Tag Archives: china

Proper Mexican food restaurants worldwide

As you probably know if you read this blog, one of my passions is food, especially of the Mexican kind. Unfortunately, most of the Mexican food you find outside of North America is not really Mexican, so I make a point of testing Mexican restaurants when I’m traveling to make sure they are more Mex-Mex than Tex-Mex so that I can recommend them to friends.

You can find an abridged list after the map below (they’re listed by how far away they’re from Finland, with the first being the farthest out).

  1. Viva México, Singapore, Singapore. Pretty decent decor. Indian & Pakistani staff wearing Mexican dress. Some of the items in the menu are Tex-Mex as that’s what people know so far away from the land of nopales, but the chef is from Oaxaca so he can recommend what to eat. I had caldo tlalpeño and chiles en nogada when I was there and they were very good (photos). From what I hear, they have to import a lot of the foodstuffs, even the rice (kinda funny as it’s in Asia).
  2. Fonda de la Madrugada, Tokyo, Japan. A restaurant in a huge basement, descending those steps transports you from Harajuku to an Hacienda. Mexican movies shown in a corner. The chef was Mexican, even if the owners weren’t. The staff speaks Spanish and Japanese (few things cuter than a Japanese girl in a huipil), but no English. While it’s not the cheapest place to eat out, the food was absolutely worth it: we had guacamole, caldo tlalpeño, enchiladas and even carnitas a la michoacana (photos).
  3. El Mexicano, Shanghai, China. Small place slightly out of town. Mexican owners. The pollo en salsa verde was not great, but the tacos al pastor more than made for it (photos).
  4. La Palapa, New York, USA. A restaurant that wouldn’t be out of place in Coyoacán, even if the portions are American-sized. Their quesadillas were to die for (photos)
  5. Tehuitzingo Deli & Grocer, New York, USA. The best taquería I’ve been to outside of Mexico City (no wonder as it’s smack in the middle of Puebla York). Once you get inside past the grocery part of the locale, you will reach a small corner of heaven in Hell’s Kitchen. Tacos de lengua, pastor, chicharrón or suadero, sopes, quesadillas de flor de calabaza… all washed down with a Pacífico (photos).
  6. Rosa Mexicano, New York, USA. You realise the Mexican food market in NY has matured as they’ve gone from Tex-Mex to Mex-Mex to haute cuisine Mex. A selection of tequilas that will leave a connoisseur drooling, their arrachera & shrimps plate was very good and worth the price tag (photos).
  7. Barriga Llena, Madrid, Spain. Part of a mature Mexican-owned chain in Spain, the food is close enough to its origins and the sense of humour is a breathe of fresh air.
  8. Ándele, Barcelona, Spain. I used to visit Barcelona every year for work, and I always tried to visit this small place. The tacos are quite OK and they also sell Mexican foodstuffs and tequilas (indispensable if you live far away like me).
  9. Anahuacalli, Paris, France. This is the only one I haven’t visited of the restaurants in this list, but everybody I know and trust who has eaten here recommends it. The founder has lived in France for 40 years.
  10. Mestizo, London, UK. Mexican-owned as well. Also a little bit pricey, but the food was excellent. We had ceviche, tacos al pastor, pato en mole con ciruela, tamales, pozole, flan & crepas and it was all good (photos).
  11. Taquería La Neta, Stockholm, Sweden. For a while the closest source for proper Mexican food, this taquería was opened in 2009. Their menu is simple: tacos and their relatives, but the results are excellent as they have their own tortilla-making machine (photos). Mexican-owned.
  12. Café de Nopal, Helsinki, Finland. Recently opened. I just wrote a review about the place. They offer a “comida corrida” lunch every weekday with a choice of two/three main courses and brunch on weekends (photos). Mexican-owned.

Holidays in China, part II

Continues from part I.

Qutang Gorge
The middle of the 3 Gorges of the Yangtze River, Qutang Gorge.

Shennong Stream
Shennong Stream off Yangtze River. Before the construction of the 3 Gorges Dam, the river was so difficult to sail that to go upstream you needed to be pulled along by trackers. Clothing optional.

3 Gorges Dam Panorama
Behold the 3 Gorges Dam.
3 Gorges Dam Panorama
Another view of the 3 Gorges Dam

Yichang at night
The hotel in Yichang was nice. The city itself was not that interesting. They seemed to have ads for a local corn-based liquor everywhere.

Pudong Panorama
Pudong panorama from the Bund.

Pudong at Dusk
Pudong at dusk.

Shanghai at night from the Oriental Pearl TV Tower
Skyscrapers in the Shanghainese night

Trying to get out
Trying to get out of the vantage point of the previous picture at the Oriental Pearl TV tower. This is why we were surprised by the lack of courteousness in Chinese crowds: people would run, push and shove as much as possible in a situation that was potentially very dangerous.

Yuyuan Gardens
Tea House at the Yuyuan gardens. The bridge is built in zigzag as bad spirits can't turn corners.

Yuyuan Gardens
The area around the Yuyuan gardens is full of shops and built in traditional Chinese style.

Chinese Painting at Shanghai Museum
Chinese painting at Shanghai museum. Probably the best museum in China, the ceramic, jade, copper and painting collections are worth the visit.

Mexico at the World Expo
Mexican pavillion at the World Expo: Replica of the Bell of Independence from the church of Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato.

Mexico at the World Expo
The Mexican pavillion had an introduction to Mexican art & history, but my favourites where these masks where you could see different parts of Mexico through the eyes of someone living there.

Finland at the World Expo
The Finnish pavillion had an overview of Finnish design, and while there was not a lot of food on offer there was a big space for Nokia 😉

Belgium at the World Expo
The Belgian pavillion focused more than anything on science and technology (and beer and chocolate, sure). They had a video that Frank de Winne, Belgian ESA astronaut, recorded from space for the Expo.

India and Saudi Arabia at the World Expo
Many pavillions remained unseen, even if we spent there the whole day.

French Concession / Xintiandi
The former French concession at Xintiandi was a nice stop. After two weeks, we were starting to miss certain European comforts like street cafés, sandwiches or good beer.

Even during the night it was very hot, up to 30°C.
Route from Beijing to Helsinki
Ready to fly back from Beijing. One of the decisive factors that convinced us to go to China was that it is only a 8 hour direct flight with Finnair.

Holidays in China, part I

We spent 2 weeks in July in China.  Our route took us to Beijing where we stayed a few days, then we took an overnight train to Chongqing from where we boarded a ferry through the Yangtze River and the 3 Gorges to Yichang.  After sleeping there the night we took another train to Shanghai, where we stayed 4 days before returning back to Finland via Beijing.  It was quite a route as you can appreciate in the map below (we spent 60 hours in trains).

View Larger Map

It was very interesting as an experience, the sights are amazing, generally very safe, the people are usually kind and I thoroughly enjoyed the food.  However, we were more than once assaulted by culture shock.  China is not renowned for being one of the cleanest places on earth and the crowds, while expected, are not nearly as polite as in Japan or even Mexico.  However, as usual, the story is better told in pictures and videos (the rest are found in my Flickr stream as before).

Tiananmen square
Tiananmen square in the rain

Who comes up with these names?
Who comes up with these names?
Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven

The little Emperor didn't like his new clothes
This little Emperor was ready to take off his picture-perfect disguise.

Forbidden City Panorama
Inside the Forbidden City

Foggy at the Great Wall
It was extremely foggy when we visited the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu. Somehow doesn't surprise me as I had the same luck at the Cristo de Corcovado.

Great Wall
Another view of the foggy Great Wall of China

Looks like a taco!
Imagine my surprise when we went to a restaurant specialising in Peking duck and found out it's eaten almost like a taco.

Asian maps again
In East Asia their maps are different. Deal with it 😉

In the train to Chongqing
The standard "soft sleeper" cabins in Chinese trains are quite good. Pity the toilets are an absolute disaster, even in the newest trains. In fact, not only in trains, but pretty much everywhere. Maybe the government should start a nationwide "Be dignified, learn to use a loo" campaign?

Chongqing Panorama
Chongqing panorama at night

Lord of Hell
The Lord of Hell in Fengdu, the ghost city.

Continues in part II

Swine flu… epilogue?

After a week and a half of having declared the emergency, everything is slowly going back to normal in Mexico City now that the government has declared that the worst has passed (at least in Mexico itself, as the virus is still being reported in the U.S.). Tomorrow people will go back to work and in a few days schools will reopen.  There are a couple of diplomatic incidents still ongoing, and I for one am not planning to go to China nor Argentina anytime soon (both suspended flights, and Mexicans without symptoms are .

I really hope that the Mexican tourism industry recovers once this emergency is over, as the economic cost of this emergency runs in the billions.  At least it’s not the main news item in international media anymore at the time of writing.

Against the World Music category

Anybody who knows me a little bit (or has seen my profile at Last.fm) has probably realised that my musical taste is quite varied.  On any given day I could be listening to raï, ranchera, punk, samba, rock, jazz, metal, classical music, ska, axé, or electronica from Mexico, Japan, Brazil, Algeria, France, Belgium, Israel, India, Canada, Argentina, Egypt, China, etc… which if they’re not your usual Anglo-Saxon pop-rock will usually be clumped together into World Music, with very awkward results.

For example, with the current version of iTunes you have a “Genius” feature that promises to make perfect playlists for you.  However, the database they use seems to have been made by the record companies instead of users, so when it does find the music I have (which is less often than I would expect), if I ask to create a Genius playlist out of e.g. one of my favourite Mexican rock bands it will put it together with Mexican & Argentine traditional music too since they’re “Latin”, something akin to lumping James Brown together with Enya because they come from the English-speaking world.  It gets even better when I try it with some of my favourite samba artists, as they will be lumped together  with salsa, raï, Bollywood and tango acts because they are “World Music”, even if I do have plenty of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) to make a list with.

David Byrne said it best: he hates world music.

Globalisation & my high school class

This week I learned that two of my classmates from high school in northern Greater Mexico City are also in a relationship with Finnish girls and both are also living abroad.  That got me thinking about how many of the guys and gals I used to go to school with back then are also overseas, and the sample is quite broad.

I’m not particularly surprised of this development given that we were educated as the so-called NAFTA generation learning English (and sometimes other languages) from childhood, and given a broader view of the world than people before us (I remember attending lessons on economics, global affairs, the stock market and compared history of North America at that time).

What sets us apart from those before us I think, is not that some of us would go abroad, but that we would not concentrate in the United States as before.  In my sister’s high school class (she is only a few years older than me) most of those who are working abroad are doing so in the US (a couple here and there in Europe, but it’s a minority), whereas with us the geographic dispersion is much broader: I have classmates in Mexico, and all over the US, true, but also in Canada, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Australia, France, Brazil, UK and I believe even a couple in China.  Moreover, many of them who are back in Mexico also have international experience, either as students or during their careers.

I’m sure that this is partly due to American immigration regulations after 9/11, but I believe it also has something to do with many of us wanting to see what else was out there.  I wonder if the Institute for Mexicans Abroad will start tapping this kind of talent network too, as many of us are working for institutions like e.g.  Shell, Nokia, Microsoft, ESA or Volvo or studying at recognised institutions all over the place.  Maybe we should learn something from what the Indians and the Chinese are doing by taking advantage of their expatriates, instead of complaining about the brain drain?

Regardless, it’s good to see that most of them in Mexico or wherever they may be are doing well.

The great economic shift

What does this mean? What we are seeing is the shift of economic power from the United States & Europe to markets elsewhere, and especially China, India and parts of the Middle East are in good shape to reap the rewards.  However, since the system is built around the countries of the G7 with the US as the main motor of worldwide consumption, co-operation between all countries is needed, or else the rise of protectionism will amplify the current situation.

I wouldn’t be surprised if in case the crisis lasts long (hopefully not) China ends up bailing the US so that its own economy can keep on growing…