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Apr 11, 2007 06:56 PM

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 jalapeƱo.

          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.