacos today, anyone know anything about it? It was closed until dinner, and the menu did not look promising, but well executed it could be great...

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: sandra in australia

                                                                If you haven't posted there, the quesion about Tres Tacos has a chance of getting answered on the Australia board. Except for you and purple princess the posters on this topic are from other parts of the world. Cool. Tres Tacos. If you try it, hope you report ... good or bad. That didn't show up in any web searches.

                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                  Yep thanks, just posted over there, it seemed purplegoddess was reading here more?

                                                                  Tres Tacos got a few mentions on Chowhound, but it looks dodgy - but again, looks can be deceiving -

                                                                  WIll post reports....

                                                              2. Mozzeralla sticks and anything Cajun should be avoided at all costs. Get some cilantro in the guac!