Mexico food fans savor boost for cuisine

Mexico's cuisine has long been overshadowed by the greasy Tex-Mex burritos and nachos sold around the world, but efforts to refine its image are now beginning to pay off.

Five months after Mexican gastronomy joined the ranks of pre-Hispanic monuments winning special recognition from the UN cultural body, UNESCO, a restaurant serving up Mexican dishes has for the first time been named among the world's top 50 eateries.

The Pujol joins another restaurant also in an upscale district of Mexico City, which serves up Basque fusion cuisine, which made it onto the list last year.

Since pre-Hispanic times, Mexican dishes have drawn on a wealth of ingredients, including many varieties of corn, beans and chili peppers, as well as native tomatoes, avocados or cocoa.

But top chefs are increasingly mixing up traditional recipes to give them a modern twist.

"People think that Mexican food is heavy, that you have to go on a diet of lettuce three days before you eat it," said Enrique Olvera, owner of Pujol which made the S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list in April.

"We're looking for a new experience," Olvera said, using tweezers to assemble a starter of bean dip, roast tomato skin, zucchini, cheese, oil from the Pipicha herb - similar to cilantro - and tiny toasted Jumiles bugs.

The 35-year-old has inspired a generation of Mexican chefs and won widespread acclaim in the 11 years since Pujol opened.

The minimalist restaurant is located in the capital's Polanco district, also home to Biko, a Basque restaurant and the only other one in Mexico ever to make the top 50 best restaurant list compiled by more than 800 industry experts.

Pujol recently received a visit from Irish rocker and U2 frontman Bono, who choose to celebrate his birthday there.

"The fact that there's a Mexican restaurant in the top 50 means that the world is changing," said Olvera, who is at the forefront of a movement of chefs, professors and foodies altering perceptions of Mexican food and drink.

A new gastronomy festival in Morelia, Michoacan, in western Mexico, at the end of May, aims to give their efforts a further boost.

Smart restaurants and cooking schools here have long favored foreign cooking, particularly from France, but Mexican cooking classes have increased in recent decades.

- 'A question of self-esteem' -

-----------------

Attitudes to Mexican food "have changed a little, but it's a question of self-esteem," said Yuri de Gotari, who opened the small School of Mexican Gastronomy in Mexico City in 2007.

"People are slowly realizing that they have valuable ingredients," de Gortari said, as he demonstrated a molcajete - a Mexican stone version of the mortar and pestle - to a class of students.

Key to Mexican cooking, fresh ingredients are still sold in markets across the center and south of the country, where traditional dishes are also found.

Prickly pear cacti, yellow zucchini flowers, dark red hibiscus flowers and tropical fruit including the endemic mamey sit alongside delicacies such as grasshoppers on market stalls.

But, as elsewhere, a proliferation of junk food is threatening culinary traditions.

Many hope UNESCO's special recognition of Mexico's entire national cuisine in November, along with French gastronomy and the Mediterranean diet, will help raise awareness of threatened culinary traditions.

In its decision, UNESCO said Mexican "knowledge and techniques express community identity, reinforce social bonds, and build stronger local, regional and national identities."

And local producers are starting to fight back.

"One thing you're seeing is more restaurants promoting local ingredients, which you didn't even see when I got here two years ago," said Lesley Tellez, a joint founder of Eat Mexico, a company offering street food and market tours.

The company has grown since it started less than a year ago, and now runs 10 to 15 tours per month.

Argentine Estanislao Carenzo, a tourist and chef, said he was impressed with the diversity of ingredients and dishes on offer in a recent Mexico City market tour.

"I wanted to see if it was the same as in South East Asia and it seems it is," Carenzo said. "They export bad quality food, like China or Italy do."

Janneth Lopez, a Mexican trainee food guide, savored a spoonful of paste for a savory, cocoa-based sauce known as mole.

She agreed Mexico's diverse ingredients should be promoted and protected, but said they should be served in copious dishes, like any good home cooking.

"It's great that there's contemporary cuisine, but there are limits," Lopez said. "There's no food like market food."

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
news Sprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Oxegen in Ireland has been axed as promoters decide it is 'no longer viable'
arts + ents Promoters have axed the event as it is 'no longer viable in current form'
News
The troubled star is set to give fans the biggest insight into her life away from the headlines
people Star made the announcement during the final episode of the programme, entitled Lindsay
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players