Of Tamales, Alambre and More

Culinary Director Chef Vikas Seth’s two-day resident this month at KakaPo is all about bringing the Aztec food culture on plate, with of course a personalized local touch.

By Madhulika Dash

It has been a hectic month for the culinary team at Sanchez, the Bengaluru-based restaurant reputed for not only its Mexican food using local ingredients, but, the knack of making many of their condiments in house from the scratch: Be it their delicious Queso Fresco or the Mexican peer of the crumbly feta, the hand rolled tortilla, nacho chips from blue corn or the sour cream. In fact, the restaurant is known for its delicious guacamole that is made fresh, in front of diners, next to their tables. This month, however, has been doubly busy as the team under the able aegis of their culinary director and cuisine specialist Chef Vikas Seth, decided to push the envelope further by making their own chorizo – Mexican sausage, and recreating one of the popular Mexico meal in a bowl, the Quesabirria. Simply put, the corn tortilla patty appears to be, says Chef Seth, “a cross between tacos and quesadilla that is stuffed with Birria-style cooked goat topped with melted cheese and guajillo consommé. Since the goat is slow cooked in a pot with spices, the flavour profile is very akin to some of our mutton dishes here and the consommé has this robust flavouring of chillies and other spices making it very different from the French style cold soups we are familiar. Put together the texture play of warm and cold, and the flavoursome tender meat with that bite of a corn makes this a wonderful meal in bowl during monsoon.”

The chorizo and Quesabirria are amongst the many delicacies that the team and Chef Seth has been working on to perfection for the past few weeks, most of which are inspired by Chef Seth's many travels to Oaxaca, which incidentally isn’t only the largest city in Mexico, but also, says Chef Seth, “a region that is the ultimate Disneyland for all food and history aficionado. It is here that Mexican traditional food met its many influences which inturn has it transformed. It is said to be the birthplace of Queso Fresco and the region that popularized Tamales, Tlayudas, which is a very interesting take on the original Neapolitan pizza – and the try worthy Nahuatl drink Mezcal.”  

Fascinatingly, all this work isn’t for Sanchez’s award winning menu that has in the past few years has earned the restaurant a prime spot as the best Mexican eat outpost in Bengaluru (and India), but for a special, two-day pop up at Delhi in KakaPo at the end of this month.

The idea behind taking Sanchez to different parts of India, Delhi stint being the first, explains Chef Seth, “is first to introduce diners to traditional Mexican food that goes beyond the iconic tacos, burritos and of course nachos; and two, to find newer connection between Mexico and India. After all, both cultures are old and have evolved through a very interesting history.”

Having said that, however, the culinary director continues, “the menu isn’t limited to Mexico, but a reflection of how Mexican food travelled through different countries giving rise to different versions including Tex Mex, and the way we interpret it using local cuisine. While there will be the iconic Guacamole, both in savoury and sweet, the avocado and chocolate used have been sourced locally. The avocado is sourced from Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru, two of our farm-to-table suppliers for a few years now, the chocolate is from Shimoga, and has the same rich, bitter quality that has made the Mexican Hot Chocolate served at Sanchez popular. Likewise for the Jalapenos that came from the farms close to Bengaluru.”

There are of course a few dishes for which the ingredients, says Chef Seth, “comes from Mexico because of its inherent nature like the blue corn. Used in making taqueria, a wheat and corn flour soft taco, the masa for which is made in house. While other are the chillies for our moles, which are the main tastemaker of this Monastery developed delicacies, which is slow cooked and takes a long time to get that complex matrix of flavours. These chillies also form part of the basting for our Tenderloin Alambres, which are the Aztec peer of our popular tikka kebab, albeit with more bite.”

With a menu that is themed around travel, it is obvious to have some of the familiar hot favourites too, like the Wet Burrito, the bite-sized, crisp Beer Batter Fish Taquitos and Nachos that are served Piedras Negras’ style in two versions, the Tex Mex popular Chili Corn Carne style and the signature Sanchez Festa Nachos that comes over a bed of refried beans topped with queso sauce, pico de gallo, olives, jalapenos, freshly-made guacamole and house special, sour cream.

All this polished up with the two iconic Mexican dessert, the Tres Leche and Churros, which comes with a Mexican style spicy, sweet bitter chocolate sauce. And Chef Seth’s signature dessert, a guilt-free indulgence of Dark Chocolate Guacamole with Toasted Pepitas, made à la mode,

Ask Chef Seth though, which are his five recommended dishes one should try of this interesting but cleverly limited menu if trying Mexican for the first time, and, he thoughtfully says, “choose those that have guacamole, taco or tortilla chocolate, queso and chillies in them, and then follow it up with the meat or vegetable of your choice.”

And while that is incidentally the complete menu, we would urge you not to skip the desserts.