Life Eat & Drink Australian Mexican food reviewed … by a Mexican
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Australian Mexican food reviewed … by a Mexican

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Hola, Australia. Mi Llamo Armando Ruben Cordoba.

Being far away from home, I’ve heard from many of mis amigos – or mates as you call them – that the Mexican food in Melbourne is great. But I’ve come to tell you Melbourne does not understand the taco.

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I am full-blooded Mexican from a proud bloodline of pico de gallo, pozole, mole, tacos, tamales and chiccharones warriors, who’ve consumed some of the greatest food that Mexico has to offer.

If the taco could talk it may have begged me to help find its way home across the Pacific. I felt sorry for it, and the guy who had to eat it.

Every summer as a boy, I would see my family in Hermosillo, a city in the Sonoran region of Mexico, where I would enjoy the tasty foods of my people. On hot days I would get a sultry tamarindo or guava palleta (Spanish for popsicle) to get a quick reprieve from the beaming sun.

I would also spend time with my Mexican family who lived in Tucson, Arizona, after my grandmother migrated from Mexico with my mother and her brothers and sisters. If all that wasn’t enough, I grew up in San Diego, California, a city which is less than an hour from the border where every other food joint in the city is a Mexican joint.

When I moved to Melbourne – where inhabitants boast about their luxurious and diverse cuisine – I thought I’d be able to find a decent taste of home. I was wrong, so very wrong.

Rice in a burrito ... really?
Rice in a burrito … really?

My initial trial period, which I’m calling Operation Taco Down Under, has been to no avail. Recently I walked by a well-known taco truck and asked the girl serving, “How good are these tacos?”

“They’re the best,” she replied.

Taking a look at the produce, I’d have to disagree. Anyone who’s been to a taqueria in Mexico would see the meat piping with steam and flavour that’s alive and lovely. The tacos from this food truck looked dead, drab, alone … like no love was put into it. And at $8 a pop!

This was cuisine thrown together to try to look Mexican, in the same way spraying a donkey black and white might pass it off as a zebra.

If the taco could talk it may have begged me to help find its way home across the Pacific. I felt sorry for it, and the guy who had to eat it.

“Maybe you’re being too judgmental, give it another shot,” I thought.

I went to an organic Mexican joint in the hipster capital of Northcote. The word ‘organic’ caused instant suspicion – the key staple of Mexican food is fat. You don’t surpass the United States as the fattest country in the world by having organic tacos.

As my friends and I examined the menu, I was excited to see they had mole, a traditional Mexican spicy sauce – I could hear the trumpets and the mariachis in the background.

Pico de Gallo: Looks simple. How could it go so wrong?
Pico de Gallo: Looks simple. How could it go so wrong?

Next I perused at the taco section and spied a chorizo option, which in my naivety I thought might be like a pollo de asada taco.

When the dish arrived it was a fail of epic proportions. It had flat salami pieces with potatoes squares on a corn tortilla and a weird sauce, which still haunts me.

Even the tortilla chips were horrible; they were like some flaky hardened wonton wrapper from a Mexican’s worst nightmare. And the Pico de Gallo, oh lord, don’t even get me started. How could something as simple as onions, diced red tomatoes, coriander and a touch of lemon get so utterly destroyed?

This was cuisine thrown together to try to look Mexican, in the same way spraying a donkey black and white might pass it off as a zebra. This is actually a common practice in Mexican border towns, just so you know.

I continued my search, moving on to Guzman y Gomez, a popular “taqueria” that is trying to bring the taste of Mexico to Australia.

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Guzman y Gomez’s motto is to “Introduce Mexican food and Latin culture to Australia.” But let me get this straight – you started in 2006 and you’re just now showing ‘new’ street taco cuisine? Also you sell nachos and burritos, items that weren’t even born in Mexico, but in America?

Any self-respecting Mexican will tell you street tacos are more authentic than burritos, nachos and sour cream. This is elementary people!

They also put rice in their burritos. Rice is a side dish; never a burrito component and you would be frowned upon in my family for thinking so.

The reality is Mexican food is a genuinely a simple style of cooking and is in no way being done right down under. It’s a tragedy and a dismal failure and leaves the taste buds wanting.

I’m calling for a Revolucion de Australia in Mexican food!


 

Not satisfied with the Mexican cuisine in your city? Make your own at home with Dos Caminos Tacos by Ivy Stark and Joanna Pruess. Buy it here.

dos-caminos-tacosThe Dos Caminos Taco Bible offers amazing recipes from one of the most creative and talented chefs of Mexican cuisine. Traditional recipes, modern interpretations, helpful information on chili peppers, tips and tricks for working with Mexican ingredients, and mouthwatering photography come together to make this an indispensable cookbook.

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