|TAMALES! (before cooking)|
Still, the restaurant's range is limited and eating out is expensive. While we'd been making a few Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes all along, when we were finally prodded by the closing of Heidelberg's only shop that sold corn tortillas, we decided to really take matters into our own hands.
Flour tortillas. Sure, there are wraps at the grocery store, but the prices are absolutely insane and they aren't all that good. You can make flour tortillas at home with cheap ingredients and they taste amazing. Our pan is small so our tortillas are small, but no way are we going back to the nasty Fuego brand. (Did you know it's owned by the same guy who also does the other faux-ethnic foods found at Rewe?)
Corn tortillas. To make corn tortillas, you need a special corn flour called masa harina which is not sold in stores anywhere near us. Don't try it with the corn flour you find here - even if it says on the back that you can make tortillas with it, you can't. We tried. At first we had masa harina brought to us from the US, but it turns out you can order it online here from a company called Mex-Al. Mex-Al is meant to be a restaurant and supermarket supplier so a lot of their sizes are huge, but they can be pretty handy if you have a place to store the extra goods. Even with the masa harina, corn tortillas are slightly more complicated than flour, but they're hard to get otherwise and turn out really amazing.
Sauces and seasonings. You can bring back dried chiles and chile powders from the US or get them from Mex-Al. Ancho chile powder is great for making enchilada sauce, and chipotles are great for flavoring beans, soups, meat, etc. Don't worry about bringing back salty flavoring packets (although it's easy since they're so small!) and just make up your own taco seasonings with cumin, chili powder, cumin, garlic salt, more cumin, or whatever you like.
Now you have your base. Avocados have become delightfully easy to get in the years since we moved here, which is awesome. Make your own refried beans with beans and lard or broth. (Don't by the grody Fuego ones unless you don't have 10 minutes to mash your own up!) Salsa is not hard to make, with good chiles being the usual limiting factor. Mex-al also has corn husks for tamales and canned chiles for chiles rellenos..and with that we move into the harder stuff. Fresh chiles and cheese. Fuego sells pickled jalapeño slices which are okay for some things, but fresh jalapeños are a bit harder to get. We occasionally see them at Rewe and are sure to buy them up when we do. You can make them into escabeche which will help them last longer, and they are better than the Fuego ones. As for the New Mexican-style chiles, can't help you there. And we still haven't figured out the best cheese to sub in. If you have, let us know. They say feta works in some applications but I can't imagine, say, chiles rellenos dripping in feta.
What are your Mexican food tips or problems? Share in the comments! :)