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Good (Authentic) Mexican Ingredients. (where to find in Toronto)

Hi All,

I just picked up one of Rick Bayless' cookbooks on Mexican cuisine.

Lots of items are fairly easy to find (ie. Chipotle Peppers)

Some others I'm less familiar with, and looking for tips on where to go digging.

guajillo chili
chayote
epazote
queso fresco

among others

Also wondering what the difference in flavour profile is for Mexican oregano, which is suggested as preferable to Greek or Italian varieties.

Thanks for any and all pointers in advance! :)

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  1. I usually go to La Tortelleria, on Dufferin, just south of Bloor (east side). Or to a Latin American video place on Bloor, east of Christie, north side of Bloor. Of a few places in Kensington Market (e g Porella's).

    1. I usually find what I'm looking for in Kensingtion Market, there are two stores near each other on Augusta (east side) Perola Supermarket and can't remember the name of the other one, there are a couple of casual Mexican restaurants on the same side of the street as well. Can't comment on what makes Mexican oregano different.
      There is also a place in St. Lawerence Market, south building basement, can't remember its name but it's across from the stall that sellls toys and newspapers, on west side of floor, they sell fresh tortillas, mole, lots of dried chillies and spices.

      1. If you buy dried chiles, make sure they're not brittle and crumbly. Fresh dried chiles should be a bit flexible; otherwise, they've lost flavor. Dried chiles have a definite shelf life. Queso fresco shows up at places like Highland Farms. Epazote can be grown from seed(Richter's has it). It's tough, weedy and not hard to grow. Dried doesn't cut it. Mexican oregano might show up in the Kensington shops mentioned above.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Kagemusha

          Hmm, I might order some Epazote seeds myself.... but, warning for anyone considering doing it, it is highly evasive according to what I have read:

          http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/home_...

          I might try to plant it in an weedy area.... Remove the existing weeds and hope that Epazote wins out...

          1. re: ylsf

            All weeds are invasive! Seriously, though, it needs a longer, warmer growing season than S. Ontario to become a problem.

        2. I saw Chayote at a FreshCo here in Peterborough last week so it looks like it gets shipped up here now and then. I know Chayote is harvested in October/November, at least where I was living in Oaxaca, so perhaps now is the right time to find it up here. If it's in Peterborough then I'm sure it'll be somewhere in Toronto!

          1. I'm surprised to hear that fresh chayote shows its face around here, especially not directly imported by latin markets.

            Anyways..

            Nopales - never saw fresh here before, but saw some in kensington recently. Usually only found canned and is pretty nasty. Avoid "nopales salad" on the menu from restaurants in Toronto, you're paying $6 or more for the same canned crap in the super market

            Guajillo chili - cannot find fresh, but probably not needed for any recipe. As far as where to find dried, I found some in my local loblaws recently. They added a selection of dried peppers (chipotle, guajillo, ancho etc) to their normal produce pepper section. I was impressed. Otherwise, any latin store or order online.

            Queso Fresco - You can find this all over and substitute for it really easily. So the latin stores in Kensington and elsewhere (Mexi-can variety store on College e.g.) have it. At highland farms / No Frills you can find a spanish version of queso fresco (packed in wedges), and also a local version (St John's dairy) in both goat and cow's milk.

            It will be harder to find other cheeses like Oaxaca or Queso Blanco, but they're around in latin stores.

            FYI the flavour profile for mexican oregano is more lemony / citrus.

            6 Replies
            1. re: trane

              "it will be harder to find other cheeses like Oaxaca or Queso Blanco, but they're around in latin stores."

              Highland Farm has 'em. Found Loblaws dried chiles to be stale in their Mississauga stores; same goes for Highland Farm's pricey ground chiles.

              1. re: Kagemusha

                I will check my local HF for these treats. Ground chiles? Sounds awful, will avoid.

                1. re: trane

                  la tortilleria also had oaxaca and queso fresco but not all the time

                  1. re: trane

                    Not sure what Highland Farms you go to, I go to the one at Rutherford and Highway 400. They used to have the Oaxaca and Queso Fresco cheese in the same spot, now they're at opposite ends of the cooler (and that's a fair distance). If you find one, keep looking for the other.

                    1. re: brianl999

                      Dufferin and Steeles. Are you sure the Queso Fresco is from Mexico and not the spanish / St John's Dairy variety? There's also a dairy in Quebec (?) that makes something close to the mexican version. And Queso Blanoc, Panela, etc etc.

                2. re: trane

                  Note that there really isn't a fresh guajillo. In its fresh state it's called a mirasol, just as a fresh ancho is called a poblano.