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Oct 22, 2008 03:29 PM

Origins Of Latin American Dishes [split from Ontario board]

Pupusas are Salvadorean, not Mexican. Corn husk-wrapped tamales(red or green) are a real rarity in TO. And no, the Kensington offerings don't share much DNA with the Tijuana originals. Anyone can make better at home with masa, corn husks from NoFrills and a Mexican cookbook(Bayless or Kennedy)for filling ideas. I'm off for a trip back home to Phoenix next month and can't wait to visit restos and friends' moms and aunts for the real deal. Simply put--it ain't here, amigo.

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  1. An interesting idea, discussing the dna of various Latin American dishes. Many people complain that the true regional herbs and heirloom chile varietales are just not available here, which undermines the ability of immigrants to recreate their cuisines.

    I fairly strongly disagree with your comment that either 1, Tijuana is the original progenitor for tamales, or 2, that the efforts here aren't real. Come on, tamales are a regional dish that spans Latin America, with many variations. Both Bayless and Kennedy, very astute white folk doing great things in educating about the food of our southerly neighbours, advocate playing with what's available to have fun and enjoy the dishes (although Diana's a little pork fat obsessive). The purpose of enjoying street food is to enjoy flavour with experience. Which we don't have much of in this pale, tube-steak culture.

    I read your posts and enjoy and respect them. I just disagree with this one. Try the kimchi empanada across the street. Nice way to expand borders. Cheers.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Snarf

      My ongoing argument, Snarf, is that Mexican food is, by definition, regional.It's a big country with vastly different climates and food economies/cultures. Sonoran type food and its Socal variant are great. Fact is, though, they're almost invisible here simply because they are so few Mexicans from those areas. Central American food, all good, shares some ingredients but just isn't the same, OK? I've eaten too much of the real thing to rave about the mash-ups passed off as Mexican food around TO. A kimchee empanada is fine by me.

      1. re: Kagemusha

        I've never been to TO so I will not speak about the Mexican offering there but would like to offer a couple of insights:

        > You are absolutely correct Mexico's cuisine is very regional and has so much more variety than most Americans know of (even here in Chowhound)

        > It is well established in Mexico that the gastronomic culture is more sophisticated & interesting as you go south. Despite that Sonora has much great stuff to offer... and only a tiny sliver of Sonoran cuisine (I would argue the least compelling) ever makes it across the border. Sonoran cuisine in California & Arizona is a mere shadow of what it encompasses in Sonora.

        Let me point you Toronto hounds to a few sources:

        > My experiments cooking Mexican in Hawaii (where there is an insignificant Mexican population & availability of specialized herbs & chiles):

        > "100 Mexican Dishes You Must Try"

        While there certain Pantry items that are an absolute requirement for Mexican cuisine.... given the great diversity in Mexico's cuisines... I think it is certainly possible to create compelling Mexican cooking with integrity & authenticity almost anywhere on the planet... of course you might have to mail order a few things. The other requirement is time & labor... Mexican is one of the most laborious cusines on the planet - even simple country cooking involves making sauces, broths etc., that use many steps & multiple methods - so in a high labor cost countries like Canada & the U.S. you just can't get good Mexican restaurant cuisine without paying the appropriate price tag... which is something that most diners in those places have historically not been willing to do.

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          I recall friends' moms and aunts laboriously grinding limed corn in their "pet" metates on the kitchen floor--talk about the staying power Pre-Columbian female exploitation!!! Still, for tamales and tortillas, that fresh masa and the aroma it produced were peerless. Same went for those luxurious moles that perfumed the whole house. We simply lack the resources, reference points, and know-how in Toronto to support restos--whether haute or taco truck-- that do the cuisine and its traditions justice. Thanks for your post, Nopal.