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Learning Mexican Cuisine

I've found a tremendous Mexican restaurant in another city and would like to try to emulate their cuisine....it's not like anything else I've tasted, with no heat, complex sauces, none of the stuff you would see on a Tex-Mex menu and tons of seafood. I'm in love. Any ideas what this style would be called and where I could learn how to approximate it?

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  1. Could you describe a specific dish to me. There are quite a few regional dishes that have complex sauces, and are not flamingly spicy.

    I am curious as to what tipe of mexican food it is as well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Homero

      there were a lot of burrito dishes that had a light tomato and sort of cheese sauce (hard to describe....sauce was opaque and creamy) that included various seafood such as bay shrimp, lobster, swordfish, all incredibly fresh. There was also swordfish steaks with a tangy yellow sauce, and their salad had fresh veggies, thin fried tortillas strips, and a white dressing that had a good bit of lime. They also made a fresh shrimp and scallop ceviche that was out of this world.......that would be a fair sample.

    2. Start reading all the Rick Bayless cookbooks you can find - not just the recipes, but his very useful, informative and entertaining essays on the food and food culture. Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen and Mexico One Plate At a Time are my two favorites. I can't get so excited about Diana Kennedy's books, but that might be a peronality thing.

      1. Where did you try these dishes? Sounds like things that you would find at a restaurant in Baja.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Pampatz

          There's a restaurant in a small town on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin called Onalaska, right on the Mississippi River so I guess you could say it's "coastal" :) ....a few miles north of LaCrosse called Manny's Mexican Cochina.....it's in a Wal-Mart/Toys-R-Us shopping area but the restaurant transports you to another world. The owner apparently has the seafood flown in, and I've heard rumors that he comes from the west coast of Mexico, but I've never actually asked.....

          1. re: algorithmnation

            Do you happen to know if they are open for lunch. We are going right through that area next Friday and it sounds like a great place to try.

            1. re: algorithmnation

              Guess I answered my own question. I googled them and they are open at 11 for lunch so we will be stopping.

              1. re: Hanky

                let me know what you think......If I remember correctly it's off exit 5, in the Wal-Mart/Toys-R-Us/Home Depot shopping area....it's a stand-alone building that's a bit out of the way.....bon appetit!

                1. re: algorithmnation

                  We found it and loved it. Wish it wasn't 4 hours from home. My husband had the blackened ahi tuna and I had a seafood burrito with a creamy jalapeno sauce. Both were delish. We will definitely go again when in that area. Thanks so much for mentioning this place.

                  1. re: Hanky

                    Brilliant! Glad you liked it! We hit it on our way home for NC over the new year.

          2. Diana Kennedy, Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz, and Rick Bayless are just three of the top authors of great Mexican cookbooks. One of my top favorites is Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz's "The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking," which has recently been reissued in paperback. It's a great book for beginners because she goes into details about the different kinds of chiles, including dried red chiles, powdered chiles, green chiles, sweet green chiles, hot peppers, moles and tingas. Sounds complicated, but she makes it easy. She also covers the basics of a Mexican cocina (kitchen), and some cooking equipment you may want to pick up if you really get into true Mexican cooking.

            From your brief description of the food you had, it sounds like your first exposure to non-frontera (border) Mexican food. You have a great adventure ahead of you. Run a search for "Mexican cookbooks" at bn.com and you'll get pages and pages of listings for all sorts of Mexican cookbooks. They also have the Ortiz book in paperback for something like six or seven bucks.

            Good luck with your new quest!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Caroline1

              thanks....and yes it was......my only previous experience were the restaurants that always had the exact same menu.......I'm just amazed I had to come all the way to Wisconsin (I used to live in FL) to find it!

              1. re: algorithmnation

                But not that amazing when you understand the demographics. There is a very large population of Mexican immigrants along the U.S.'s northern border areas simply because there is less harassment for them from INS, or as they are called along our southern border, "la imigra."

                Whether with or without a passport, Mexicans from the interior of Mexico and along the coastline not adjacent to the US are not exposed to border food, so when they open restaurants in places like Wisconsin, Illinoise, etc., they cook the food from home. You live in a very fortunate part of the U.S. when it comes to true Mexican cuisine! Those of us along or near the border have to work really hard to find it.

            2. This month's Food and Wine has a lovely Mexican food section that might interest you.

              1. CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS by Patricia Quintana is an excellent introduction to Mexican seafood. She knows Mexican cuisine as well as anyone, and Mexico has lots of coastline.


                1. Your description sounds a lot like the kind of cuisine I found in Eastern Mexico (ie Quintana Roo) rather than many of the dishes I sampled in Central and Western Mexico.
                  I spent a few months in the Tulum area some 15 years ago (now marketed as the Mayan Riviera), and found the finer dining extablishments to focus on complex, almost French style sauces, and refined but not hot spices. They had amazing local cheeses (lots of goat cheese) and of course great seafood. I also found they used more fruit in their savoury dishes than I saw in other areas of Mexico.

                  1. IMO pay close attention to the sauces (salsas). Most of the prepared national brand stuff is Total Crap!
                    - make fresh/raw sauces from scratch. Good quality canned tomatoes are an OK substitute. Fresh jalapenos, serranos, Anaheims and other chile varieties are available almost anywhere these days; canned chiles may work if Not preserved in vinegar (that's a whole different use). White onion is almost always called for.
                    - find good sources for whole and powdered dried chiles. The 'secret' (to me) is to use the acid of the tomatoes/tomatillos to balance the heat of the chile. Whole chiles will give the sauce body and the powder is used to adjust the heat level if necessary. Simple blends of different chile varieties in combination with other spices/herbs will pleasantly surprise, even amaze you and will blow away any canned enchilada or bottled taco sauce.