Cinco de Mayo (which means “fifth of May”) is a regional holiday in Mexico, primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla. It commemorates the miraculous victory on May 5, 1862, of the Mexican militia over the larger and better equipped French army, which had not been defeated in 50 years.
As the Mexican population in the United States has grown, Cinco de Mayo has come to be observed here as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. In the San Francisco Bay area it is celebrated with a parade, music, dance, and of course Mexican food!
Like the cuisine of India, Mexican cuisine has a rich history and vast regional variety. Indigenous Mexican cooking has been influenced by Spanish, French, South American, and even African traditions.
In the United States, Mexican cooking has maintained many of its distinctive regional identities. It has also evolved into Tex-Mex specialties and varieties of burritos that are considered Mexican here, but might not be recognized in Mexico.
Let us enjoy Cinco de Mayo with some Indian/Mexican fusion food. This recipe combines Indian ingredients and spices, many of which are common to Mexican foods, with traditional Mexican specialties. This is a simple dish, suitable for parties or picnics. It is also nutritious, vegetarian, and easy to incorporate into a gluten-free menu.
Soft Tacos with Sukhi Bhaji and Rice Pilaf
For this menu, Indian pilaf and sukhi bhaji (sautéed vegetables) are served in soft tortillas, with salsa and guacamole.
A traditional Indian rice dish
½ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads 2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup basmati or jasmine rice, rinsed and drained thoroughly
2 to 3 tablespoons oil or butter
3 tablespoons chopped pistachios or chopped, slivered almonds
3 tablespoons yellow raisins (sultana)
l inch stick of cinnamon, broken into small pieces
4 to 5 cardamom pods
Soak the saffron in hot milk or soy milk and set aside. Boil the water with the salt and set it aside in a bowl. Heat the oil or butter in a sauce pan. Sauté the nuts, raisins, cinnamon, and cardamom for a few minutes until fragrant. Transfer them to a dish, draining the butter or oil back into the pan. Add the rinsed and drained rice to the hot sauce pan and sauté over a low heat for several minutes, being careful not to brown the rice. Add the salted, boiled water to the rice. Mix well, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the saffron milk and stir gently with a fork to blend. Then sprinkle the raisins, nuts and whole spices on top and keep the rice covered for five minutes. Uncover the rice, remove the whole spices and discard them. Fluff the pilaf with a fork and transfer it to a bowl.
Sauteed vegetables give the dish color
2 tablespoons safflower, canola, or corn oil
½ teaspoon black (or brown) mustard seeds
¼ cup finely chopped onion
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
½ cup chopped red or green bell pepper (or combined)
2 cups zucchini, cut into cubes (do not peel)
2 cups of crookneck yellow squash or sun burst squash, cut into cubes
½ teaspoon each ground turmeric,coriander and cumin
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Juice of one lime
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
In a large saucepan or wok, heat the oil and mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the onions and saute for a few minutes. Add the garlic, saute for another minute, then add the peppers and saute the combination together for five minutes. Add the cubed squashes and continue to stir-fry, adding the powder spices. There should be enough liquid from the vegetables to cook the bhaji in 7 to 10 minutes while keeping the vegetables slightly firm. Add the salt, cayenne, and fresh lime juice and mix well. Sprinkle the cilantro on top and set the bhaji aside.
Now let us Mex-fuse the above dishes by combining them in a soft corn tortilla and serving them with a hot salsa and colorful guacamole. Just before serving, make the salsa and guacamole following the recipes below. Both relishes are quick to make, but best served fresh; so prepare them last.
Salsa (meaning “sauce”) can be cooked or raw, based on the flavor of a specific chili, or a combination of chilies and other ingredients. Not all salsas are hot, though they are usually made up of a complex flavors. This salsa is very similar to an Indian tomato chutney.
2 cups finely chopped ripe tomatoes
2 jalapeno or serrano peppers, minced after removing most seeds and veins
½ cup minced white or red onion
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoon minced cilantro
Fresh squeezed juice of 1 lime
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly. Serve immediately or keep it chilled until ready to serve.
Avocados are grown in India, but are rarely used in Indian cuisine. In Mexico, they are often used to set off the hot spicy flavors of chilies.
¼ cup or less minced cilantro
¼ cup minced onion
1–2 jalapeno peppers, minced after removing seeds and inner veins
2 large avocados (Hass variety is preferred for its creamy texture.)
Fresh juice of 1 lime or lemon
½ teaspoon salt
Mince the first three ingredients using a knife or food processor. Cut the avocados open length wise. Remove and discard the pits. With a fork (or using the food processor) mash the avocados into a fine puree. Add the puree to rest of the ingredients, mix well and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Variation: Add a finely chopped tomato or two tomatillos to the minced vegetables.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Wrap 16 to 18 tortillas in foil and heat them in the oven until they are soft. Keep them warm in a tea towel while assembling the tacos.
To assemble, spread a few tablespoons of suki bhaji and rice pilaf in a strip down the center of a tortilla.
Fold the tortilla in half over the filling. Arrange them carefully on an oven proof platter or thali. Cover and reheat for a few minutes if you wish to serve them hot; they can also be served at room temperature. Accompany them with guacamole and salsa to heat up the party.