Please give me your best mexican recipes
October 16, 2007 7:46 PM   Subscribe

Calling all cooks! I have moved from California to New Zealand and there is almost no mexican food to be had here in the land of the long white cloud. I'm having to learn to make everything from scratch so please give me your best mexican recipes!

Anything and everything from how to make tortillas to a good margarita recipe is welcome. I'm especially after awesome salsa recipes, as I've mastered pico de gayo but I can't seem to take it any further. Thanks!
posted by supercrayon to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Chicken Chimichangas with Chipotle Salsa
posted by puritycontrol at 8:09 PM on October 16, 2007

Best answer: I offer you two recipes for green things. I don't know what ingredients you have available in NZ, so make substitutions as you need to.

Salsa Verde

Great on enchiladas, this makes about 2 cups, enough for about 12 enchiladas.

1 poblano pepper
1 pound tomatillos, husked
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (some stems are okay)
1/3 cup chopped green onions, green and white part
juice of 1 lime

Set oven on broil, with rack in the topmost position. Place pepper under broiler to blister skin, turning pepper two or three times to blister all sides. Remove from oven and let cool. Peel away blistered pepper skin and discard stem and seeds. Coarsely chop.

Bring water to boil in a 2 quart saucepan. Add tomatillos and simmer until soft, but still whole, about 4 minutes. Drain.

Place tomatillos, pepper and remaining ingredients in food processor or blender and puree. If necessary, add sauce back to saucepan and simmer until reduced to 2 cups.


2 medium avocados
juice of 1 lemon or two limes (about 2 tablespoons juice)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sliced green onion (green part)
¼ teaspoon sea salt

Also, there is an AskMe about margaritas over here.
posted by found dog one eye at 8:18 PM on October 16, 2007

Can't help with recipes (sorry), but here a couple of notes on staples:
- Coriander leaves are what W. Hemisphere types call cilantro.
- If you have trouble locating black beans at Foodtown, try Chinese markets.
- If you're looking for recipes online, double-check your spelling (e.g., pico de gallo).

posted by rob511 at 8:22 PM on October 16, 2007

Best answer: Roberto Rodruiguez's 10 minute cooking school:

Puerco Pabil
Sin City Breakfast Tacos

He shows you how to make homemade flour tortillas in the Breakfast Tacos video.

posted by spec80 at 8:59 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ingredients can be a problem here.

I buy my black beans from the local health food shops. Not sure what your options are in Palmerston North but here in Wellington I frequent Commonsense Organics. Any beans you buy in the supermarket have been heat treated and will never go properly soft no matter how long you cook them for. The hippies, bless them, want living beans that will sprout, so health food shops source them from places that aren't required to heat-treat them. (Or you could buy tinned beans, but where's the fun in that?)

You can get masa harina and other interesting things from Aji in Christchurch - they do mail order.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:59 PM on October 16, 2007

posted by spec80 at 9:00 PM on October 16, 2007

I have one recipe which I rather like and a few other points:

* Wheat flour is different here than in the US so any non-local recipes you're given that use flour probably won't turn out as you expect. This can have a significant effect on the end product, particularly where texture is important such as pastry or general baking.

* You have a most excellent library down there and I would be surprised if you can't find some mexican cook books (I've certainly borrowed other cook books from there). NZ or Australian produced cookbooks will have the local terminology/ingredients even if they're not totally authentic

* Check out the international food festival in April, way better than the one we have in Auckland and you might be able to meet other mexican food lovers

* As rob511 mentioned, the asian grocery stores will be your friend for unusual vegetables and other such ingredients. There used to be a big veggie market every weekend too although I don't know if that's still going.

* If you're in Auckland on a Friday or Saturday pop by the Aotea Square market, nice little Mexican food stall there last time I went.
posted by shelleycat at 9:09 PM on October 16, 2007

Stupid kiwis. There's a few things we just don't really like as a nation, for some reason.

Grape soft drinks.
Dr Pepper / Cherry Cola.
Mexican Food.
Peanut Butter candy.

There have been two attempts at launching Mexican fast food chains here - creatively named Taco Pronto, and less creatively named El Taco. Neither did very well.
posted by sycophant at 9:10 PM on October 16, 2007

Oh, and I seem to remember this guacamole thread being awesome.
posted by shelleycat at 9:20 PM on October 16, 2007

If you do go to the library, check out anything by Diana Kennedy, who is widely thought to be a leading authority on Mexican cuisine. She's been writing about it for over thirty years and her recipes range from easy to challenging. There's certainly enough in "The Essential Cuisines of Mexico" to keep you going for quite some time.
posted by tractorfeed at 9:26 PM on October 16, 2007

Best answer: These are the little, norteño style tamales found along the Texas/Mexico borderlands. And they're awesome. If you can get masa, as i_am_joes_spleen says, it's worth a shot to make these over Christmas. If you can't find corn husks, you can probably use parchment paper or something.

2 lb. cooked meat, shredded
6 oz. corn oil
3 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoon comino
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2.5 teaspoon salt

To prepare meat, cover with water and boil until very tender. Reserve the broth for making the tamales.

Gently warm the oil with the spices. Pour over the shredded meat and mix very well.

Makes enough filling for about 4-5 dozen tamales.

1 cup lard
4 cup broth
4 cup masa
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon chili powder
Corn husks

Soak corn husks in water while making the masa.

Beat the lard until it is smooth and slightly fluffy. Add two cups broth and mix, then add 2 cups masa and mix. Add two more cups broth and mix, then two more cups masa. Once all ingredients are incorporated, whip at high speed until fluffy. When it is beaten well enough, a pea-sized amount will float at the top of a cup of cold water.

Spread a thin amount of masa onto the bottom left of a corn husk, leaving about one third uncovered on the top and right side. Sprinkle a tablespoon of prepared filling down the center of the masa, longways. Start rolling from the left to the right, ending with the part of the husk that has no masa on it. Fold the end under.

Steam for about 2 hours until masa is firm.

Makes enough masa for 4-5 dozen tamales.

Here's a pictorial of the process. It's easier if you have help; make a party out of it.
posted by Addlepated at 9:55 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I really like Rick Bayless's "Mexican Everyday" cookbook -- uncomplicated recipes with lots of suggested variations that encourage improvisation.
posted by mr frosted at 10:01 PM on October 16, 2007

I remember a decent Tex-Mex place in Auckland--I'm from LA-- seven years ago, but I don't remember the name or if it's still there.
posted by brujita at 10:21 PM on October 16, 2007

The most famous one in town is the creatively named "Mexican Cafe" 67 Victoria St West.

Meh it's OK.. keeps me going till I can get some good Mexican off-shore ...
posted by doogyrev at 10:34 PM on October 16, 2007

There is also the fast foody style Mexicali Fresh in Auckland, down at the Viaduct.
posted by teststrip at 10:44 PM on October 16, 2007

Um, keep in mind that the original poster asked for recipes to make their own and lives six hours away from Auckland.
posted by shelleycat at 10:55 PM on October 16, 2007

I've got no recipe suggestions off the top of my head but I think the real key in situations like these is your approach. Don't get too hung up on looking for the "right" ingredient that may be difficult or impossible to find. If they don't have poblano or anaheim or whatever peppers so what? Surely there are at least a few pepper types ranging from mild to hot around. Same with beans and spices. You can even get a bit creative, like lamb tacos or enchiladas made with an interesting local cheese.

A meal my dad still talks about was when some years ago I visited him in Paris and made gumbo for dinner. Was it the same as if I'd made it in the US? Nope. But it was a great meal and is a great memory. Authenticity is much less important than attitude.

But I will second Rick Bayless's books.
posted by 6550 at 11:34 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My mom has a bunch of recipes from when she was stuck living in the midwest, after having been exposed to really good border cooking. I know that she was able to stock up on some staples (masa, etc) about every 6 months or so, but most of her recipes accounted for the lack of any sort of ethnic foods in the grocery stores at the time. Here are the ones I have on hand:

Flour Tortillas
3 C unsifted flour
2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt

Gradually stir in enough warm water (about 1 cup) to form crumbly dough. Work dough with hands until it holds together. Knead. Divide into 12 pieces and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Let rest 15 min.

Shredded Beef/Bastardized Barbacoa
I still make this recipe, although I'm sure it bears little relation to what it was originally. It's simple, but super easy to customize to your own tastes. Plus it freezes pretty well.

3 lb chuck roast (or whatever's on sale)
1 can enchilada or red chile sauce (If you can't find any, there are a few recipes that you can make at home, or you can substitute a can of tomatoes with chopped onion, bell pepper, and whatever else you have on hand)
1 can diced green chiles (small or large can, depending on your taste)

Stick it all in a crock pot or dutch oven or whatever else you've got and cook on low about 3 hours or until you can stick a fork in it and easily twist off some meat. PUT ON SOME GRUNGY CLOTHES AND AN APRON, because you're going to get enchilada sauce all over you. Shred the beef (I take about a quarter of it out at a time, and shred it using a couple of forks) Put the shredded meat back into the crockpot and let it soak up the sauce while you're shredding more. This makes for pretty wet/drippy, so you may want to dump out a bit of sauce.

There may be more. I'll ask my folks if they still have their recipes for albondigas, carne asada, and corn tortillas and post back here if they still have any of them.
posted by stefanie at 1:07 AM on October 17, 2007

Best answer: OK, we had the same problem when we moved from S.F. to Christchurch. First off, all the corn chips are stale with nasty cheese/salsa seasonings. The two best bets are Signature Range sea salt or home brand. Most stores have a very small El Paso selection including tortillas. These go for about $5 for 10. Refried beans are about $3 a can and really You are not going to do much better. Pinto beans go for about $8 a kilo and just don't taste as good and are a lot of work. Yes you can buy masa from Aji but she charges crazy prices. It is $20 for 2 kilo. I would recommend The prices are still high ($13 for masa) but easier to shallow and easy online ordering. They also have recipes and loads of tequila.

2 c. flour
3/4 c. water
1/4 c. veg shortening(kremelta)
dash salt

Mix together until combined. Knead into a ball. Divide into 8 small balls (or 4 large balls for taco truck-style burritos). Cover with plastic wrap. Roll into thin discs. Add as little flour as possible during this or they will be very brittle. Cook each side for about 45 seconds in a very hot frying pan.

Carne Asada
3 pounds flank steak
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 limes, juiced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika

1 white onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced

2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 white onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4 dried New Mexico chile pods
1 pinch salt and pepper to taste
1. Lay the flank steak in a large glass baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, 4 cloves of garlic, juice of two limes, and olive oil. Season with salt, black pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, oregano, cumin and paprika. Whisk until well blended, then pour over the steak in the dish. Turn over once to coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap, and marinate for 1 to 8 hours.
2. In a small bowl, stir together 1 chopped white onion, cilantro, and the juice of 1 lime. Set aside to use as a relish for the tacos.
3. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Toast chile pods in the skillet for a few minutes, then remove to a bowl of water to soak for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
4. Place the tomatoes, 1 onion, jalapenos, and 4 cloves of garlic onto a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, until toasted but not burnt. Place the roasted vegetables, and soaked chile pods into a blender or food processor, along with salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.
5. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cut the marinated flank steak into cubes or strips. Cook, stirring constantly, until the meat is cooked through and most of the liquid has evaporated.
6. Warm the tortillas in a skillet for about a minute on each side to make them pliable. Tortillas may also be warmed in a microwave oven. Arrange two or three tortillas on a plate, and lay a generous amount of beef over them. Top with a sprinkle of the onion relish and a large spoonful of the pureed salsa. Add as much cheese as you like. Garnish with lime wedges, and serve.

One 7lb pork butt, cut into 10 large chunks
1 very large onion, quartered
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
Peel of 1 orange & the juice
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt
2 bay leaves
2 to 3 quarts low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons lard

Place the pork in a large stockpot. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the lard. If the pork is not covered with liquid, add more chicken broth. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, uncover, and simmer until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork, about 3 hours.Remove the pork from the broth with a slotted spoon and place on a platter. Allow to cool, then pull pork into smaller pieces.Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the lard in a baking dish. Toss in the pork, and then roast in the oven, uncovered, until lightly browned and sizzling, about 30 minutes. Remove and serve. Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the lard in a baking dish. Toss in the pork, and then roast in the oven, uncovered, until lightly browned and sizzling, about 30 minutes. Remove and serve.
posted by arruns at 1:09 AM on October 17, 2007 [3 favorites]

Where I was going with the restaurant mention was to ask for recipes there.
posted by brujita at 2:58 AM on October 17, 2007

if you are down in Christchurch, there's The Mexican Cafe, South of the Border (recommended) and the Flying Burrito Brothers (which is a chain iirc)
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 4:48 AM on October 17, 2007

While you're at it, check out Rancho Gordo's blog.
posted by onhazier at 5:57 AM on October 17, 2007

Best answer: I was in the same situation a few years ago when I moved from TX to CT. Coming from TX our dishes are not “Mexican” but Tex Mex but I can give you the easiest refried bean recipe imaginable. I don’t know if you have available dried pinto beans but if so…

Dry Pinto beans
Garlic (optional)
Bacon (optional)

You’ll need a big pot with a lid.

Rinse the beans in water and put about 3 cups dried beans and about 10 cups of water in the pot - cover.
With that much water you’ll use about 2-3 tablespoons of salt.
My mom has always said to add a quarter clove of garlic for gas but that does nothing for me :)
You can also add 2-3 strips of bacon for taste – it won’t be too overpowering.
On a low simmer cook the beans for 4 hours.
***the temp is hard to tell exactly as I have gas but about 1/8 heat should do it.
Check on the beans every 30 minutes or so (until you figure out the heat) to make sure the heat is not too hot and the water all evaporates.
***if that happens you’ll burn the batch = start over time

You’ll know the beans are ready when they are soft. Also the skin of the bean will begin to tear off as the bean expands. When the beans are getting close to being done you want the water to be just above the beans, too much water will make watery beans.

When they are done you’ll want to smush the beans for the “refried” consistency. Use a potato masher

It really sounds harder that it is:
1 – dry beans
2 – water
3 – done about 4 hrs later.

Easy dishes
Bean and Cheese Nachos
Bean and Cheese Chalupas (if you have access to masa)
Bacon and bean tacos (make bacon add beans) if you have tortillas
email if you have questions – it’s in my profile
posted by doorsfan at 8:18 AM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Can you find red chiles? I remember that I could find them when I was in Korea . . . which I know is NOT New Zealand, but it is closer to New Zealand than it is to New Mexico.

Because . . . if you can find red chiles, then feel free to use this recipe for Chile Colorado (also known as Red Chile).

Roast the dried red chiles in the oven (400*F) for about five minutes, or until they soften. Don't burn them, and don't let them smoke. Soak the red chiles in water to soften them, seed and stem them, and then place the chiles in a blender along with a cup or two of that same water. Blend until you've made a smooth puree. (If straight up red chile is too hot for you, now is the time to "cut" the puree with a can of tomato paste or two . . . not recommended for serious chile cravers, but not the worst thing in the world to do if you've not yet burned all the taste buds out of your mouth.)

Dice up about a pound of sirloin. Find a good sized saucepan (big enough to brown the meat you've just cut up), and heat up about a tsp of canola until it does just begin to smoke. Throw the meat in. Close the lid, let it brown, open up, stir the meat so as to brown the other side, and then, once your meats are browned, dump in the chile puree.

Let this stuff cook for a while. Browning the meat first is KEY to letting your Chile Colorado develop a nice, rich, meaty flavor.

Once you've got Chile Colorado, you're all set for a wide variety of fine Mexican dishes, such as . . .

Mole: add ground baking chocolate until your Chile turns more moreno (brown) than colorado (red). Simmer chicken, turkey, or the foul of your choice in it until the meats are done.

Enchiladas: roll up corn tortillas around shredded cheddar cheese and diced onions (or do like my tia does, and fry corn tortillas flat, and then stack cheese, onions, and another tortilla on top. Repeat until you've got a little stack three or four tortillas high). Cover with Chile Colorado. Bake for about 15 minutes until the cheese totally melt. (You can add meats to this, too . . . mmmmmMexican food is ALL about the meats . . .)

Camarones al diablo: Simmer shrimps in the Red Chile until they're done. Serve with rice, beans, and a tortilla.

Carne Adobado: Soak pork chops in the Red Chile sauce until you just can't stand it anymore (up to one day, if you must). Remove pork chops from sauce, and grill them. !Fantastico!

Huevos Rancheros: Fry your huevos estrellada (sunny side up). Douse with Chile Colorado. (Best served when you've eaten the worm the night before.)

And, of course, tamales. Follow the fine recipe offered above, and after you've steamed them, open them up and cover them liberally with Chile Colorado.
posted by deejay jaydee at 10:16 AM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

By the way, if you do make tamales, make a ton of them, then freeze the extras in packages of 12. They keep beautifully in the freezer. We make enough at Christmastime to keep us tamale-satisfied year-round.
posted by Addlepated at 11:11 AM on October 17, 2007

Response by poster: Hi, thanks for all the answers so far. To clarify yes I'm primarily after recipes I can make at home. Obviously I can get recipes off the net or from a book but those don't always come out quite how I expect them too, so I'm hoping for recipes people have actually tried and found successful. But all the answers are helpful to be honest, so thank you!
posted by supercrayon at 1:24 PM on October 17, 2007

Not coming out how you expect could well be due to unexpected differences in ingredients like flour (after all, would it occur to most people to be wary of differences in a staple like flour?). There are others too, our baking powder and cornflour is different to other places, and our beef can be quite different from the US too apparently.

The recipe I linked is from an Australian book that I've used a lot and works really well with local ingredients. Those are the kinds of books you should be looking for (and which your library will have). You also want to check the location of people giving recipes above, the ones from locals are going to be a better bet for things working as you expect.
posted by shelleycat at 2:00 PM on October 17, 2007

These guys are pretty good for tracking down the ol' Mexican ingredients too.
posted by ambilevous at 11:36 PM on October 17, 2007

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