Indian Cuisine Travels Well, it is Not the Same for Mexican Cuisine
Mexican cuisine is a celebration to maize. This week, experience the flavours of Mexico in Delhi with Chef Alondra Maldonada at the Taj Mahal, New Delhi from Sep 12-22.
MEXICAN CHEF Alondra Maldonada’s road to becoming a chef took several detours. An English teacher, interpreter translator (English to Spanish) who studied classical literature and “all of that enriched my perception of the culinary act in humans,” as she describes, is on her maiden trip to India.
The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, is celebrating the flavours of Mexico in a food festival with Chef Alondra Maldonada and Executive Chef Arun Sundararaj.
“It is a gracious opportunity to work with Chef Arun Sundararaj, Executive Chef and his team at the wonderful The Taj Mahal Hotel New Delhi. The Taj and the Embassy of Mexico in Delhi has invited me to put this experience together and I am thrilled to add this to my culinary journey,” explained Chef.
Starting out very young as a chef and being the youngest of the 11, Chef’s mother was a dedicated house wife. “At home, everything was made from the scratch – tortillas were hand-made every day – and one of the ruling activities at home was making food and sharing it. So I always cooked and I enjoyed cooking. Whenever I was working and translating something, my most genuine way of expressing was cooking. Until one day, I met with a car accident, and that made me realise my worth of doing something that I was passionate about. And hence, I opened a restaurant…. And later on I went to culinary school in Argentina,” she remembers.
Chef likes to explore and express through flavours. She has read about many great chefs in India at the Taj and with this visit she also looks forward to trying some Indian flavours at Machan & Varq.
For her the most interesting aspect of being a chef is to connect with the Mexican traditions through the gastronomic manifestation. “I love to revalue the work of the fisherman, of the people that milk cows to make cheese, of the people that till today follow our traditions. Another aspect that I would mention is to learn from the past and develop and build on it. Additionally, it is precisely, the power of showing your culture through food. In that regard, what I now do, is research on the traditional cuisine of my home state and cook it! And I love how beautiful, simple and honest food makes people want to visit your country and your home state. From traditions, come innovations. The best part about being a chef is creating something new each day. And the passion only grows.”
Meeting other chefs excites her that further brings in a rich cultural exchange of ideas, different cooking techniques and varied traditions.
At the festival, Chef has mainly used seafood, shrimp, fish, octopus and dry peppers as main ingredients in the cooking techniques. “Just to cook with all my heart the traditional flavours of Nayarit (my home state), and other parts of Mexico especially Oaxaca. Chef Arun & I have been communicating very well – even given the time difference! We have curated the menu keeping in view the Mexican ingredients, Delhi season and the tastes of the guests. An authentic and flavourful treat at the Machan, I hope to offer yet another memorable culinary adventure,” she says.
Chef likes to use dry pepper named ‘guajillo’ as main ingredient. It is used in mole sauces, soups with seafood. And of course, maize, the sacred grain. “I believe that Mexican cuisine is a celebration to maize, it takes different shapes, different names, and tastes different and is always present. We had to send 70 kg of dry peppers for this event,” she said.
Speaking about her perception on the Indian food and beverage industry today, she confesses that whenever she is travelling for a long period of time, “I always search for an Indian food restaurant as we have similarities, your curries are like our moles. But Indian cuisine travels well, it is not the same for Mexican cuisine. Indian chefs like Gaggan in Bangkok are taking Indian cuisine to new heights. Even Varq at Taj Mahal Delhi has won so many awards and welcomes many Michelin chefs; and I believe Varq was the pioneer in modern Indian cuisine in the city of Delhi. Indian cuisine is very diverse and many standalone Indian restaurants in India & abroad are prospering.”
For Chef, healthy eating comes from the crux of any cuisine. And healthy is made from scratch to cook with beautiful fresh ingredients without any chemicals, in balance with vegetables and meats.
While chef practices a bit of yoga she believes that Indian ingredients have enriched the world so much, that lead Christopher Columbus to discover America. Europeans could not bear the idea of not having spices anymore! “I have been thinking on the ingredients we use in my home state, to my surprise, we have so much of what India is known for! I cannot conceive a ceviche (raw shrimp or fish) without cilantro and black pepper. I remember how sad I was the day I found out that mangoes were not original to Mexico, but were from India! India is vast, diverse and indeed incredible!”
So be there to discover how Mexican cuisine is a tribute to maize and dry peppers.
Around The World