Monday, February 1, 2010

EFM: Ethnic Food, Mexican

When we first received our bid list, I took a mental black marker and crossed out everything in the Eastern hemisphere. The main reason for this is that I was scared to death of subsisting on Asian cuisine for two years.

I enjoy trying different foods and have come a long way since my childhood diet of pizza, hamburgers, bagels and peanut butter-and-fluff sandwiches (don’t know what fluff is? Good, it’s better that way). But I’m a bit of wimp when it comes to food textures.

And while I enjoy the American take on General Tso’s chicken, Szechuan chicken and sushi, I’ve never really been exposed to authentic Asian cuisine, and I wanted a beginner’s course in eating the unrecognizable.

Then came our Hermosillo assignment. So far, my understanding of Sonoran cuisine based on my Internet-based research is that it is described as “border food.” In other words, I can expect a healthy dosing of Tex-Mex restaurant staples such as chimichangas, enchiladas, tacos, carne asada and the like. Certainly tasty, edible foods, but I wanted to push my comfort zone a little.

(Interesting side bar: I’ve also read that the food itself does not tend to be very spicy at all, despite its reputation; rather, the spiciness of the food comes from the salsa added to the dish. If that turns out to be the truth, it would be a good way to monitor the amount of spice my weak American stomach can handle.)

That is not to say there won’t be some opportunities to dabble in the unfamiliar. Apparently tripe is a somewhat common ingredient found in Mexican dishes such menudo, pancitas and tacos de tripa.

What? Not familiar with tripe? Tripe is one of several offal (pronounced, ironically, like awful), which is to say animal entrails or organs. In particular, tripe refers to (usually) pig or cow stomachs.

While I might give tripe a try while in Hermosillo, I definitely won’t be cooking any myself. But I do hope to learn some of the local techniques and cooking styles, as I do enjoy cooking. To help get a leg up, a few weeks ago I bought a copy of The Complete Mexican, South American & Caribbean Cookbook off the discount rack, and I’ve already tried my hand at a couple of recipes with edible success.

If anyone else has any advice on Sonoran cuisine or some must-try, authentic recipes, I’d love to hear about them.

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