Beijing, China — My nephew Jordan had his friend Cris visit Beijing. Cris and Jordan met at culinary school in San Francisco. While Cris was here to explore Beijing culture, history, scale the Great Wall, meander through hutongs, and bike to the markets, he was also here to explore Chinese food and share with me a few of his family's recipes. Beijing has a few Mexican restaurants, and even fewer have come close to satisfying my Mexican-food hankerings. Beijing expats who have had the pleasure of eating Mexican food in Mexico, California, Arizona, Florida, or Texas are desperately looking for the Beijing Mexican restaurant to satisfy our wanting palates.
The great thing about cooking Mexican food in China is that most of the ingredients are already here thanks to spice trades and ships that sailed for eastern wonders. Chillies, tomatoes, and cilantro are originally from Latin America. Cumin spice in many Mexican dishes is also abundant in India and China. Xinjiang cuisine uses cumin to season their irresistible roasted lamb (羊肉串人).
Jordan was inspired to create a fiesta on a plate. He plated a salad of radish, radish tops, cilantro, green tangerine supremes, shaved red onion, and slices of watermelon radish (心灵美).
We steamed tortillas (bought at Jenny Lou's) in my Chinese bamboo steam basket and topped them with guisado de puerco (炖猪, pork stewed in salsa roja 红酱), and guiso de calabaza, a sauté of zucchini, corn, spicy sausage, and jalapeños. I think one of my favorite things was furthering the cross-cultural exchange by cooking Mexican food using my wok (炒锅), mortar and pestle (迫击炮和杵), and stacked steam baskets (竹蒸茏).
The next day, we hosted a dinner party of 15 people and brought Cris’ home flavor of Jalisco to Beijing. One guest brought a friend from Mexico living in Beijing, who was very happy to join us for dinner. I made a sangria inspired by Cris' recipe for hibiscus agua fresca (juice). I was surprised he found dried hibiscus at the local Carrefour (家乐福). I boiled the hibiscus flowers for ten minutes then added vanilla pods and a little sugar for a tart, floral concentrate. Right before the party I added six bottles of sparkling wine (Brut), sliced green tangerine, and a little tequila.
We served the dinner with sour cream and guacamole then closed appetites with a crowd-pleasing flan for dessert. Naturally, tequila arrived towards the end to cap the evening with a little spirit. A little bit of Mexico graced Beijing in flavor and spirit. I want to take the ShowShanti project to Mexico some day. Thank you Cris, for the delicious experience you shared with us in Beijing. We look forward to more of your talents as they pop up along your culinary journey.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis was named by Carolus Linnaeus. It has many names in Chinese: chijin赤槿、riji 日及、fusang 扶桑、fosang 佛桑、hongfusang 红扶桑、hongmujin 红木槿、sangjin 桑槿、huohonghua 火红花、zhaodianhong 照殿红、songjin 宋槿、erhonghua二红花、huashanghua 花上花、tuhonghua 土红花、jiamudan 假牡丹 and zhongguoqiangwei 中国蔷薇. Each of these many names is from a different state in China, each state having its own name for the plant. ~Wikipedia