¡Viva Latino! – El Mero Mero
Aside from developing an advanced writing system, the Maya and Aztec civilizations (modern day Mexico) were master engineers in medieval times, turning marshland into floating gardens. In fact, as early as 7000BC, people in Meso-America had begun domesticating dogs, while cultivating cacao, maize, beans, and chilli peppers.
After studying French cooking and living in Switzerland for one year, Chef Juan Pablo Flores of El Mero Mero returned to his hometown of Mexico City, where he specialised in modern Mexican cuisine. He presents a dish of raw fish and shrimp cured in a mix of lime, coriander, chilli, oil, and onion for three minutes known as aguachile, commonly found in northern Mexico. The mingle of tangy and briny ocean flavours undercut by bursts of cold yet spicy notes is a sensory experience that is so exotic, it boggles the mind.
Lamb pibil, which features a traditional sauce from Yucatán in eastern Mexico, is a feisty dish of oregano, cinnamon, black pepper, onion, coriander, garlic, vinegar, lime, olive oil, and habanero chilli, “the most spicy chlli around the world.” The flavours are incredible; I had no idea that pain (from the spiciness) could be enjoyable. “Tres leche cake is something your mom would make for your birthday,” says the 38-year-old. “The chocolate that we use for the cake comes from cacao beans from Tabasco (situated on the Gulf of Mexico); it’s the best in the world.” After harvesting the seeds from pods, locals ferment, dry, and roast the cacao. It is then made into a paste with sugar for traditional Mexican chocolate.
While you’re here, try a honey-infused tequila with agave syrup, served with dehydrated serrano chilli; a reposado tequila with prickly pear and habanero-passionfruit air foam, which is spicy and refreshing; and tequila añejo with cacao liqueur and smoked wood chip, a smoky, alluring tipple that goes especially nicely with the gentle sweetness of the dessert. Has this piqued your interest in Central America? It’s time to start planning a trip to region, and experience the vibrant, feisty, and pulsating rhythms of these peoples.
El Mero Mero
30 Victoria Street #01-20, CHIJMES, Singapore 187996
Tel: (65) 6337 1377
Adapted from the Mar Apr 18
issue of Cuisine & Wine Asia.