What exactly IS Mexican Street Food and why is it gaining popularity here in the UK? Sofia Craxton, accomplished cookery teacher and writer on Mexican cuisine, tells us about Mexican markets and why she’s bringing the delights of Mexican Street Food to Cookery School and beyond.
We’re very lucky to count Sofia Craxton amongst our cookery teachers here at Cookery School. A specialist in all things Mexican, Sofia’s extensive client list includes the likes of the Mexican Embassy, Tequila Cuervo and Cool Chile Co., just to name a few.
With Sofia’s Mexican Street Food Masterclass approaching on 18th February 2012, we thought we should ask Sofia about what street food is all about and why Sofia’s such a fan.
“By street food I mean eating outside the home,” explains Sofia.
This can be anything from a cantina – a place you go to drink – to a Mexican Street Market, or ‘el tianguis’ as it is commonly known. These markets, with their green canopies and throngs of market-goes, sell anything from wedding dresses and baskets to fresh vegetables and cooked meals. Here is where “street food” really comes into its own.
“Those who fancy a snack can stop at any of the many street stalls where you can taste a hand made quesadilla with fresh hot salsa or a ‘tlacoyo’, a tortilla filled with beans, usually made with blue corn and topped with a delicious salad of cactus leaves, tomatoes, coriander and crumbled cheese.”
Sofia has impressed us with her ability to bring these colours, flavours and textures to her cookery courses and her recipes.
“The recipe for Caldo de Camaron [pictured above] is one my father got from the kitchen chefs at his favourite cantina and it is a delicious soup that warms anybody’s heart!”
Sofia also has a gorgeous recipe for tacos al pastor, a dish which illustrates the changes in Mexican cuisine that have occurred over the past few decades.
“Apart from being fantastic and one of my favourite, tacos al pastor is a classic example of innovation. It is a recipe with connections to the middle east, brought from distant lands, and adapted to suit the Mexican palate. This recipe was non existant at the time of my mother’s youth and it became the rage during my teenage years, so this is an example of the transformation of food that I am talking about.”
One of the reasons we love working with Sofia is her sheer energy for cookery, and a value system for food that we respect and share.
“I love street food because it brings a taste of the venacular, it is the culinary equivalent of jargon. Street food changes with the seasons, changes with time, it is a kind of cuisine that is constantly evolving,” says Sofia. “One day you will find that a dish has evolved because someone decided to add a touch of something… perhaps a touch of foreign nostalgia, perhaps a need for practicality. People eat at the streets partly out of necessity, when you lead busy lives, you need to eat on the go, but Mexicans, being people who like their food done well, go to great lenghts to combine the necessity of eating outdoors with their desire to eat nice food. And so Mexican street food is a bit of an art in itself.”