In May of this year, Claudette Zepeda found herself near the crest of the Popocatépetl volcano in the Mexican state of Puebla, drinking homemade pulque with a tlachiquero (traditional pulque-maker) and eating a meal that his mother had cooked on the comal. Trout lay inside charred cornhusks, rubbed with onion and garlic and the family’s homemade mole paste. A bit of extra mole lay on the side, to sop up with homemade corn tortillas.
It sounds simple to make pot of beans, but when I was writing my Mexican cookbook last year, the options felt overwhelming. How could I coax out that perfect, starchy bean broth that comes from bubbling for hours in a Mexican pot? Should the beans soak overnight or not? When it came time to research, the first place I turned was Josefina.
If you eat a meal at La Morada in the Bronx and ask for Doña Natalia, a robust, friendly woman will walk out of the kitchen, sit down at your table and share her story, assuming you speak Spanish.
In my California-born and bred Mexican-American family, the sentiment that speaking Spanish is un-American has stuck around for generations. In my family, we pronounce our last name the Anglo way, TELL-ez, instead of the Spanish way, TAY-es. It’s partially why I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. My mom, who is bilingual, didn’t want my brothers or me to have an accent. And my dad couldn’t have taught me – he spoke only English in his house growing up.
Just six days after my cookbook, Eat Mexico, hit shelves, I packed up my four-month-old baby, a breast pump and portable crib, a stroller, and my husband, and set off on a month-long book tour along the West Coast. Only the night before, I had celebrated the book's launch at a party in Brooklyn. It felt like a wedding—friends and strangers congratulated me, enthused about the book, and raved about the food.
I make my living writing and showing people the beauty of Mexican food, but once people learn I’m Mexican-American, they inevitably think I grew up with my mom and grandma making tortillas in the back room. That was not my story.
For the past 18 years, the chef Alejandro Ruíz has built Casa Oaxaca into one of the most popular restaurants in Oaxaca City, drawing in customers with his chic interpretations of traditional classics. Now he’s hoping to do the same in Mexico’s capital, where Oaxacan food — despite its reputation as a culturally rich, complex cuisine — is still rare as an upscale dining option.
Tender rice noodles in a slightly pungent yet delicate fish broth, dotted with chunks of green banana stem, may not be everyone’s idea of breakfast food, but mohinga, a classic morning-time food in central and southern Myanmar, is a great way to start the day. It comes in many versions. In Yangon, formerly Rangoon, the broth is made aromatic with lemon grass, ginger and garlic. On the west coast, in Rakhine State, it’s topped with flaked cooked fish and a dollop of chile paste.
Dried chiles are easy enough to use in Mexican cooking—the difficult part is recognizing what makes each individual chile unique.
Mexico City is my second home. I lived there for four years up until January, and I fell in love with its wild, chaotic energy. I fell even harder for the food — so much so that I went to Mexican cooking school and started my own culinary tourism business there.
When I was a kid growing up in the Inland Empire, my idea of Mexican comfort food was a flour tortilla plucked from a plastic bag, lined with one square of American cheese and zapped until bubbly in the microwave.