I’m sure it will surprise no one that my first post for Xnet ( www.xnet.co.il) will be about markets.
In this case the markets of Mexico, where I just returned from after 2 weeks.
What may surprise some of you is the absolutely dazzling level of quality, products, and the mind- boggling array of delights in Mexico’s markets that could fuel the fantasy feasts of foodophiles for years on end..
Mexico is a true love of mine.
I’ve seen her many times, at her best and at her worst, but every time I am mesmerized, enchanted, and I fall immediately under her spell the second I step off the plane..
There is something about this place, it seems always to be vibrating with an almost uncontainable life force, full of gladness, beauty, and vital sensuality.
The glimpses of the frightening or the grotesque just make it that much more intoxicating and it is exactly the contrasts here which make this place unlike any other on earth.
This visit was the first time Alon has been to Mexico, so it made it even more special for me-
for years I had wanted him to taste and see all the secret and rare things which I had loved so much and had always wanted to share with him..
Mexico’s culinary history is as vivid and extreme as the history of the country-
Gods, mythology, legends, sexuality- all these things in Mexico are connected somehow or another with food.
Nothing pleasurable, or sacred, in life, or in death, are separated from food.
I will get into this in more detail in future, but for now, let’s just say, “That’s just the way I like it!!”
First of all, we went immediately to the Friday Market, in Condesa, Mexico City.
It’s a travelling market which is located in different areas of the largest city in the world, (25 million people!!) on different days of the week.
We went with my culinary soulmate, the incredible chef, Peter Norman,( who lives with his partner, a stunningly talented jewelry designer and the possesor of one of the most hilarious senses of humour I have ever seen..to meet either of them is to immediately fall in love) in a beautiful apartment just a few minutes away..
The Jacaranda trees that fill the huge park in Condesa are just about to burst into full bloom, filling the air with their dusty perfume and carpeting all the streets with their sky blue blossoms.
Tiny birds fly everywhere. The park is filled with all different kinds of things-
The dark and sinister sounding whistle of the “Camote Man”, selling delicious wood- fire roasted sweet potatoes from a rolling cart with attached wood- burning fire oven!
The taco seller, with miniature freshly- made corn tortillas filled with roasted pork and fresh salsas and grilled green onions, you get them in sets of 4, add fresh lime and blazing hot habanero chiles.. The cost? 20 pesos (about 5 shekels!)
Fruit juice sellers, with a selection of fruits that overwhelm you, our favourite was the fresh Nopale cactus mixed with pink grapefuit- it’s delicious, extremely healthy, and is great for weight loss- an added bonus!
But I digress- we were off to the Friday Market!
The first thing I saw, to my delight, was this:
Oaxacan women making “gorditas” delectable treats made from Aztec blue corn, filled with handmade cheese, beans, meats.. Of course we ate several!
This little market packs a mighty punch:
The produce and vegetables blew my mind!
“Cuitlacoche”- a black fungus which grows inside ears of corn, discreetly today called “Mexican Corn Truffles”, it’s real name in the ancient language of the Aztecs, Nahuatl, actually translates to :
“Shit of the Gods”!! Oh my goodness!! Well, whatever you call it, it’s intense, unusual, and delicious!
Fresh pumpkin flowers!! fry them in a batter made from flour and beer, and dust them with salt!
Chayote vine squash, a pale green squash the colour of mint sorbet and with the delicate flavour and texture of cucumbers! These will clean your blood and remove toxins from your body!
Tiny tomatillos, sleeping in their papery husks, pink and blue potatoes the size of your little fingernail!
Jicama, a cool, intensely crunchy, and delicious root like a giant water-chestnut, a favourite treat is to cut them into big paletas like an “Artik” ice pop, and then dip them into sugars and salts flavoured with all kinds of different fruit essences and chiles!
But the jewel here (of course!!) is the FISH!!
This little stand was packed with some of the most pristine fish and seafood I have seen outside of the best markets of Europe!!
Huge Dorados! “Tiburones” ( thresher sharks) which must be eaten within 12 hours of being caught! “Percebes”, which are an esoteric delight often seen in the very best restaurants in Spain, these are giant barnacles, boiled for exactly 4 minutes in salt water ,and removed from their scaly “legs”.
In Spain these creatures cost 20 Euro per 100 grams, and taste exactly like fresh lobster!
Octopus (Pulpo), giant locus, and the best quality giant fresh shrimp I have ever seen, and now I will just rub a little salt in your wounds by mentioning that they cost about 40 shekels a kilo!!
The fish guys are incredible professionals, and have intense and obvious pride in their work. Respect!!
Now I can go on for hours on this subject but I will save some for later, and leave you with Peter’s simple yet special, recipe for: “Camarones en Tequila”. ( He uses Mezcal, but let’s face it. The chances of finding Mezcal in Israel, are small. If you do find it, or have it, use it)
And don’t blame me if you immediately after eating them drop everything and book a flight to Mexico!
16 large FRESH shrimp, cleaned with scissors through the back of the shell and sand vein removed.
3 teeth fresh garlic, sliced
1-2 fresh green chilies, sliced into rings
Coarse sea salt
Fresh limes or lemons
Tequila (real, not that horrible fake Israeli “kahila” or whatever it’s called)
For 10 years, since I moved to Israel, I ONLY buy my fish at “Moshe Fish”, in the Shuk ha’Carmel, and you should too.
03-5101863. And to make sure he pays attention to you, tell Moshe that Rima sent you.
He’s like a brother to me! I made the food for his kids’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs!
He had everyone at our wedding sobbing with his speech, and he held up a corner of my Chuppah !
and his fish is simply, The Best.
In an EXTREMELY hot pan or wok add first the oil and when it starts to smoke, add the shrimp, garlic, and chilies.
Saute until the shrimp are cooked, about 3 minutes.
Add about 1/4 cup tequila, tilt the pan to catch the alcohol on fire, let it burn off.
Add plenty of sea salt and squeeze fresh limes ( try to get limes. It makes a big difference!!
You can call me if you want and if you are very nice I will give you some from my trees!) or lemons on top, serve with the rest of the tequila to drink on the side.