Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee
Today is Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the Mexican Army's victory in the fight for independence from the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. You can celebrate the occasion in traditional style by throwing a taco party.
Beef tongue tacos with tomato and avocado salsa (pictured, right)
1 beef tongue, about 1.2kg
1 medium-sized carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
8 whole black peppercorns
1-2 dried chillies
2 bay leaves
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Corn tortillas, either purchased or home-made
Cooking oil, for heating the tongue and the tortillas
For the salsa:
450 grams cherry tomatoes
2-3 shallots, minced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 bird's-eye chillies, minced
A small handful of fresh coriander
2 ripe avocadoes
Rinse the tongue thoroughly then put it in a deep pan and add enough water to cover it by 1cm. Remove the tongue from the pan (you were only using it to measure the amount of water you needed). Put the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, peppercorns, dried chillies, bay leaves and two teaspoonfuls of salt into the water and bring to the boil. Put the tongue in the water and bring to the boil again, then lower the heat, cover the pan with the lid and cook at a very low simmer for about six hours, or until the meat can be easily pierced with a sharp knife. Turn off the heat but leave the tongue in the pot. As soon as it's cool enough to handle, strip off the skin from the tongue. Put the tongue back into the water and leave until cool. It can be used immediately, or wrapped in cling-film and refrigerated. (It slices more neatly when chilled.)
Make the salsa: chop the cherry tomatoes and mix them with the shallot, garlic and chilli. Season to taste with salt. Just before serving, roughly chop the coriander and mix it into the salsa.
Cut the tongue into 8mm cubes. Pour about 30ml of cooking oil into a skillet and add the tongue. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the tongue is hot and starting to brown. Heat the tortillas on a lightly oiled griddle. As you heat them, stack them on a clean kitchen cloth, covering them with another cloth to keep them warm.
Cut the avocadoes into small chunks. Spoon some of the tongue into each warm tortilla and top with the salsa and a few chunks of avocado. Fold the tortilla over and eat immediately.
Tacos with chorizo, potato and scrambled eggs (pictured, centre)
Mexican chorizo is very different from the Spanish version: while the latter is firm and sliceable, the Mexican variety is soft, crumbly and very fatty. This recipe comes from a chef friend, Dave Kunin, who says that while smoked paprika is not authentic, it is delicious, but it can also be substituted with an unsmoked variety. He also advises using a consider-able amount of fat - at least 20 per cent, although 30 per cent is better. Another of his suggestions is to buy a piece of good-quality fresh pork, not the pre-minced stuff from China, and have the supermarket's in-house butcher grind it for you. He also says the chorizo should be eaten within a couple of days.
For the chorizo:
1kg finely minced pork shoulder and fat
15 grams fine sea salt
7-8 grams hot smoked paprika
7-8 grams ground ancho chilli pepper
2 grams ground cayenne
2 grams dry oregano
20 grams garlic, very finely minced
50ml red wine vinegar or cider vinegar (or 25ml of each)
For the tacos:
3-4 potatoes (about 400 grams in total)
4-6 large eggs
About 10ml cooking oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Queso fresco or another soft, crumbly mild cheese
Make the chorizo by thoroughly combining the pork and fat with the salt, paprika, ancho chilli pepper, cayenne, oregano and garlic. Mix in the vinegar and chill for a few hours (or overnight) in the fridge. Fry a little of the mixture and taste it for seasonings; if needed, adjust.
Put the chorizo in a skillet and place it over a medium flame. Cook it, stirring often, until it's sizzling. Lower the heat and continue to cook for five minutes, stirring often.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 6mm cubes. Put them in a pan of salted water, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer until just cooked through but still firm. Drain the potato then put it into the skillet with the chorizo. Stir everything together and continue to cook while preparing the eggs.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet and scramble the eggs until softly set. Stir the eggs into the chorizo and simmer for a few minutes.
Heat the tortillas as in the first recipe. Scoop the chorizo mixture into the tortillas and top with some of the cheese. Fold over the tortillas and eat immediately.
Tacos with shrimp, garlic and chilli (pictured, left)
You won't need all the garlic and olive oil for this dish, but it can be left in the fridge and used in other dishes.
18 large garlic cloves
200ml olive oil
Chilli flakes, to taste
Fine sea salt
1kg fresh shrimp, with bodies about 6cm long
Fresh coriander leaves
Thinly slice the garlic and put it into a small saucepan with the olive oil and half a teaspoon of salt. Stir the ingredients together and put over a medium flame. Heat the oil until it just simmers then lower the heat and cook until the garlic turns a pale gold (about 30 minutes). Add the chilli flakes to taste and cook over a low flame for about five minutes.
Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp. Heat about 20ml of the garlic oil (leaving behind the solids) in a skillet and, when it's hot, add half the shrimp and season with salt. Sauté quickly until the shrimp are cooked, then remove from the pan. Cook the remaining shrimp the same way.
Heat the tortillas as in the first recipe. Put the shrimp and a few slices of the garlic into a tortilla, drizzle with some of the garlic oil and add a sprig of coriander. Squeeze lime juice over the top and eat immediately.