Chef Enrique Olvera's restaurant, Pujol, in Mexico City, came in at No16 on this year's World's 50 Best Restaurants list, and No9 on Latin America's 50 Best list. It's perhaps no surprise then that many of the recipes in Mexico from the Inside Out are a bit more complicated than those in most other cookbooks on Mexican cuisine. That is, if you stick to the "Side A" part of the book, where he gives recipes from Pujol; "Side B", or "recipes from Enrique's other side" are much simpler.
Olvera writes, "Cooking shouldn't necessarily be complicated; some of my favourite things to eat are simple and straightforward. I'm always overjoyed to bite into a tamal or tostada. And to share that delight with you, I included this section filled with recipes intended for home cooks - for anyone who loves to eat Mexican food." Most food lovers don't associate Olvera with the simple dishes he writes about in Side B, such as Veracruz fish ceviche, mussel tostada and fried eggs with bean salsa and avocado leaf. They know of him through his food at Pujol, which he describes as "our more refined side, a reflection of what we aspire to when we project haute cuisine formulas".
The chef writes, "In 2000, I opened Pujol in Mexico City. The first stage entailed reconciliation and reunion. In all honesty, I had no in-depth knowledge of my own country's gastronomy and was far from able to cook it as I should. I hadn't been taught how to make tostadas or moles de olla at the CIA [Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York]; I was educated according to French culinary school parameters. So I had to get up to speed … When we began to reinterpret Mexico's traditional recipes at Pujol, we connected with others … To understand that we could make a difference cooking tacos, tamales or tostadas was revealing. It was as simple as being ourselves and understanding that what Mexicans eat on a daily basis, on the street, in community dining rooms, or in our homes, can be tremendously sophisticated and even sublime. I find this last reflection to be especially relevant in a society that still struggles with its identity. And I believe it's important, because through food, we can and must vindicate our own culture."
Even seemingly basic dishes in the Pujol part of the book are a far cry from the simplicity of wrapping a bit of meat in a corn tortilla and topping it with salsa. Octopus tostada, for example, requires kalamata and squid ink purée, squid ink tostada, habanero and oregano mayonnaise, habanero oil and octopus that's been boiled with lemongrass and black beans, then sautéed in chile pasilla and epazote ajillo. Many more of the dishes will be impossible to make because we can't find the ingredients in Hong Kong (does anyone have a source for chicatana ants, chapulin [a type of grasshopper] and slaked lime?).
Dishes we can make out of the book include kale chicharron; fried frog leg tamal; green mole; pineapple chews; tres leches; and chocolate taco.
Mexico from the Inside Out by Enrique Olvera