viernes, 13 de julio de 2012

My Salute To Those Other Mexican Immigrants

While there are around a million of us gringos calling Mexico home, another group of immigrants to Mexico has been making their presence known for well over 100 years. 

Lebanon, of all places, has been providing Mexico with thousands upon thousands of wanna-be Mexicans.  After more than 100 years of Lebanese immigration, there are now an impressive number of Mexicans of Lebanese descent . . . their ancestors weren't just wanna-bes, like yours truly.

Saltillo's Lebanese Immigrant Plaza  (on Jose Musa de Leon)
Between escaping the Ottoman Empire in the 1890s and leaving civil war behind them in the 1990s, Lebanese have settled all over the Americas.  Some cities in Brazil claim to have a larger Lebanese population than Beirut.  But plenty have come to Mexico, particularly in Merida, Puebla, Mexico City, and Tampico (according to Wikipedia and other sources).  Glancing through the last names in Saltillo's social pages, plenty of Lebanese also decided that Saltillo is a pretty great place to live, too.

Why is this worth mentioning for me?  Arabic restaurants, baby!  During college, I got involved with a group that served international dinners once every couple of months, and I fell in love with Middle Eastern food.  Unfortunately, I'm from northeast Indiana, and Middle Eastern food is rather difficult to find.  To the best of my knowledge, the nearest restaurant that serves anything wrapped in grape leaves is in Ann Arbor, a good three hours from my house.  So how delightful was it to move to Saltillo, which--while twice the size of my hometown--seems half as small, I could find not one, but a number of Lebanese restaurants!    

Embarassingly, though, we have only tried one.  Almajal, on Jose Musa de Leon, just north of Figueroa, serves an excellent buffet every Sunday.  We like it so much, we haven't bothered trying anywhere else.  (But we will, we will!)


After a year of living in Puebla my hands-down favorite Mexican meal is really a Mexican-Lebanese creation, the taco arabe.  It deserves its own post.  We spent many a Saturday afternoon at the Antigua Taqueria Cholula, scarfing these babies down until I discovered something even better--the falafel taco.  Nestled in a big, warm, pita tortilla was a bed of slivered beets, cradling a generous portion of falafels, bathed in jocoque.  A-mazing.

Then Mario moved out of Cholula and the next thing we knew the Antigua Taqueria Cholula went out of business.  (If anyone in Cholula/Puebla can find out that they just moved, instead of going out of business, please let me know.  We will make the 12 hour drive some weekend just for the joy of the falafel taco.)
Recreation of the falafel taco--success!

A few months ago, when I was missing my falafel tacos more than usual, I was inspired while at the market.  My verdulero had great-looking beets for sale.  I had never bought them before, but thought, "Hmmm . . . with fresh flour tortillas, jocoque, these beets and falafels (from a recipe that I had just found on pinterest) I could make falafel tacos! 

And I did. 

And they were amazing.

And we even got Clara to eat beets, because my girly-girl three-year-old was pretty excited about a pink vegetable.

Anyway, that's all a very long, roundabout way of saying, thanks for coming to Mexico, all you Lebanese immigrants!  You make this country even tastier than it already was.       

2 comentarios:

I'm the Mami dijo...

Oooooo my mouth is watering thinking of all the yummy food! We HAVE to search for a good middle eastern place here when you guys are in town. Ask around if you can, because my inlaws have no clue what middle eastern food is. I wanted to make gryros one day, and we ended up making burritos because they didnt understand/now what I was taking about!
The closest I get is hummus from Walmart. Which is a sad, far far far second to real middle eastern food!

Jill dijo...

Ooo--I've frequented a lovely "Falafel King" in the Zona Rosa. Unfortunately, I can't tell you exactly where it is . . . it's been years since I've been there.

But if you don't mind walking a bit, I'm sure I can find it again! ;)