mexican food

“…And I Could Feel Mexico”

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I was Born and raised on the now culturally diverse “Westside” community of St. Paul, I found rescue and joy in discovering my heritage through performing Mexican folklore at the age of 8, participated in a Latina pageant, Embajadora Hispana, a leadership program for Latina youth, and most importantly, as it relates to my culture, I was blessed with the unique opportunity to grow up in one of Minnesota’s favorite Mexican market & restaurant, El Burrito Mercado.

  Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was being raised bi-culturally (in the very upper midwest),  however, what I did know at the time, was that in spite of being raised in a very, very caucasian city, (St. Paul in the 1980’s early 90’s looked very different than it does today), I was exposed to my heritage through Our Lady of Guadalupe church, Mexican Folklorico dancing, and our family business, El Burrito Mercado.  And, probably one of the most influential experiences for me culturally, was that a very young age my dad took us to his humble pueblo (small town) where he was raised in the outskirts of Aguascalientes, Mexico, and I fell in love with it!

I recall one of my first visits to the farm in Mexico, there was no toilet, just a hole in the ground, the cows were just on the other side of the ‘kitchen’ (a table, a shelf, and a stove. The ‘sink’ was a pipe sticking out of the ground with pumping water and a bucket (and I loved to wash dishes!) I loved going to the little corner tiendita (store) and exchanging the coke bottles, and getting my soda in a plastic bag with a straw.  I loved the movie in a patio or placita where the whole pueblo could go watch (and novios could hide in dark corners), I loved the smell of fresh corn tortillas and trying to help tia San Juana make fresh tortillas early in the morning. The primos (cousins) had their fun giggles at my expense!  I felt I belonged, everybody looked like me, the food was the same food my mom made at home, everybody spoke the same language my dad spoke to us, I was overwhelmed with emotions, and I could feel Mexico.  I remember one of those early trips to Aguascalientes, that I cried when we had to leave, I did not want to go back to gringolandia where hardly anybody looked like me, and where I felt like an alien in school.  I felt Mexico calling me and I went to study abroad in Guadalajara during my college years, it was another impacting life milestone.  But when I was home here in Minnesota, the only place I felt I truly belonged was at El Burrito Mercado, I was 8yrs old when my parents bought the tiny market, I’ll be 45yr old this year, it’s a part of me.

My bi-cultural life was filled with both wonderful, cultural experiences and difficult adversities, and I embrace all of it because it has brought me to the place I am now, and I am happy. I love Mexico and I love USA! I cry when I watch an Amalia Hernandez folklorico production and I am equally moved by American favorites broadways, I cried at the death of our querido Juan Gabriel and was also emotional at the death of Prince. I love tacos and I love hamburgers. I take great pride in both my Mexican-ness and my American-ness.

Though as a child and through adoloscence I struggled with my identity and finding my ‘true self’, years ago I finally understood that I didn’t have to choose one culture or the other, I learned to embrace both and it is now my compelling drive and vision for the business.  I feel lucky because I get two of everything, and you should have that too! So, I have chosen to infuse others with my passion sharing la experiencia Mexicana through El Burrito Mercado. The most rewarding comments we get from both new customers and loyal customers, is that they feel like they are somewhere else when they visit, they feel they are in Mexico, the music, the fresh authentic foods, the aromas, and the nostalgia they experience when they browse through the mercado and find ingredients and brands from Mexico and Latino America too. It’s what keeps me inspired!

And now, in my still new role as a partner legacy-owner, and CEO of El Burrito Mercado, and where I am often affectionately referred to from my staff as “La Jefa” or the boss, (to which I respond, “just call me Milissa!”), I am combining my passion for Mexican culture, my entrepreneurial spark, and my desire for improving cultural disparities & stereotypes by keeping our business model authentic, quality, and offering traditional experiencias Mexicanas.

It’s not just about the experiential aspect of our business that I enjoy, I also perfectly understand and am also motivated by the challenges of being a profitable and growing small business. Though truly, I am primarily inspired by the notion of offering something unique to people, it’s an exciting time for our family, Mexicana, women owned and operated business.

This week kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month September 15-October 15, September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. And though I celebrate our heritage every day, I recognize that not everyone else does.  I consider this a time for our country to recognize all the contributions and richness Hispanos, Latinos have gifted to our country, and to embrace that richness by celebrating, learning, and sharing. 

Our Resident Decorator/Artist Denisea Elsola is dressing up the entire mercado with festive decor, we are featuring specials to intrigue you to try something new:

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If you are planning your own fiesta at home, school, or work and want some ideas on how to celebrate, email me milissa@elburritomercado.com or for help with catering food and a specialty margarita bar, contact my niece, Catering & Special Events Manager, Analita, analita@elburritomercado.com

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In addition to our mercado’s already unique style and ambiance for shopping, drinking, and eating, I am so excited about our expanding El Cafe y Bar to include more events and experiences, the indoor expansion will be complete in October and La Placita Patio will open in May 2017, more details and information coming soon! 

Finally, I am thrilled to be a member of the host committee for Casa de Esperanza’s 1st Annual Latina Leadership Celebration.  If you are searching a unique opportunity to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, this is an important event to consider attending on September 30th. Details about the organization and how to attend the event are through this Honoring Latina Leadership link

Viva Mexico, visit us soon and visit us often!

Saludos,

Milissa


Tacos de Carne Asada

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“Which meat should I use for making carne asada?” It’s the numero uno question from customers seeking la experiencia mexicana and wanting to mexicanize their summer picnics. Carne asada literally means ‘grilled meat’, we tend to use it loosely “let’s have carne asada” is the equivalent to saying “let’s have a picnic”.

Minnesota Beef Council  sponsoring the 12 days of grilling and featured on channel 5 Twin Cities Live.

As seen on the TCLive segment,  I suggested for carne asadas from our El Burrito Mercado13909197_1007759459341639_6569780300759430826_o carniceria (meat market):

Arrachera, thinly sliced skirt steak

Diezmillo, thinly sliced sirloin chuck steak

Carne para Asar preparada, flat iron chuck roll

Fajitas, flank

Salsas suggested from our deli: Salsa Nortena, Salsa Aguacate, and Pico de Gallo.

Happy grilling amigos!

 

Hearty, Delicious, Comforting Mexican Foods for the Fall

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I think Mexican food is the best comfort food especially for cold weather, it’s tasty, hearty and the spiciness not only adds flavor, it feels good especially on a chilly day.

Spicy food is proven to boost your metabolism thus, literally heating you up! Many salsas and sauces help heat us up because of the capsaicin found in peppers, capsaicin is an active chemical compound component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum.  It is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact.

One can measure the spiciness of peppers the brave, riskier, and much more macho method and actually taste test the peppers.  Or, you can use the ever so clever Scoville Scale as a guide.

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What’s the big deal with the spice? Well, spicy foods is proven to boost your metabolism, so you get a double whammy benefit, warm up and burn calories!!  And for spicy ethnic food lovers, we’ll agree that spice makes bland food better, turn a plain ol baked potato into a taste bud delight, roast some peppers, chop them up, top the papa with sour cream, the peppers, and cheese, or, mix a spicy salsa into the sour cream before topping.  One of my favorite ways to spice up food? A sprinkle of a few freshly chopped serranos (yea, my level on the Scoville chart maxes at about the middle), into rice, beans, eggs, pasta, and salads, and sometimes, it’s just a sprinkle of good ol tabasco sauce on eggs or pizza, or Salsa Valentina on potato chips & popcorn.

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Drizzle Salsa Valentina, Tapatio, or Salsa Bufalo with a squeeze of fresh lime juice onto your favorite chip snack or popcorn!

Mexican foods are are hearty, filling, and can be spicy, but not all Mexican food is spicy.  From stews, cheesy chile rellenos or enchiladas, to tasty hearty soups, the options for Mexican dinner night at home can convert to nightly Mexican dinners!  Below are a couple of my favorite comfort Mexican foods and links to some excellent recipes.

ENCHILADAS ROJAS, (and I must mention the bragging rights of our enchiladas rojas to our winning status in City Pages 2010 friendly ‘street food smack down) For this recipe, I recommend our ready to use Enchilada Sauce available by the jar in our deli., and the simple recipe to make these with our sauce, all ingredients available at El Burrito Mercado:

Heat up some oil in a fry pan, heat up oven to 350degrees

1dz corn tortillas (we prefer Sabinas brand for this)

2cups of your favorite shredded cheese (we prefer Supremo Queso Chihuaha or shredded chicken- or mix them together)

1 jar of El Burrito Mercado Salsa para Enchiladas

Toppings of choice, we recommend: Supremo Queso Fresco, shredded cabbage or lettuce, and Cacique Crema Mexicana.

Step 1: Place the tortilla in hot oil (use tongs), for a few seconds on each side, just until tortilla is pliable, place on a plate with paper towel to drain.

Step 2: Pour sauce into a fry pan, simmer low.

Step 3: Grab drained tortilla, dip into the salsa, place onto baking pan.

Step 4: In the baking pan, grab the cooked tortilla, add about a tablespoon of the salsa to center of the tortilla, add about 2tbsp of filling, roll tightly, place along the inside of edge of the baking pan, repeat with all the tortillas.

Step 5: Pour half of remaining sauce & spread sauce evenly over the enchiladas (leave some extra), place in oven for about 20min.

Remove from oven. Serve onto plate, add more sauce, crumble queso fresco on top, garnish with crema and lettuce. Want to make your own salsa roja? Try this recipe: http://thelatinkitchen.com/r/recipe/red-enchiladas-chile-guajillo-sauce-enchiladas-rojas-de-chile-guajillo

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POZOLE ROJO

My favorite soup- really any time of the year, Caldo de Pozole Rojo or Verde (red or green pozole) Pozole soup is made with pork shoulder or shanks, red chiles, and lots of hominy corn. (Pozole is actually hominy, hominy is dried maize kernels, when used in cooking, it goes through an alkali process, known as nixtamalization, loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the kernels. The process can cause the kernels to double in size, sometimes the lime is replaced with lye or wood ash for processing.)  Traditionally pozole is made for special occasions (and actually in my family it still is a tradition) but it’s a fairly common soup that you will find on many Mexican restaurant menus, including ours, but only on Fridays because we have other exquisite soups every other day of the week like Caldo de Albondigas (a meatball & rice soup), Caldo Tlapeno (the supreme chicken soup), and Menudo amongst others.

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Pozole Rojo
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Caldo Tlapeno, chicken, vegetables, topped with fried tortilla strips, avocado, chipotle, and queso cotija

Funny story, when I was first married, I wanted to impress my husband with an authentic traditional Mexican meal (mind you he comes from a family of EXCELLENT cooks on all Mexican foods) And, we lived in California at the time, so my mom was no where near me to help. So, I took on the challenge to make him pozole rojo (it’s actually a very simple soup to make), I made a 4qrt pot of what ended up as huge pot of water, tough meat, and seeds from the peppers floating everywhere- it was a disaster! None the less, my darling hubby gave it a try and smiled, and asked me “did you forget to remove the seeds and strain the sauce?” I almost cried I was so embarrassed, but he praised my efforts and we tossed the huge pot of pozole.  Since then, I have learned to make a decent pozole, (and now know to remove the seeds from the peppers and strain the sauce into the soup) I still prefer my in-laws pozole the best! (they add pork feet which gives it a flavor I LOVE!)  Try this recipe from Mexico in my Kitchen, I’ve reviewed Mely’s recipes and they are very authentic, I recommend following her for other delicious recipes and  you can find the ingredients at El Burrito Mercado.  http://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/2010/09/how-to-make-pozole-como-hacer-pozole.html

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Tamales, we sell a variety of tamales in our deli!

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TAMALES (a mesoamerican dish made of corn dough spread onto a leaf or corn husk, filled with a variety of meats & sauces, steam cooked)

And the mother of all cold weather Mexican food, TAMALES! In Mexico, in the early cold winter mornings, you will encounter little crowds of people gathered at street corner buying tamales & atole (hot corn- and masa-based beverage of Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran, and El Salvadoran origin) from street vendors.  Another experiencia mexicana that El Burrito Mercado offers you from Mexico, tamales and atole as a daily breakfast special, we are open daily at 7am with hot, authentic Mexican breakfasts and bakery variety.  Here are a couple recipes for making atole, as for the tamales, I recommend you grab a siz pack or dozen (and freezeable) from our deli to heat and eat at home. Tamales are a very time consuming process, but, if want to try it from scratch, try Mely’s recipes and mark your calendar to join us on December 6 for our Tamalada class (details to follow).   And, for a simple and still fun way to make tamales, we cut the labor in half for you, this holiday season, just come buy the ready to use ingredients from our grab n go deli ready to assemble and freeze or cook, corn husks, masa (corn dough), filling, and the special pot to cook them in.

GUISADOS (stews based from variation peppers cooked with pork, beef, or chicken)

Guisados are good year round, but like any stew, especially in the cold weather, a steamy, spicy guisado hits the spot every time. This time of year we especially like to make guisados with corn, zucchini, and chayote (a green pear-shaped tropical fruit that resembles cucumber in flavor). Guisados are available in our grab n go deli, and in case you didn’t know, this is what we are most known for in our El Cafe Restaurant y Bar, we offer a steam table filled with at least six variety of from scratch, homemade guisados! This fall when you visit us, be sure to try one of our daily specials inspired with fall ingredients in mind, and extra spice to heat you up!

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Pork in Chipotle & Cactus, a perfect blend for a cold day! Smoky, and spicy

This season, venture into the hearty and tasty flavors of Mexico, and add peppers or hot sauces to your everyday foods for some heat! Visit our grab n go deli for convenient guisados (stews) and explore the many unique ingredients in our mercado for inspiration and ideas to create your own experiencias at home.

Feliz Fall!

Milissa

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Summer Fiestas a la Mexicana

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Viva Minnesota summers!! Summer means leave the windows open and get outside any chance you can get! I love the heat, and I take advantage of any moment I can to be outside- my porch is my haven/temple- I’m here now as I write this. And I know I am not alone on the sentiment of enjoying Minnesota summers and enjoying all it has to offer.  And besides the great weather, the delicious ways to Mexicanize summer picnics  with delicious eats, there are also the festivals and holidays to celebrate and El Burrito Mercado is right there with you!

We kick off outdoor foods with our corn roaster (elotes) for the Cinco de Mayo fiesta and we participate in festivals with a variety of foods all through summer! If you missed us at Soundset, Grand Ol Day, Joyful Noise, you can still enjoy outdoors fun and visit our booths at these upcoming festivals:

Stone Arch Bridge Festival June 20-21

Twin Cities Pride June 27 & June 28

Taste of MN July 2-5

Rondo Days July 18

Carifest July 24-25

Crystal Frolic July 24-25

Steele County Fair August 18-23

Monarch Festival Sept 12

Palomino Festival Sept 19

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Grand Ol Day (one of our two booths)

At most of the festivals we bring our corn roasters and prepare them “mexican style’ with sourcream, queso cotija (parmesan like cheese), and chile powder. ELOTE  Each festival set up is a little different and so our menu varies with options such as: elotes, nachos, mangos on a stick, burritos, tamales, tacos, and sometimes our Walk-A-Taco! The Walk-A-Taco, not to be confused with the ‘walking taco’ which is commonly known as a fritos or dorito’s bag of chips filled with nacho style ingredients, shaken up and eaten right out of the bag.

The Walk-A-Taco cone was created precisely for giving the festival goer an easier taco eating experience, and we wanted to create something clever, tasty, fun, and doable at festivals.  Hence, Tomas, my brother, sent out to make molds for the cones and began frying away and experimenting with the fillings.  After the experimental stage, we began initially selling the Walk-A-Taco at smaller festivals.  They are each filled with a mix (like a taco salad) of beef or chicken with lettuce, cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream and jalapenos, this year we’ll be experimenting with other flavors and fillings.

The Walk-A-Taco got some media attention and we were able to work out a deal to have it featured in Target Field Minnesota Twins, Senor Smoke’s – Section 105 and 305! Next time you are at a game, try one!

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Walk-A-Taco

Not really a festival big crowd kinda person but still enjoy outdoor fun?? There are so many other ways to still enjoy the outdoors with family and good food. Mexicanizing your own fun outdoor celebrations can be as easy as cooking up carne asada tacos (or the chile marinated chicken, fajitas, or chorizos from our butcher shop!) and feature a candy filled pinata- trust me, even the adults will have fun! Pinatas aren’t just for birthdays anymore, they are fun for any fiesta!

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Father’s Day this Sunday and 4th of July just around the corner brings plenty of opportunity for Mexicanizing!  El Burrito Mercado’s deli is stocked with many fresh salsa choices and unique salads to grab and go, or plan ahead and order party trays from our catering menu! catering@elburritomercado.com or call 651-227-2192.  we are your one stop shop for planning you own fiesta, everything from the food, decor, and the fun(pinatas and loteria(Mexican bingo)!  We also provide full catering service and we use our beautiful imported silver pewter trays and other festive decor to complete the authentic experience.  If you are planning your own fiesta, consider shopping our import gift & home decor for beautifying your serving table, porch, our patio area with chimineas, pots, and much more!Margarita-Blue-Salsa-Bowl2 1073936 11406860_395469690640337_3310275208932936176_n

Hope to see you at the summer festivals, perhaps we’ll cater one of your events, or maybe we’ll meet you shopping the mercado!

Contact me directly for fiesta planning, catering needs, our festival information, or for ideas on how to plan an interactive and educational Mexican experience. milissa@elburritomercado.com

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ENJOY YOUR SUMMER AMIGOS! Milissa

Mexicanized Summer Picnics

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Nothing says summer more than here at El Burrito Mercado with our outdoor elotes(corn) stand and taco patio! Our roasted corn machines are staple to our business, our fathers first business experience was selling corn on the streets from a push cart in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. And now, he owns three corn roasting machines which service our business every weekend and crowds have also come to enjoy our elotes (and other Mexican foods) at festivals like Cinco de Mayo Grand Ol Days Soundset and many more!

Mexican street corn is prepared with sour cream, queso cotija (parmesan like cheese), and sprinkled with a spicy chile powder.

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Elote

And every weekend on the taco patio we offer tacos with meat choices from our butcher shop homemade chorizo, carne asada, tripa (beef or pork tripe), and the most popular of street tacos Tacos al Pastor from the trompo (seasoned pork trump).

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Trompo de Carne al Pastor

In addition to the tasty outside street foods, we also offer inside the mercado a Botana(snack) Bar with popular snacks like Chamango, (blend of mango, chamoy sauce, spicy sauce), esquite (steamed corn kernels prepared with lime, cheese, chile powder) pina loca and several other unique and refreshing Mexican snacks.

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Chamango
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Pina Loca

These are just a few of the traditional foods we offer at the mercado, there is also an extensive variety of produce, meats, and deli items to create your own “Mexicanized” summer foods.

Here are some ideas for your home picnics:

CARNICERIA(Butcher Shop):

Homemade chorizos: just place on the grill and cook like a brat, when cooked through, slice and make tacos, you can even heat the tortillas right on the grill! Garnish with lime, cilantro, avocado slices.

Put a griddle on the grill and sizzle some pre-seasoned fajitas, asada(beef), or pastor(seaoned pork), when cooked make tacos!

PRODUCE:

Chiles: Slice open on one side any variety of the peppers (my favorites are chile guero and jalapenos) stuff with cheese and wrap in foil, place on the grill- delicious with the tacos! Or, just place peppers on grill and garnish tacos or salads.

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Chiles filled with Cheese- eat alone or in a tortilla!

Nopal: Fresh cactus, carefully hold from the thicker end, with a knife scrape the needles safely into a container or trash, wash well, and place right on the griddle, lightly salt, when toasty and the cooked through, removed and slice up- also a great vegetarian taco option!

Nopales & Chiles
Nopales and Chiles

Frutas Frescas (fruits): a most common snack/dessert for Mexicanos is fresh fruits, a plate of fresh cut fruits is commonly seasoned with either a spicy chile powder (most popular brand is Tajin) or drizzled with honey, yogurt, and dry coconut.

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Pre-packaged fruits with Tajin

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A customer favorite at festivals we participate is Mango on a Stick, this year new to Grand Ol Days will be Chamango on a Stick!

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BEBIDAS (beverages):

You can even Mexicanize your picnics with a variety of unique beverages! Agua de Jamaica is delicious and refreshing, sweetened hibiscus tea, Jarritos sodas is always fun with so many fun soda flavors like Tamarind, Mango, Mandarin, Pineapple, etc (Use the grapefruit flavored soda for delicious “Paloma”- ice, tequila, 1freshly squeezed lime juice, and grapefruit Jarritos soda!)

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Jarritos Sodas

Aguas de fruta (flavored waters with fresh fruits) is also very typical, Agua de Sandia or Guava are my favorites! Blend 1/2 water, 1/2 fruit, ice and sweeten to taste. (Rim the glass with chile Tajin powder for a little spicy kick to your beverage!)

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Watermelon with Tajin

Every season there are delicious ways to Mexicanize your foods, summer is all about being outside and enjoying ‘carne asadas (aka cookouts/picnics). Mexican cuisine offers a variety of simple and tasty options, and El Burrito Mercado is the best place in Minnesota to explore and experience la experiencia mexicana.  We also offer catering options in which we bring the experience to your special celebration, the most popular is our Taquiza (taco cook out), contact me directly for meal ideas, shopping assistance, or to schedule your catering event.  milissa@elburritomercado.com

Enjoy, and feliz verano (happy summer)!

Milissa

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Rosca de Reyes, Tradition and Faith

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Rosca de Reyes, Tradition & Faith
Rosca de Reyes, it’s both traditional holiday celebrated through Latin America, Mexico, and parts of Europe (aka Epiphany ) .  Again, food associated with a religious celebration.

During the era of the kings of France, bread was filled with a lima bean, and the person who found it in his bread would receive the gift that His Highness had prepared for the event.  The idea was to place a lima bean in the bread dough, which was usually filled with fruits like dates and raisins, and this bread was shared around the time of the New Year festivities. The tradition changed a bit when it arrived to the Americas, transforming itself according to the customs and resources of our country, where it eventually became the rosca. (http://www.inside-mexico.com/reyesoscar.htm)

Hot chocolate accompanies the rosca. So every year, on January 6, families all across Mexico gather around their tables to share the rosca de reyes.  And now, instead of finding a lima bean in the bread, a little plastic doll representing Jesus is placed in the bread.  The person who receives a piece of bread with this doll inside has to make the tamales used in the fiesta de la Candelaria on February 2.  This celebration is the last of the Christmas festivities after Jesus’s birth.

FAITH. The Rosca de Reyes, or ring-shaped Rosca de Reyes is a sweet round, cake or oval shape Mexican bread, decorated with slices of crystallized or candied fruit colors. The King cake is also called: biscuit, cake or sweet bread,  the celebration of the Epiphany to enjoy the Rosca de Reyes is a Mexican tradition that takes place 12 days after Christmas, Epiphany Day or the appearance of the Wise Men or Magi Kings: Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar.

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Whoever cuts the rosca and gets a baby has to host a party on Feb 2, Dia de la Candelara, (Candlemas)
TRADITION. On January 6th, families gather to share the rosca and drink hot chocolate, neighborhood communities, churches, etc It’s always fun to see who is going to cut  into the little plastic baby which represents Jesus, then they are tradtiionally to host a party (typically including more tamales eating!) inviting all those that shared the rosca!

Every year, and for many many years now, El Burrito Mercado panaderia offers Rosca de Reyes to grab from shelf in various sizes, or to assure you get your rosca, call ahead and order! Don’t forget to also order tamales and grab some Abuelita!

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Feliz Dia de los Reyes Magos!

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Rosca de Reyes, candied fruits & sugar adorn

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Enjoy Rosca de Reyes with Chocolate caliente!
Email catering@elburritomercado.com or call 651-227-2192 ext 23 to order a Rosca de Reyes!

Tis Tamalada Season, They Are Memory Making!

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Tis tamales making season… at least in recent centuries.  Though, historically,

Tamales have been traced back to the Ancient Maya people, who prepared them for feasts as early as the Preclassic period (1200–250 BC).[2]Maya people called their corn tortillas and tamales both utah[utah].[3]Tamales originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 BC.[1]Aztec and Maya civilizations, as well as the Olmeca and Tolteca before them, used tamales as portable food, often to support their armies, but also for hunters and travelers. Tamale use in the Inca Empire had been reported long before the Spanish visited the New World.[1]The diversity of native languages in Mesoamerica led to a number of local words for the tamal, many of which remain in use. The Spanish singular of tamales is tamal. The English word “tamale” is an American back-formation of tamales.[4]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamale

In Mexico tamales are on street corners and in majority of the mercados, commonly served for breakfast because it’s filing and warm! And in the US, especially in highly populated Latino demographic areas such as California, Texas, Illinois, one can find a variety of restaurants selling tamales.  Here in Minnesota, El Burrito Mercado was one of the first to sell tamales from a restaurant/market in St. Paul, MN, and because of it’s labor intense process, many restaurants won’t make them.  It’s a grand commitment and I imagine the Latino population isn’t quite extensive enough to support the variety and competition in MN to justify the commitment, at least not in the same way that other business’ flourish in other populated parts of the country.  None the less, tamales has made its way into Minnesotans tummies through El Burrito Mercado and other local successful Latino business’, such as La Loma Tamales whom sell from their restaurants and manufacture and distribute tamales into mainstream markets.

TAMALES VARIETY

Tamales are a time consuming process, and though the most popular of tamales in the USA are Mexican tamales, they are not exclusive to Mexico.  In Venezuela & Colombia for example theirs are known as ‘hallacas’ also filled with meat varieties, the corn flour is distinct of the Mexican preparation and they are wrapped in plantain banana leaves.  Here, Adriana Lopez from PicaPica does an amazing task of breaking down the hallaca making recipe!  Venezolanos and their cuisine has a special place in my heart, one of my cousins married a gentleman from Venezuela and we all became very close, his name was Jose, (he died at a young age a few years ago, RIP). I was very young child when I met him, and growing up with Jose in my life, is a blessing!  He was one of my greatest influencers for my now deeply established appreciation and enjoyment of salsa music, Venezuelan food, and Latino culture as a whole!  Besides Puerto Rican food, Venezuelen food (especially arepas) is my other favorite latino cuisine.

Hallaca with Pica Pica, Adriana Lopez
Hallaca

ABOUT MAKING TAMALES FROM SCRATCH

There are many, many recipes on the internet for making tamales, and they are all very similar with slight variations in preferences, the most traditional is the pork in mole rojo (pork in a chile ancho red sauce).  I am not including a from scratch recipe in this blog, so for making tamales from scratch and if you don’t have your own, here are a couple recommendations to consider: Rick Bayless Tamales Recipe, Diane Kennedy 

Also, as a reference, Maseca has some great recipes on their website of a variety of Latino tamales! Maseca is one of El Burrito Mercado top selling items year round and especially during the holidays! It’s a corn flour used to make the ‘masa’, the corn dough for spreading onto the corn husk for Mexican tamales. It’s also commonly used to make tortillas and other delightful recipes. If you are new to the entire tortilla making or tamales making process, Maseca is a great an option, or you may also want to consider purchasing ‘masa preparada’ (prepared corn dough ready to use) from our deli, we source from a local tortilleria and you’ll appreciate the real ground and fresh corn flavor!

For those of you wanting to immerse into the full tamale preparation and tamalada experience, remember the above recommendations or find your favorite recipe, and please do keep in mind El Burrito Mercado as your source for all your ingredient needs, also contact us with questions, we are glad to help!

TAMALES MAKING EXPERIENCE

My primary focus is to emphasize the experience of making tamales, the memory of it all.  As a kid, like all kids, I looked forward to the holidays because of the gifts, the cookie baking, the holiday parties, and I cherished the time spent with family making and eating tamales.  My tamales memories are of being together with family, the noise and hustle bustle of everyone squeezing into the kitchen or wherever we could fit tables and chairs to begin the assembly… aka the TAMALADA!

“The tamalada is more than a cooking session—it is a family reunion, a party in itself, a chance for the kids to play and the adults to catch up on all the news about the aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends. It’s the warm-up session for the family celebrations to come. ” http://www.focusonmexico.com/News-and-Views/Articles/2008-Newsletters/February–Articles/La-Tamalada-Mexican-women-share-holiday-tamale-making-tradition.html

So yes amigos, you will need several items even for the ‘easy’ tamalada gathering, by easy, I am referring to obtaining the ready ingredients at El Burrito Mercado so that all you need to do is get your friends and family together and assemble! Here is the list:

  • Family & Friends
  • Specialty holiday cocktails strongly encouraged
  • Snacks
  • Fun, Mexican & Latino background music
  • And nice size dining table and/or counter space!

And, you’ll also need (all available at El Burrito Mercado):

1. Prepared Masa (prepared masa ready to spread on the husks)

Prepared Masa

2. Hojas de Maiz (corn husks), these need to be soaked in hot water to make pliable and easy to spread the masa onto.

Soaked Corn Husks

3. Carne en Mole (meat & sauce, cheese, chiles, or other filling options, available at El Burrito Mercado’s exclusive Mexican deli)

Carne y Mole for Tamales

4. Tamalera Vaporera (the pot to steam cook your tamales)

Other items you may consider: spoons or knives to spread the masa, or this new convenient tool, Tamales Spreader which will be available for purchase at El Burrito Mercado this holiday season!

Tamales Spreader

Here is a video on how to use the spreader, I have yet to try this myself, I’ll keep you posted on our results. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVAyPqYcxLA

In 2012 we offered our first Tamalada event, this is our third year offering tamalada events and they are consistent with our objection to offer our community and customers a true experiencia Mexicana! At the events, participants learn a lot about tamales from my mother, Maria Silva, while my mother does not have formal culinary education nor is she a ‘chef’, she is our chef and she is one of the most respected and best cooks in the Twin Cities when it comes to Mexican cuisine.  The event is offered in our Cafe and Bar and is fun, relaxed setting intended to offer a comfortable ambiance fit for a tamalada with friends and family!  Learn about traditional Mexican holiday foods, beverages, and traditions as well as make your own tamales while spending enjoyable time with friends & family making memories and delicious tamales to take home and cook for the holidays!

This year we are offering two TAMALADAS, November 30th & December 7th 4pm, the evening includes dinner, two traditional holiday cocktails, dessert, a fun lesson, tamales making, and a special gift & certificates.

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Kids Tamalada Fun!
Kids Tamalada Fun!
Maria Silva, Owner, Mexican Cuisine Expert
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Maria Silva describing the ingredients for making tamales.

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We are also offering new this year a Kids Tamalada on Saturday, Nov. 29th 9:30am, breakfast & treats included, interactive tamales lesson and then tamales making! Registration information: https://socialari.webconnex.com/tamalada