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Tag: Mexican

Rick Bayless’ corn tortilla and a d’oh moment

Noticed the gap between the entries for the past two weeks? In case you wonder (and if you didn’t, you heartless cad), I was very sick for an entire week. It started with chills which escalated to high fever. I couldn’t walk properly, I have to be driven to the clinic. To my horror, my doctor told me it could be dengue fever (which was not – it was a case of infection). For one week, I was very miserable. The only thing I could stomach was plain rice porridge. The smell of protein (meat, eggs) made me want to puke.

Right before I got violently ill, I made tacos. I have not been to Mexico but I love tacos. They are like these little pockets of snacks – they are so simple – nothing elaborate or pretentious about them. Till this day, the best tacos I had were from Maxwell Street Market in Chicago.

I made tacos!

Maxwell Street Market is a Sunday flea market where stalls sell all sorts of knick knacks – remote control, vinyl records, screws and bolts. What I love about the market was that it was not touristy hence it was not very crowded. The food at this market was amazing. You could get Polish sausage, cartons of fruits – people were very friendly – one stall owner gave me a peach even though he knew I ain’t going to buy a carton of peaches from him. At the end of Maxwell Street Market, there was a conglomerate of Mexican food stalls. My best friend, Agnes (at that time she resided in Chicago) and I simply chose a stall and shared some tacos. They were so good – corn tortilla with some meat and salsa. Simple grub.

Here in Singapore, it took me quite a while to find masa harina – the main ingredient needed to make corn tortilla. Thank god for Bob’s Red Mill – I managed to grab a pack (after three trips to Jason). When I opened the packet, it smell heavenly – it was like concentrated dried corn.

Before I start making tortilla, I got to “consult” the guru in Mexican cuisine – Rick Bayless. It was then I realised making tortilla was not that difficult – you just need masa harina, water and a bit of innovation. Since I don’t have a tortilla presser, I used the back of my small frying pan. You do not need to get it perfectly round (trust me, the stomach will not judge you), you just try to get it as thin as possible.

This is called improvised

I also made a simple salsa for the tacos. For the salsa, I kept it really simple. This was also the point where I had a Homer Simpson’s d’oh moment*.

I was in the supermarket, hunting down cilantro or coriander which was the pivot of Mexican food. I just couldn’t find it. I even resort to sniffing the herbs to find a close substitute. In the end, I was unsure so I did not buy any. After I googled, I realised cilantro was also Chinese parsley which was plenty in the market. And I sniffed it. My god, am I dumb or what? Anyway there was no cilantro or Chinese parsley in my salsa.

For the protein, I used some leftover roast chicken that I had in my fridge. You can use pork, fish, shrimp, mushroom, spinach and so on. For the second time I made tacos, I pan-fried some chopped chorizo and corns.

I have to say the tortillas were fabulous. They were better than the ones from Spruce Tacqueria. The first bite, I felt I was transported back to Maxwell Market – the smell, and you can taste that corn in the tortillas. The salsa was light and refreshing, and it cut the fats in the meat.

So please I urge you to go grab a pack of masa harina and start making your own tortilla. Your life will be transformed. I promise. Hola!

I made tacos again! This time with chorizo and corns

Eating taco will never be a pretty affair

Rick Bayless’ Corn Tortilla
(Adapted from Rick Bayless)

(This would make around 7 corn tortillas)

1)      120g masa harina
2)      ¾ – 1 cup of hot water

-        Pour the hot water bit by bit into the masa harina and mix it with a fork (if you feel brave, go ahead and use your hands. Be warned, you are playing with HOT water).
-        Once the mixture has come together as dough (which should not be too stiff or wet), let it rest for 15 minutes.
-        Once 15 minutes is up, divide the dough into 7 pieces. I usually use a weighing scale and divide them accordingly. Once done, wrap the divided dough in plastic to prevent it from drying out.
-        Before you press your dough, shaped it into a round ball. At this point, if the dough feels stiff, wet your hand and gently shape the dough. This should help to loosen the dough.
-        If you have a tortilla presser, lay a piece of cling wrap and put the dough on top. Press the dough gently on the presser and put another piece of cling wrap on top of it. And close the tortilla presser. Once done, remove the tortilla and repeat for the rest.
-        If you do not have a tortilla presser (like me), you can use the bottom of a frying pan. Line a chopping board with cling wrap, put the dough on top, press it gently, and cover it with another piece of cling wrap. Use the flat bottom of the frying pan to press. You might need to press out the edges. It is ok that you do not get a round tortilla. The most important thing is that the tortilla is evenly spread and thin.
-        I like to line each flatten tortilla with either cling wrap or parchment paper. In this case, they will not stick.
-        Heat up your non-stick pan (you can use a skillet) and place a tortilla, and dry fry for 30 seconds on each side. Don’t be alarmed if the tortilla puff up – that is the way it should be. If the tortilla does not puff up, you can gently press it with a spatula or fingers to encourage it.
-        Once the tortilla is cooked, transfer them to a plate lined with paper towel.
-        To ensemble your tacos, I like to line the tortilla with a thin coat of sour cream. This helps to prevent any drippings from making the tortilla soggy and possibly tearing it. Top the tortilla with leftover roast, roasted vegetables and so on. To finish, top it with some salsa and cilantro. Serve it with a wedge of lime.

Tomato Salsa
1)      1 medium sized tomato, coarsely chopped
2)      1 (big) lime
3)      Pinch of salt
4)      A small bunch of cilantro, chopped
5)      Korean chilli powder (Gochutgaru) (optional)**

-        Chop up a medium sized tomato. You will need to dice it coarsely and put it in a bowl. Do not waste any juices so make sure the juice from the tomato goes into the bowl.
-        Roll the lime*** and finely zest it into the chopped tomato. Be careful not to grate the white rind – they are rather bitter.
-        Sprinkle a small pinch of salt and add in the juice of half a lime into the chopped tomato (with lime zest). Taste and add in more salt or lime juice needed.
-        Garnish it with the chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of Korean chilli powder.
-        You can make the salsa 1-2 hours in advanced. If you leave it in the fridge any longer, the salsa will become watery.

*While I was trying to construct the recipe, I realised I wrote in my notebook, the different names of cilantro which includes hey guess what, Chinese parsley. This will haunt me for life.
**If jalapeño is readily available, you can add in half of deseeded finely chopped jalapeño in the salsa. In my case, jalapeño is something that I need to get it from a specialty shop hence I used Korean chilli powder as substitute.
***Rolling the lime (or any citrus fruits) helps to release both the juice and oil. Hence you get a flavourful zest and more lime juice.

Lunch around town

i took a month off during january. this means i have time to go around town, run my errands, and have lunches at places that i hardly had a chance to visit.

spruce taqueria is one of those places that only open during weekdays for lunch. it has been almost half a year since i been there. the menu did not change much except they have removed my favorite short rib *panic*. in the end, i chose the beef tenderloin taco set with watermelon and lime aqua fresca.

beef taco set (S$9)

the beef is buried somewhere

the tortilla was still awesome – soft and corny. the cabbage slaw and salsa provided a refreshing bite to the meaty beef tenderloin. i kinda regretted not ordering the beef tongue. the beef tenderloin was not tender at all – it was tough and chewy – tell tale sign of overcooked beef.

to be honest, i am unsure how long spruce tacqueria will last. considering its opening hours and location (in local terms, up in the mountain), not exactly a spot where you will rush to for lunch. when i was there, from 12pm – 1pm, ehhh i was the only customer. that said, i do hope spruce taqueria will hang around for awhile – they have one of the best mexican food (and at a friggin good price) around town.

a couple of days later, i was at plaza singapura and looking for a place for lunch. i decided to plonk down at saybons where i always enjoyed their crepes and soups.

magherita crepe (S$4) and wild mushroom soup (S$3.80)

saybons had expanded over the years – from a small stall to now a little cafe and even offering escargot! i ordered a regular wild mushroom soup and a magherita crepe (with no onion which btw i think its strange to have it in a magherita crepe). though i find the soup to be a bit watery, it was still nice, and flavorful. as for the crepe, who can resist melted cheese and warm tomatoes in an eggy wrap?

but i do have to say, i paid $7.80 for the above and they only managed to fill up half of my stomach (after saybons, i grabbed a sesame pretzel from auntie anne), thus this made it  a pretty expensive lunch. thankfully, i hardly go to town for lunch.

spruce taqueria320 tanglin road phoenix park
opening hours: 12.00pm-3.00pm (mon-fri)

68 orchard road #b2-30/31/32
opening hours: 10.00am-10.00pm (daily)

Spruce taqueria

i managed to get some time off last week. and lucky me i just had to fall sick. this also means that i was “bedridden” over de weekend. however on monday, i told myself enough is enough – i must get out of de bed and have some tacos! ok fine, these were not de exact words but they were pretty close enough.

spruce taqueria

what shall we have today?

located at de uphill of phoenix park, spruce taqueria is a small hut that served lovely mexican fares at v reasonable prices (sidetrack: mexican food in singapore is just pricey and de quality is not consistent too). de tacqueria is also an experimental project by de chef/ owner of spruce.

de tacos set (S$9)

on my almost recovered from full bloom cough and flu day, i tried de special of de day - cod fish tacos set. i also ordered de watermelon and lime aqua fresca and an additional guacamole. oh yes greedy me also ordered de taqueria salad but to go (i aint going to stuff myself to death).

de cod fish tacos set comes with 2 tacos (unfortunately you can only choose one filling), chips and salsa and a drink. due to my sickly self (thus make me have v sensitive taste buds), i find de salsa really hot and spicy. i managed to cool myself down w de watermelon and lime aqua fresca which by de way is sensational. they have strained de watermelon juice so that it produced a light, refreshing and smooth taste. de lime was added in for that extra kick to de drink yet not overpowering de aqua fresca.

cod fish tacos

as de taste bud was still slight burnt, i couldnt really taste much of de cod fish. in addition, in de tacos, there were more salsa and guacamole, thus de flavor of de cod fish was not distinctive. however i suspect de fish was overcooked as each bite was abit tough (as far as i remember cod fish should be smooth and sweet when cooked properly).

i heart you guacamole (S$3)

for de chips and guacamole, they were smashing. i loved de chips – they were rather different from de store bought – more “corny”, no alkaline taste. for de guacamole, its smooth and de lime just cut through de richness – i can eat de guacamole forever without feeling sick of it. if not there were people around me, i might have licked de container dry. ha.

taqueria salad (S$9)

de taqueria salad was abit of disappointment. i expected to be surprised perhap with some refried beans or something. but its just your normal salad leaves top with your choice of filling, goat cheese, salsa, (awesome) guacamole and shredded taco chips. thank god i got myself de beef short rib. its just amazing – it full of beefiness and tender. i loath chewy beef. de short rib beef was just great and full of flavor.

out of nowhere – just some hot sauce shot!

as i thought my sickly taste buds might have screwed up this whole me-hi-co experience, i made another trip to spruce taqueria later de week. this time round, i will not muck around – i dived straight in and order de beef short rib quesadillas (which by de way i forgot to mention de choice of fillings – they have pork carnitas, short rib beef, grilled snapper, beef tongue and pablano chile and mushroom). and as usual, i got to order an additional chips and guacamole for S$4!

de quesadillas set (S$9)

gorgeous beef short rib

de beef short rib quesadillas were gorgeous! de cheese, salsa all combined – its just yum yum and yum! if not de quesadillas were really  hot, i will just keep eating and eating. ha. this time round, de salsa tasted less spicy to me and de guacamole still rocks my world.

de only shortcoming about spruce taqueria is that they are only open on weekdays!!! and from 12-3pm only. all i say is arghhhh.

spruce taqueria
320 tanglin road phoenix park
opening hours: 12.00pm-3.00pm (weekdays)

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