A fiery fiesta with Mexican delights

- February 17, 2024
| By : Ahona Sengupta |

Experience the rich culinaryheritage of Mexico with Chef Tania Tovar as she brings the real taste of Mexico, beyond just nachos and tacos, to the Indian palate

The vibrancy and diversity of the Mexican culture reflect in their food. They use fresh produce in their food like chili peppers, herbs and vegetables, cheese, tomatoes and beans.

The Mexican Food Festival at the India Grill in Hilton Garden promises to bring out these diverse flavours of Mexico, showcasing the rich culinary heritage of the country. A culinary maestro from Mexico, Chef Tania Tovar has travelled all the way from her country to craft authentic dishes.

Chicken Peanut

“Mexican food is far more varied than people think. It varies from region to region. My job is to present the real food of Mexico, and I hope people understand that it’s not just nachos and tacos,” she said.


People eat tacos at Taco Bell chains and consider that Mexican food. You would be surprised to know that there is not a single Taco Bell in all of Mexico," she quipped, adding, “In fact, most of what people think to be Mexican is actually Tex-Mex, which is a regional American cuisine that belongs to Tejano people who are Texans of Spanish Creole heritage.”

Heading for India, Chef Tania had packed her chipotle peppers, so her food exudes the authentic flavours during the festival in Delhi.

However, she has exhausted most of that in the course of the first three days of the fest, which began on February 12 and will concludes on February 19. “There is a limitation to access and availability of local Mexican ingredients. For example, we have a diverse range of tomatoes and beans, which we put liberally in our food.


The tomatoes here are less tangy. Also, corn is our main ingredient and the one you get in India is sweet. Ours is far from sweet. In fact, we only use home-ground corn flour.However, I am trying to make the most of what we have in hand,”she said.

According to the chef, most Mexican food is cooked using a maximum of five spices. “People say that Mexican and Indian food are similar. I would disagree here because most people have no idea of what Mexican food actually is and that in India the ingredients are more in number. Something I have observed here is the way people in India cook their kidney beans (rajma).

They throw the stock away. We do not throw the stock but slow cook in it,” she said. However, away from home, Chef Tania feels closest to Mexico when she slurps some rajma or basic dal chawal. “We eat our curries with rice and our breads are for wraps or pizzas,” she said.


Pastor Fish

Having travelled to a couple of Indian cities, Chef Tania, who is also a fan of biryani of all sorts, feels that India can be more receptive to experiments with food than is the case presently.

While the pizzas were thin, cheesy and full of meat toppings, what stole the show was the Picadillo — a dish made mainly with ground meat, tomatoes, raisins and olives. Picadillo is a traditional dish in many Latin American countries including Mexico and Cuba, as well as the Philippines. The name comes from the Spanish word picar, which literally means “to mince”. In the dessert section, there was Churros or fried dough coated with sugar.

Corn with tomato sauce

Mexican cuisine is rich with diverse ingredients, some of which are unique to the country. Tomatillos, for instance, resemble tomatoes but are green and encased in a brown husk. Jicama, a root vegetable, offers a crisp texture to Mexican dishes and is often compared to potatoes. Cactus, or nopales, is another indigenous ingredient that forms a foundation for many Mexican recipes.

Chef Tania Tovar

Over the centuries, the staple ingredients of Mexican cuisine have evolved. Initially centred around corn and beans, spices have been integrated to shape the cuisine we know today. The range of Mexican flavours is broad, ranging from complex to simple.

The complexity is exemplified in dishes like mole sauce, which can contain over 30 ingredients. On the other hand, steak fajitas represent a simpler flavour profile.

While cheesy nachos and colossal margaritas may be popular, Mexican cuisine encompasses much more. Iconic dishes like tortillas, tacos, flan, and enchiladas reflect the country’s culinary heritage.

Street food, such as elote (Mexican street corn), showcases Mexico’s vibrant flavours. This tangy treat combines mayo, chili powder, cotija cheese, and lemon juice, creating a refreshing snack.

Gobernor style tacos

Mexico’s extensive ranching industry contributes to its diverse meat and cheese offerings. Pork and chicken are popular, with northern Mexico boasting large grass-fed beef ranches. Traditional Mexican beef cuts include lean arrachera and norteña. The country’s coastlines provide an abundance of fish and shellfish, with shrimp cocktail and breaded fish steaks being local favourites.

Throughout the festival, attendees can expect to feast on an assortment of mouthwatering dishes, including but not limited to: Tacos al Pastor, Mole Poblano, Ceviche, Chiles Rellenos, Birria, Enchiladas Suizas, Tamales,Churros, and more.