By Madhulika Dash
The soft tortilla, zesty rice and fried beans, smoke-charred meat, velvety guacamole, and spicy salsa – few things (read: food) exhilarate the palate like a good burrito. Add to that the freedom of following no set recipes, no set rules and no specification and a burrito – even the traditional Yucatán coçito, from where the modern day burrito seems to have got its name and origination – turns to be the perfected unadulterated indulgence.
While that "make it as you like" agenda makes burritos such a popular meal (and snack), it also makes finding a good burrito a hard task. Wondering why? Burritos, says Chef Vikas Seth (Sanchos), who learnt to made his own special versions of the traditional Mexican dish after building one from the scratch, "isn't about the dish as a whole but of perfecting the individual elements."
In fact, this is the fine line that differentiates a good burrito from the sad damp squib that many pass as the Mexican Iconic dish.
Here, the hands-on chef talks about the taos of making the perfect burrito – in a bowl!
Flavour the Rice
The colour white make look fantastic when kept next to the happy green guacamole and the fiery salsa, but when it comes to the palate play, says Chef Seth, "plain white is equivalent to bland. Hence add flavours to the rice from the start."
One way of doing so is to cook it in the stock. The other way, says brain behind brand Sanchos (one of the interesting Mexican places in India) "is to cook it with cilantro and then squeeze the juice of a lime or two while forking the rice to pillow fluffiness."
Think Dry Not Canned
Of the many reasons that made burrito popular was the ready availability of canned ingredients – take the case of fried beans for example. While these pre-made beans do well to make a sloppy burrito – or one that looks like it – a good burrito tastes better always with freshly cooked dried beans. In Indian context, that would be the rajma, says Chef Seth, "which can be further seasoned with a little sour cream."
The trick to make a creamilicious fried bean is to slow cook it for a little while longer than you would cook a rajma. Seasoned in the end.
Meat it Right
Ask any true blue Mexican and he will tell you the best meat for a burrito is a good mix of meat – one that isn't made of some fancy parts. Agrees Chef Seth, who uses a blend of grilled thigh, leg, breast, and ribs to create the meat mix. But the trick, he says, "that lends it that cut above is most of the meat is grilled paired with a pineapple or a slices of orange and lime placed on the top and on the side. This keeps the meat from drying and also infuses the meat with this fresh fruity aroma, which hits you in the back of the palate, making each bite a treat."
It's the Sauce!
The trick that makes the kathi roll seem awesome is the same trick that works for a brilliant burrito – the sauces. In other words: the guacamole and salsa. While making them both fresh is a necessity for any great tasting burrito, given that they lend that creaminess and palate cleansing freshness to the burrito, having just a simple traditional sauce doesn’t work these days.
How do you spike the sauces? Be creative, says Chef Seth, "play around with fresh herbs like cilantro, chillies, fruits like pomegranate and juice of lime."
Likewise for Salsa, which the chef believes can take on the life of its own with treated ingredients. "Roasting the Jalapenos and Tomatoes before making a coarse dip can up the taste."
Get it all Together
Now, adds Chef Seth, there are two ways of presenting the burrito in a bowl. One, where you can create a vertical tower of rice, fried beans and guacamole with the salsa (pulverized into a sauce) on the side along with a skillet-kissed tortilla.
The other is deconstruction – a serving style that Sanchos (Bangalore) excels in. The twofold idea behind, says Chef Seth, "presenting the burrito this way to allow people to do their own burritos and enjoy each and every part of this wholesome meal."
So heres how we do it:
In a bowl place the rice, generously top it with refried beans and garnish with tomatoes and sour cream- jalapenos or habanero if you want it spicy. Next in a ramekin,pour the salsa, heat the tortillas and place them between two butter papers as these tend to dry fast and finish it with a chipotle rubbed steamed corn on a cob on the side with hibiscus dust to cleanse the palate between bites.
And voila, burrito in a bowl is ready to be shared.