Friday, October 19, 2012

Tortillas – little cakes

Restaurante Kinich in Izamel Mexico
Soft words float in the semi-dark hut, curling towards the ceiling with the drifting wood smoke.  A gentle rhythmic sound filters between the words: pat-pat. Pat-pat.  Pat. 

Perched on small stools near a low, wood-burning fire, three dark-haired women chat amiably while they hand-make corn tortillas. 



Is this a scene from a previous century?  No. It is present day at the Restaurante Kinich, one of our favourite places to eat when we are in the pretty colonial City of Izamal.  There is nothing like fresh corn tortillas, hot off the griddle!  Tasty!
 
In Mexico the dietary mainstay of most families is the tortilla made from corn - white maize.  The national average consumption per person in Mexico is 120 kilos, or around 264 pounds of tortillas per year; presumably adults consuming more than the national average, babies and toddlers considerably less.  The versatility of this popular food is endless. They are used for tacos, flautas, burritos, and enchiladas, used as utensils to scoop up food, and when necessary used as a small plate. 



My sister Valdine in 2008 at Tortilladoras near our house

When we first moved to Isla Mujeres there were several tortilladoras scattered around the island neighbourhoods, making fresh tortillas every morning. By seven in the morning the delivery boys could be heard honking their bicycle horns, advertising the fresh hot tortillas. 

My sister Joann, who lives on Isla during the summer, likes to purchase from one of the smaller establishments two or three tortillas at a time - completely confounding the clerks. 

My sister Joann in the new Chedraui Store

“How much do we charge?” They wonder.

Eventually Joann decided to buy the normal amount, and give the unwanted remainder to someone else to enjoy. I’m sure they still chuckle about the “Crazy Gringa.”

With the arrival of the large Chedraui Super Store on the island we were concerned that the smaller establishments would disappear. 

A year down the road, and they all seem to be doing well, even though Chedraui sells a kilo of tortillas slightly cheaper than the government subsidised rate.


 In the very traditional method of making tortillas the corn kernels are cooked with lime to remove the husk and then ground on a stone slab a metate, with a grinding stone a mano.   Next a little water is added until a soft dough is created.   Once the texture is perfect, a golf ball size of masa harina dough is shaped into a flat thin pancake about six inches in diameter.  Then it is placed onto a hot griddle or a wood-heated comal to be quickly cooked on both sides.  

In the commercial tortilladoras the pre-processed grain is purchased in large sacks – often truckloads at a time.  The corn flour is treated with calcium hydroxide to release the niacin in the corn and to make it easier on digestion.  The dough is quickly stamped into thin circles with a machine, and a conveyor belt takes the tortillas to be cooked over a gas flame.  Efficient!  And still very tasty.
 

However the best tasting tortillas are the ones cooked over a wood fire – like at Restaurante Kinich. 

But if you have ever eaten at Deysi and Raul’s El Charco Restaurante on the island, you have eaten fresh corn tortillas made to order by Raul. 

Pretty darn tasty too!
 
 

4 comments:

Life's a Beach! said...

Very interesting! El Charco's been on our list of restaurants to try for a long time. Next trip!

Lynda said...

Good Morning Becky! Deysi and Raul made great food. They open around 7:00 p.m. - every day. Nice people. Good food. Might see you there sometime. Cheers L

Diane Daniel said...

We love Deysi and Raul's. There wasn't a single thing I tried there that I didn't love - and we went about 1x a week during our 4 month stay.
Another place that will sell tortillas to go is Basto's. They have a unique texture - a little thicker than normal and make for fantastic quesadillas!

Lynda said...

Hi Diane: Thank you for the info on Basto's. We haven't tried that one yet .... too warm during the summer months. I need breezes when we are out for dinner. We'll give them a try this winter. Thanks for reading our blog. Cheers Lynda