desi enjoys the best Mexican Food by Chef Zahie and Chef Gerardo
OK Cross your heart and say” Kasam Puranee Dilli kay Khane Kee I will not google the answer “ ( Swear that you will not search Google for Answer )
Good Now let me ask you this
What comes to your mind when you think of Mexican Food?
Well if you are like most of us you will say
And then will start wondering what all the fuss is about? After all is that not what Mexican food all about ? Well Yes and No. Yes because the entire above mentioned are part of Mexican Cuisine. No because as I mentioned they are part of Mexican food, but Mexican food is much more than these 4-5 dishes that you can get even in some of the Food Courts in Malls of most cities in India.
So I may not be at fault when I too thought that this is what Mexican Food is all about. Mind you this is coming from a guy who loves Mexican Food and during a lot of my trips to USA Mexican food was my first choice as it is so close to Indian food. So when Chef Zahie Tellez and Chef Gerardo Vasquez Lugo I invited us again to Hotel Leela, Ambience Gurgaon I jumped with joy but withheld my drooling as it was bad omen last time they invited me.
It will be prudent if you read the earlier post here before moving forward about the same
As they say second time lucky, after my 3 hour ordeal in traffic last time, this time I was too skeptical and decided to leave much early but a man can only leave early he cannot predict the traffic on Great Indian Roads. But still I reached the Leela only about 45 minutes late.
The kind and patient chefs were waiting for us and showed us around the 7 open kitchen and food counters at Spectra in Hotel Leela, Gurgaon ranging from delicacies from various parts of the world. Off course just like the great warrior and archer Arjuna I was totally focused on Mexican food and completely ignored everything else on the offer.
Chef Gerardo showed us his working area in Spectra , that serves global cuisine at Leela Gurgaon, where he later prepared some exotic Mexican dishes for us, the surprising part was he said a lot of these dishes are prepared at home of common Mexicans in different parts of Mexico but are also found in Mexican Food Cook books.
In true Mexican tradition the chefs offered us a glass of Mescal which is something better than Tequila. But if you really want to understand the difference between the two do read this awesome post here .
But when the chefs learned that I follow Big B who mentioned in Satte Pe Satta “ Daroo Peene Say Lever Kharab ho jata hai”, ( दारू पीने से लीवर खराब हो जाता है ) they nodded and made a special drink for me that could be the exotic Latino cousin of Rooh Afza . This exotic Mexican drink is made from various herbs, hibiscus flowers and then some super seeds ( Chia Seeds ) are added to it after mixing them in water. The Chia seeds soak the water form a kind of gel and add specific taste, flavor and texture to the drink. A perfect drink for a thirsty traveler I must say.
This was followed by a platter that transported us to Mexico in a blink.
Right in front of me was crispy tortillas, Mexican Cheese, pickle made of Agave Flowers (Once the agave flowers it dies, but the smart Mexicans harvest it before that and make – You got it Tequila and Mescal).Now Agaves are succulents of the new world just like cactus. While All cacti are succulents not all succulents are cacti. Go figure 🙂
The platter also had fresh Guacamole and the yummiest Salsa that I have had in a long time.
Soon the chefs came back with a bowl of roasted tomato soup with onions topped with crispy slices of Tortillas. The roasting of tomatoes and onions give a special flavor to the soup, which my poor writing is unable to describe the headiness of the burnt flavor simmered in butter when combined with real tomatoes. Yes Soups can give you a high, especially if it is made with dollops of love that Chef Gerardo and Chef Zahie have poured in making the tomato soup for us.
While we were enjoying our soup, Chef Zahie and Chef Gerardo got into a mini conference and were discussing what to make for us next. This is when I realized they are making every single dish right there for us as the evening progressed. They were extra careful to serve us only vegetarian dishes or make the vegetarian equivalent of what they would normally cook.
The beauty of Mexican food is that you can suit the recipe as per your taste and most Mexican dishes turn out to be great in their vegetarian Avatar also.
Our next dish was Cottage cheese in a special gravy topped with herbs and pine seeds. A real delicacy I must say and very close in texture ( but different in flavors ) to some of our paneer dishes.
The Cheese dish was accompanied by another dish for the main course whose picture I am giving below, can you guess what is underneath the dart chocolate without reading further ?
I am sure it will be difficult for you to guess what it is. Yes we can all see there is some brown chocolate with sesame seeds but what is underneath the chocolate is the hero of this dish. Without much suspense let me introduce you to Ananas comosus or the Pineapple. If you remember your class 2 lesson or last visit to the local Subziwala you will know that a pineapple does not grows on a pine tree. and is not even remotely related to Apple Inc. But even the humble pineapple in the hands of Chef extraordinaire can blossom like Cinderella under the magic spell of fairy godmother, or a women who has just found the love of her life. Till I took the first bite I was not sure what is hiding under the dark chocolate, but one bite into the juicy pineapple and my taste buds were dancing with joy at the orchestra of flavors that the cinnamon, chocolate coated pineapple was playing.
The two main course dishes of Cheese and Pineapple coated with Chocolate were accompanied with cute little Mexican rotis or as they call them there Tacos. While in Mexico you need to fold the Taco and fill it with the veggies or meat etc. we in true desi ishtle ate them like rotis and sure licked our fingers to make sure none of the flavors leave our attention. Ab kya Karen dil desi hai. ( What to do my heart is desi ) .
By now we were already in Post Prandial Somnolence but as they when the Chefs asked us if we would like to have one more dish, without a blink I said , “Sure, Yeh Dil Mange More “. I am sure Anuja Chauhan would have approved.
The last dish of the evening was the best kind of grand finale or the show stopper, a real delicacy that combines bitter chocolate, corns and a special fungus that grows on corn. Now if you are sneering at reading fungus let me give you a few things that I googled about fungus. And let me assure you not all fungus are bad , some are absolutely delicious.
A mushroom is a fungus and most of us desis love Mushroom Muttar kee subzi, still not convinced then let me name that exotic and one of the most costly food in the world Truffles. Well Watson you are right Truffles are Mushrooms aka fungus. In our Kashmiri cuisine we use Guchi or ‘kani’ghitch a wild mushroom that wholesales for 25ooo Rs per kilo or more. And this particular dish is made from this very special fungus growing on corn giving a very heady, smoky earthy type aroma to the corn. The botanical name of Corn Smut fungus is: Ustilago maydis ( Huitlacoche- local name ) and it is responsible for ruining the crop but rewarding the farmer as the fungus infested corn sells for a much higher price. Strange are ways of Universe.
The best part of the evening was the affection showered on us by the chefs as if we are visiting their own homes. We were guest of honor not in the hotel but in the home of the chefs and I have never felt so much honored over a dinner.
It is not every day that two famous Chefs dish out delicacies especially for you, pamper you and make you eat out of their hands. We loved the food but we loved the Chefs even more.
Only after we have finished our dinner did the Chefs started their dinner, I was wondering if I am in my mother in laws house as she is the one who acts exactly like this only once each one of us had finished our food she will begin eating.
Like I said in an earlier post I love Mexican food but now I love Mexican Chefs even more. Thanks a lot Chef Gerardo Vasquez Lugo and Chef Zahie Tellez for the honor and making delicacies from Mexico for us. I am looking forward to meet you again in India or in Mexico. Till then Adios Amigos
If you are a foodie you will enjoy this post about Nagori and Halwa here.
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