Happy Día de la Batalla de Puebla! Contrary to popular misconception here in the United States, May 5th is not Mexican Independence Day (that would be on September 16th). Rather, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 when, outnumbered two-to-one, the Mexican army defeated 8,000 invading French soldiers near the city of Puebla.
Over the years the holiday has come to be a general celebration of Mexican history, culture, and of course, its unique cuisine. Discover more of what makes Mexican culture and food so vibrant on one of our cooking vacations in Mexico! You will find a cuisine that is at once ancient and ever-changing.
As Chef Ana Garcia of our Hola Mexico cooking vacation likes to say, “Great cuisines are alive. There is no one recipe that can encompass a great dish because it is constantly evolving.” Her home city of Cuernavaca embodies the dynamism of the Mexican food she loves to cook. Founded by the Olmecs approximately 3,200 years ago, Cuernavaca today is best known as the City of Eternal Spring because of its mild climate and year-round average daily temperature of 83 degrees — perfect for growing the many varieties of chili that Mexican cuisine is famous for.
For those new to Mexican cooking, Chef Ana has some advice: “My advice for someone just beginning to cook a new cuisine is to learn the major techniques first. Don’t worry about recipes and focus on using the major ingredients. For example, how to use fresh and dried chilies in as many applications at possible.”
These include the well known fresh Jalapeño and its dried, smoked version, the Chipotle, as well as the extra spicy Habañero and mild Poblano. Lesser known chilies common to Mexican cooking are the Serrano, a small, pointy chili with a very hot and savory flavor, and the dried Guajillo chili, which must be soaked to soften its tough skin before cooking.
Chef Ana grows many of these staples of Mexican cooking herself on-site at her restaurant in Tepoztlán. Visit her and learn how to put your own spin on classic Mexican culinary techniques. As Chef Ana says, “Don’t get hung up on the recipe, make it your own!”
To learn more about our culinary vacations in Mexico, visit our website. Or call us, we’d love to talk about our offerings.
By Adrian Hall
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Originally published May 5, 2014.