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Old 08-03-2019, 07:57 PM
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Why isn't Mexican food more popular in Spain?


I understand Spanish cooking is regional and uses local ingredients. And I’m very fond of tortilla espanola and most appetizers made from seafood, chorizo, peppers, olive oil, eggs, ham, figs, nuts, dough and saffron. I’ve enjoyed, and even cooked, many memorable tapas dishes.

But although a fair amount of Spanish food is available in Mexico, I don’t recall seeing any Mexican restaurants or food in Spain. A lot of the basic ingredients are similar, although Mexicans often like their food spicier than the Spanish. Is it a question of availability, spiciness, snobbery, perceived quality, custom or something else? Or perhaps my premise is wrong and it has become more popular?
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Old 08-03-2019, 08:27 PM
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One possibility is different immigration patterns; Mexican immigrants to Spain tend to be middle & upper class professionals and they represent less than 1% of immigrants. Of course Spanish cuisine does use New Work ingredients like tomatoes or chocolate.
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Old 08-04-2019, 12:29 AM
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One possibility is different immigration patterns; Mexican immigrants to Spain tend to be middle & upper class professionals and they represent less than 1% of immigrants.
That'd be my first guess as to why not, too (assuming that the OP's premise is, in fact, true); in the U.S., most of the original Mexican restaurants (i.e., before Taco Bell and Chi-Chi's) were likely owned by Mexican immigrants -- and the same was probably true of other ethnic restaurants, too, like Italian restaurants and Chinese restaurants.

Without enough Mexican immigrants (and specifically, ones who are willing to open restaurants), I'm going to guess that there probably just isn't enough exposure to authentic (or even nearly-authentic) Mexican cuisine in Spain.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 08-04-2019 at 12:30 AM.
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Old 08-04-2019, 05:44 AM
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In general, "Mexican" food in Europe as a whole is a Crime Against Humanity, and further proof of the evil that lurks in the hearts of Men.

It has gotten to be so bad for me personally that I have begun to get some masochistic pleasure out of trying Mexican places while travelling just to see how truly disgusting they can actually get.

Sadly, the one place here in Krakow that was slightly less awful that all the others (and in any major Southwestern American city, the food there would have been like a 2 or 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 place) went out of business, so now I am counting down the days until I get back to the USA for a visit, and even though my first stop will be New Orleans, (which while by far is my favorite American city, the Mexican food scene there is nothing to write home about) I will forgo the more traditional Crescent City culinary treasures for my first meal, and head directly to a little burrito place I like in the Quarter straight from the airport.
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Old 08-04-2019, 05:52 AM
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Thirty-some years ago, I was in the Navy deployed to Rota, Spain. One night, I made the unfortunate choice to dine in a Chinese restaurant. I don't know anything about the owners or the cooks, but it was truly awful food. I expect the theory about immigrants opening restaurants could well be the explanation. Or it was opened by immigrants who couldn't cook.
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Old 08-04-2019, 06:35 AM
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Old 08-04-2019, 01:22 PM
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You could ask the same question about any country in Europe. Why should Mexican food be any more popular in Spain than, let's say, England or Poland?
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Old 08-04-2019, 02:30 PM
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In general, "Mexican" food in Europe as a whole is a Crime Against Humanity, and further proof of the evil that lurks in the hearts of Men.

It has gotten to be so bad for me personally that I have begun to get some masochistic pleasure out of trying Mexican places while travelling just to see how truly disgusting they can actually get.

Sadly, the one place here in Krakow that was slightly less awful that all the others (and in any major Southwestern American city, the food there would have been like a 2 or 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 place) went out of business, so now I am counting down the days until I get back to the USA for a visit, and even though my first stop will be New Orleans, (which while by far is my favorite American city, the Mexican food scene there is nothing to write home about) I will forgo the more traditional Crescent City culinary treasures for my first meal, and head directly to a little burrito place I like in the Quarter straight from the airport.
If you find yourself in Budapest, Iguana Cafe is pretty decent for Tex-Mex. It was started by an expat back in the late 90s. I believe he has since passed away, but the place should still be there. There’s also a chain of fast food Chipotle style places called Arriba that is reasonable (and somehow connected with Iguana.) Last I was there two years ago I was shocked to see them offer (limited time) cochinita pibil tacos. Was a reasonable attempt at it, but suffered from not enough turnover of that particular item.
And you can also surprisingly get most of the ingredients you need at the specialty markets, including stuff like masa harina, dried Mexican peppers of all sorts, chipotles, and I even saw cans of huitlacoche, so if you want to make it yourself, it’s possible.

Last edited by pulykamell; 08-04-2019 at 02:31 PM.
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Old 08-04-2019, 04:27 PM
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Classism basically
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Old 08-05-2019, 06:53 PM
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With increasing travel and cookbooks about other cuisines, restaurants in many cities are becoming more global.

Spain and Mexico are related, however, by colonization. Due to the criollo influence, a lot of ingredients used are fairly similar - even the sausage and basic cheeses. Of course, Mexicans use more corn, tequila and spicier chilies; and some of the seafood is different. Few Mexicans would consider “patatas bravas” to be very spicy.

Both countries take a lot of pride in their cuisine. The lack of a significant Mexican diaspora probably plays some role. But I suspect classism might as well due to a complex history. Canada’s biggest cities have a growing Mexican population and Mexican restaurants are becoming more popular here, but not like parts of the US. In Mexico itself, ethnic restaurants can be very rustic and not what you are expecting - Italian food is probably more reliable than Mexican sushi.
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Old 08-05-2019, 07:00 PM
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That'd be my first guess as to why not, too (assuming that the OP's premise is, in fact, true); in the U.S., most of the original Mexican restaurants (i.e., before Taco Bell and Chi-Chi's) were likely owned by Mexican immigrants -- and the same was probably true of other ethnic restaurants, too, like Italian restaurants and Chinese restaurants.
I would rather have guessed that Mexican restating the United States we’re often started by U.S. born Hispanics whose families had been in the U.S. for generations, perhaps many of them longer than the Anglo families in their areas.
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Old 08-05-2019, 07:40 PM
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I don't know--I can't say I know a whole lot about Spanish cuisine, (but I grew up working in my step mother's Mexican restaurant), and from what I do know of Spanish food, I wouldn't see any particular reason for Mexican food to be especially popular in Spain. Yes, there are a few things that Mexico inherited (such as ceviche, churros), but the colonization was mostly a one-way deal. Some things went the other way, like chocolate, but even that is made really differently in Spain, IME.

I don't think the ingredients are any more similar than those of Mexico and italy, for example, or many other European countries. For me, the heart and soul of Mexican food derives mostly from its indigenous characteristics--I'd be curious to know how popular something like mole is in Spain.
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Old 08-05-2019, 08:13 PM
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I would rather have guessed that Mexican restating the United States we’re often started by U.S. born Hispanics whose families had been in the U.S. for generations, perhaps many of them longer than the Anglo families in their areas.
Possibly so, but either way, you had people of Mexican heritage (if not Mexican expatriates) who were operating restaurants in which they were cooking dishes from their heritage. Since it sounds like there aren't many people in Spain of Mexican descent, it seems like that source of Mexican cuisine knowledge is missing.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 08-05-2019 at 08:15 PM.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:34 AM
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Spain and Mexico are related, however, by colonization.
You would think thst this would count for something, but even though I haven't spent an extensive amount of time in Spain, (a couple of weeks in beautiful Barcelona, a few days in Madrid and one weekend in San Sebastian, but all on different visits) I don't think there were any more Mexican restaurants in say Barcelona than there would be in Brussels, Berlin or Bratislava.

As a counter-example, people who have travelled Europe can tell you that there are probably more Indonesian restaurants in just the city of Amsterdam alone (never mind the rest of the Netherlands) than in the rest of all of Europe combined.

(maybe Dutch and their rather bland native cuisine "needed help" from an exotic imported influence more than the Spanish food scene did?)
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:57 AM
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Possibly so, but either way, you had people of Mexican heritage (if not Mexican expatriates) who were operating restaurants in which they were cooking dishes from their heritage. Since it sounds like there aren't many people in Spain of Mexican descent, it seems like that source of Mexican cuisine knowledge is missing.
Quite. In Spain we DO have strong influence from the Americas, but it's part of Spanish cuisine. When my 9th-grade class was informed (Biology lessons) that tomato came from America...

...there was a moment of silence...

...of very heavy silence...

...and then one of us exclaimed "oh my God, what did we eat before!?"

I still don't know how come more women weren't like the ladies of the courts of the Goth kings before chocolate was available. Let me put it this way: that Cersei is a wuss.

In general, there has been very few people of Indoamerican descent in Spain until very recently (late 1990s, early 2000s); those who were, were mostly mestizos who'd returned from America with their born-in-the-Peninsula father, and weren't visible within a generation. Criollos mixed in even faster. Those ingredients which travelled well with pre-20th century methods or which could easily be grown here, had become incorporated into our own recipes.

Another factor is that in Spain it's relatively rare for restaurants to country-specialize. Yes, there are "Chinese" and "Italian" restaurants, but:
either one is perfectly capable of serving paella (rice is rice is rice...) or its sister fideuá (noodles are noodles are noodles...)
an Italian doesn't have any dishes you can't find in a non-Italian restaurant
a Chinese may involve a lot of... peanut sauce? ( only if you know that smells of parts further south)
and many restaurants whose menu is pretty "ethnic" because so is the cook is likely to simply call itself a restaurant. A lot of the bars and restaurants taken over by immigrants in recent decades have simply kept the old name and decoration: so long as it was called Casa Paco (Chez Paco) and not La Casa del Marisco (The Home of Shellfish), it's as perfectly normal for it to serve ceviche, huevos rancheros and pico de gallo as it is for it to have ensalada de la casa, sopa de lentejas and alubias con todos los sacramentos.






DrDeth, what most people call patatas bravas... well. It's pretty watered-down. I've even encountered people who called "brava" a sauce which was a mixture of pot-mayo and ketchup. I happened to be part of the first taste-test group (they were invented by a bar-owner in my hometown in the summer of 1984); while they certainly wouldn't be considered extremely spicy by any mexican, they were a lot zingier than most of what people serve.
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Last edited by Nava; 08-06-2019 at 02:01 AM.
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Old 08-06-2019, 03:55 AM
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In general, "Mexican" food in Europe as a whole is a Crime Against Humanity, and further proof of the evil that lurks in the hearts of Men.
I'd say this was a fair assessment, as someone who eats Mexican food in the US (but wasn't that impressed with the food in the big resort hotels in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, in Mexico) whenever I visit.

The only great mexican food I've had in the UK was a restaurant in Manchester, around 1990 (Manchester was once known for its authentic foreign restaurants, rather than just changing the food for the locals). It was wonderful. Never found it again when I looked.

I've never eaten anything close to since. While in the UK people seem to think that we like authentic foreign food, because indian curries are so popular, but in reality, we seem to be seekers of the bland for most non indian dishes. Thai food is bland (I've eaten in a decent UK Thai, but it closed). Mexican food is basically unspiced tortilla variations over here, priced highly too (so not a source of cheap eats). Absolutely no sign of heat in there too.

For instance Old El Paso is the main home cooking sauce/mix/tortilla provider. They produce a bland fajita mix. Except they had to make an "extra mild" version because the original one tasted of something. Anything.

Inside Europe, a lot of countries are very unadventurous cuisine wise for new immigrant food. Don't order a curry in Belgium. Italy barely has any immigrant restaurants. Germany likes the Turkish food, but the worst curry I've ever eaten was in Hildesheim, near Hannover.

Yes, also immigration seemed to one direction, and the food tends to come with the immigrants. So, there's that (fella, as they say in Fargo).

However, I'd say pretty much the main factor, which people forget, is that Spain was a fascist state for 50 odd years, when not a lot of immigrants and new ideas was welcome. Just when the rest of the world was widening its taste cuisines. So Spain will always be somewhat behind in that sense.

This wasn't helped by the influx of british tourists in the 70-80s and the bland British food which was brought with them. Imagine the horror of that influx. Yes, most major tourist destinations were far more British than Britain... So the trauma of that after 50 years of denial. Well, would you want to be adventurous?
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Old 08-06-2019, 04:23 AM
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In fairness to British ethnic restaurants, I had a truly amazing meal in Liverpool a few months back at a kind of hybrid Greek/Turkish/Lebanese place not far from the main train station there, by far the best Greek food I had ever eaten anywhere (I grew up in the Western USA, so I didn't get to too many Greek restaurants growing up, although Salt Lake does have a couple of really good ones that I used to eat at a few times a year) until I went to Greece in April.

Of course English Indian ("Curry Spots"?) restaurants, even the low dive places generally make better tasting food than what you can find in most major American cities at any price.

(Surprisingly, there is a handful of very good Indian places here in Krakow, surprising because Polish food is generally light on spices, but these all seem to do pretty good business, although with influx of young blackout alcoholic English tourists here every weekend, maybe they get a lot of business from drunken UK lads who are tired of cabbage rolls and sausage)
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Old 08-06-2019, 05:29 AM
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However, I'd say pretty much the main factor, which people forget, is that Spain was a fascist state for 50 odd years, when not a lot of immigrants and new ideas was welcome. Just when the rest of the world was widening its taste cuisines. So Spain will always be somewhat behind in that sense.
Spain had an unusual period of very little immigration to its mainland (except for refugees from European wars, from Italian unification to WWII) which lasted close to two hundred years. We had more immigration in relative terms during the Middle Ages, Renaissance or Enlightement than during the 19th or most of the 20th centuries. One of the reasons there's relatively little xenophobia is that any of us doesn't have to climb very far up the family tree before finding someone who E-migrated during that time: we (our great-uncles, our great-grandparents, and nowadays ourselves and our siblings and cousins) wanted to be welcome in strange land, so on what grounds are we unwelcoming to others?
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Old 08-06-2019, 06:14 AM
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Mexican food is popular in Norway

https://www.norwegianamerican.com/fo...ght-in-norway/
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Old 08-06-2019, 07:18 AM
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One reason could be that Spanish food is very good. Another is Spain is very locally culture orientated and they like their regional foods as part of their heritage. People are not so much from Spain but from their region of Spain, and that's what they are proud of.

Last edited by kanicbird; 08-06-2019 at 07:21 AM.
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Old 08-06-2019, 07:23 AM
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In general, "Mexican" food in Europe as a whole is a Crime Against Humanity, and further proof of the evil that lurks in the hearts of Men.

It has gotten to be so bad for me personally that I have begun to get some masochistic pleasure out of trying Mexican places while travelling just to see how truly disgusting they can actually get.
I'm curious, what exactly is terrible about it? Something like a taco is best when it's kept simple. I'd think it'd be difficult to fuck up. Are they using bad ingredients, poor seasoning, or are they doing the "more is better" thing and just piling mountains of random shit on it?
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Old 08-06-2019, 07:30 AM
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I'm curious, what exactly is terrible about it? Something like a taco is best when it's kept simple. I'd think it'd be difficult to fuck up. Are they using bad ingredients, poor seasoning, or are they doing the "more is better" thing and just piling mountains of random shit on it?
Small portions. Burrito's largely riceittos, no spices. Certainly no chilli sauce. High priced for it's small portions.

Let me say, having had a Taco Bell open in Nottingham, somewhere which seemed to largely be out in the retail shopping areas in the US, I had previously not had, I tried one. On the more tasty end of the UK Mexican servings.

For restaurants not helped by god awful tequilla, good tequilla is rare over here, but exists now (as opposed to ten years ago).
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Old 08-06-2019, 07:37 AM
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Small portions. Burrito's largely riceittos, no spices. Certainly no chilli sauce. High priced for it's small portions.

Let me say, having had a Taco Bell open in Nottingham, somewhere which seemed to largely be out in the retail shopping areas in the US, I had previously not had, I tried one. On the more tasty end of the UK Mexican servings.

For restaurants not helped by god awful tequilla, good tequilla is rare over here, but exists now (as opposed to ten years ago).
There's now plenty of good mexican's in the UK, but you need to avoid the chains or anything that's been open more than five years. The scene is changing fast.
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Old 08-06-2019, 07:54 AM
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In general, "Mexican" food in Europe as a whole is a Crime Against Humanity, and further proof of the evil that lurks in the hearts of Men.
Guiltily agreed. I've yet to find a decent Mexican or even TexMex place in Paris. PARIS ! We have gourmet Tibetan cuisine here ! And we've got great tapas bars, fantastic Argentinian meat places too. But nobody who can whip up a decent taco that doesn't taste like the plate it was served on it seems. Shameful shit.
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Old 08-06-2019, 08:30 AM
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There's now plenty of good mexican's in the UK, but you need to avoid the chains or anything that's been open more than five years. The scene is changing fast.
That's a very provincial comment, and assuming that I'm only mentioning chains.

There might be plenty of good mexicans in SOME parts of the UK. It might be good to tell me where you think that is. They are certainly not plentiful or good yet across the country.

I hope you're not talking about yet another burrito stall (relentlessly flour tortilla, or even just your usual wrap with loaded with rice).

For instance Tripadvisor has the top mexican restaurant in Birmingham rated as Wrapchic. This is a chain, where they put indian food in a wrap. Not mexican food.

Las Iguana's is second, another chain, a big one too, and I'm not even sure what this really is. Claims to be Latin america, and I suspect that's just an excuse to do a bunch of different food. And not very good cocktails, mainly.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:05 AM
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I'm curious, what exactly is terrible about it? Something like a taco is best when it's kept simple. I'd think it'd be difficult to fuck up. Are they using bad ingredients, poor seasoning, or are they doing the "more is better" thing and just piling mountains of random shit on it?
I was kind of wondering the same thing.

Along those lines: let's say you could teleport the 10 best Mexican/Tex-Mex** restaurants in, say, Texas & California over to Paris, London, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Warsaw, Moscow, etc. All the employees, chefs, etc. also teleport over. Those restaurants also have some kind of magical teleportation thingie that allows them to source their ingredients from wherever in the world they are best procured.

Now then. Would those amazing Mexican restaurants go out of business in those European cities because the Europeans .. just wouldn't like that kind of food enough? Is it almost a chicken-&-egg thing? No cultural underpinning for Mexican cuisine in place >>> No Mexican place can get a foothold >>> No cultural underpinning >>> no foothold >>> ... and round and round it goes. Is it like that?

** I realize they are different ... for this thought experiment, it doesn't much matter.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:20 AM
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Thought experiment #2:

I make ground beef tacos at home for the family all the time. Sometimes I use a prepackaged spice mix to season the meat. Other times, I'll throw in the onion, garlic, cumin, etc. myself to taste. They're different, spicing it the two different ways, but both good and satisfying. Plenty of flour tortillas (don't do crunchy corn shells a lot), sour cream, lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheese on hand. Sometimes we'll make our own pico de gallo and use that in lieu of other toppings. Sometimes we'll be super-lazy about it, dispense with chopping veggies, and just stuff it with seasoned ground meat and shredded cheese.

Anyway. I find myself living in Paris. Or London. Or any other European capital. And I want to make home tacos pretty much the way I describe above. I've got a pocketful of Euros or pounds or whatever local currency I need. I know where the major grocery stores are, and I am prepared to ask around for the locations of specialty grocers if necessary.

Given those conditions -- what is it that prevents me from making home tacos very similar to what I made back in the U.S.? Assume that ingredient prices aren't an issue -- it's OK if the ground beef costs triple what it costs in the U.S., or if cumin is priced like saffron or something. Would I likely have to make my own tortillas by hand, as opposed to finding decent ones for sale at the grocery?

Thought experiment #3: so I'm in Paris (or European capital of your choice), and I have persevered and done my best with what's available locally, and gone ahead and made some home tacos. I invite a bunch of my local European friends to partake. Would they pretty much universally dislike the tacos because that kind of food is just not familiar to them?
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:55 AM
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They would dislike it the same way they would dislike peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:59 AM
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Now then. Would those amazing Mexican restaurants go out of business in those European cities because the Europeans .. just wouldn't like that kind of food enough? Is it almost a chicken-&-egg thing? No cultural underpinning for Mexican cuisine in place >>> No Mexican place can get a foothold >>> No cultural underpinning >>> no foothold >>> ... and round and round it goes. Is it like that?
I guess you might succeed if you took all the best ones across and put in the centre of a big city with enough of a custom to fill its restaurants and the good food makes it successful... It will take a while for such versions of the food to bleed out, and in some countries it just won't (I'd say Italy, which is quite stuck in its ways).

It's purely hypothetical though. The problem is that this has been kind of tried and failed, I'm not saying with substandard chefs or food, just ones who did not attempt to make authentic versions of it.

Indeed in the UK Chilli con carne is so ubiquitious that old people actually don't consider it foreign food. My other half's mother won't touch chinese food (seriously), and won't be in the same room as an indian curry, yet is fine with chilli con carne. Because it's only slightly more seasoned than the onion, minced beef and gravy which makes a cottage pie under the mash. This happened in the 80s, this version of "mexican food".

There has been 4-5 mexican restaurants around my area we've tried, which are long since gone. Not chains, someone's dream... Each one was just basically slightly spiced fajita's, soft (flour) tacos, rice filled burritos with meat and lettuce. It tried to attract the mainstream diners, and didn't even attempt strong flavours. Mainstream diners and adventurous ones saw nothing different from what you could cook at home. I mean, a corn tortilla wasn't even on the menu anywhere... Chilli sauce not on the table.

Taco bell did open up in the 90s in the centre of london, and went out of business in a couple of years. I don't think they helped much...
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:16 AM
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I have thought about this for many years, since my first few visits to Europe in the mid 1990's, and now after living here for the past 4 years, I still can't decide.

I used to think there was a vast fortune just waiting to be made by opening Chipolte's style places in major European cities, using "authentic" Mexican recipies, spices and ingredients, (or at least what to my American born & raised taste buds seem authentic) but now I am not so sure.

Younger people tend to be more adventurous, and in particular here in Eastern Europe will flock to anything that seems vaugely "American", but I have to think that there must be something that keeps Mexican cuisine from gaining a foothold here, because even in traditional Poland, just right here in Krakow. there are 1000's of Italian, Chinese, Thai, Indian and Japanese restaurants, many of which are clearly thriving, while the tiny handful of Polish "Mexican" places that put out food that isn't nearly as good as a frozen Swanson's "Enchilada Combo" are virtually deserted each night.

Chicken or Egg?

(I am going to dinner tonight at a tiny little Vietnamese place that opened up a few months ago. The food is truly excellent, every bit as good as good as anything I have ever had in Los Angeles, Vancouver, Seattle or San Francisco, and a meal for myself and my wife, with enough leftover for one of us to have it for lunch tomorrow, will cost less than $6.00 U$D. The place doesn't sell alcohol, so you are free to bring in a cold beer with you. Sadly, if I had to guess, there will likely be less than 3 or 4 other people eating there. You can lead a horse to water...)

Last edited by Royal Nonesutch; 08-06-2019 at 10:18 AM.
  #31  
Old 08-06-2019, 10:34 AM
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I used to think there was a vast fortune just waiting to be made by opening Chipolte's style places in major European cities, using "authentic" Mexican recipes, spices and ingredients, (or at least what to my American born & raised taste buds seem authentic) but now I am not so sure.
Authenticity, really, shouldn't be an issue in and of itself. There are many, many well-loved and thriving Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurants in the U.S. that aren't particularly authentic. Same is true of a strong majority of popular ethnic restaurants in the U.S., I would think.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:58 AM
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I used to think there was a vast fortune just waiting to be made by opening Chipolte's style places in major European cities, using "authentic" Mexican recipies, spices and ingredients, (or at least what to my American born & raised taste buds seem authentic) but now I am not so sure.
I've not tried them, but there has been Chiquito's at sitting beside most out of town cinema's in the UK. Claims to be the "Uk's largest mexican chain" (sounds like a tourist attraction in Texas).

I've worked near a few different locations with these recently (Cambridge, Hemel Hempstead, Cardiff, Stevenage), then are invariably empty most days of the week...

There was some sort of mexican chain in Antwerp (where I visit on occasions), and I just went to find out its name, and it's gone out of business by the looks of things. Indeed, I remember about three of them in Antwerp, two of them non chain, and none of them exist anymore. It's harsh for Mexican restaurants everywhere.
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Old 08-06-2019, 11:07 AM
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That's a very provincial comment, and assuming that I'm only mentioning chains.

There might be plenty of good mexicans in SOME parts of the UK. It might be good to tell me where you think that is. They are certainly not plentiful or good yet across the country.

I hope you're not talking about yet another burrito stall (relentlessly flour tortilla, or even just your usual wrap with loaded with rice).

For instance Tripadvisor has the top mexican restaurant in Birmingham rated as Wrapchic. This is a chain, where they put indian food in a wrap. Not mexican food.

Las Iguana's is second, another chain, a big one too, and I'm not even sure what this really is. Claims to be Latin america, and I suspect that's just an excuse to do a bunch of different food. And not very good cocktails, mainly.
Thanks Mr Patroniser, but if Tripadvisor is your go-to for restaurant recommendations, then there isn't much of a conversation to be had here.

Of course there isn't a great Mexican in every town in the country - I never claimed that. But if you want to find great places, you certainly can (not using Tripadvisor as your guide).
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Old 08-06-2019, 11:10 AM
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I'd just like to take this opportunity to say that Mexican food is amazing. It's pretty much as staple for me. Everyone should enjoy it.
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Old 08-06-2019, 11:18 AM
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I once was in Stuttgart a couple of summers back, and next to my hotel was a "Tex Mex" type place that was obviously, nakedly, unmistakably modeled on a "Chili's" (a mediocre American chain franchise bar & grill that has a vaugely SouthWesten themed menu) and they had a special for hotel guests to get 50% off of the check. I decided to get some taquitos and queso with guacamole just to see how bad it was going to be.

Even though the food was, by almost any American Mexican food standards, certainly nothing special, it was SO much better than 99% of other Mexican places I had tried in Europe that I ended up going back there for a little snack every day until I left, even though I felt somehow "guilty", I guess for either really enjoying it, knowing full well that it actually wasn't very good or perhaps for not eating some authentic German food for every meal.

Stupid, I know.

Last edited by Royal Nonesutch; 08-06-2019 at 11:19 AM.
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:01 PM
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Thanks Mr Patroniser, but if Tripadvisor is your go-to for restaurant recommendations, then there isn't much of a conversation to be had here.

Of course there isn't a great Mexican in every town in the country - I never claimed that. But if you want to find great places, you certainly can (not using Tripadvisor as your guide).
I'm using Trip Advisor because I don't know any of these good restaurants you are referring to. You claim there are plenty of them, yet fail to name any of them, and anywhere they are.

You claimed to know some. In some areas. Please name them, like asked, and stop diverting, I'm the one who doesn't know, and I'm not the one claiming there's plenty of these great restaurants and because its a big damn country with plenty of places.

I really don't give a crap about Tripadvisor, and I don't use it as a source of very much at all. Type in best mexican restaurants in Birmingham into google, and its what you get.

Over to you, oh patronised person with all these mysterious restaurants you know, but won't tell of.
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:16 PM
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As a counter-example, people who have travelled Europe can tell you that there are probably more Indonesian restaurants in just the city of Amsterdam alone (never mind the rest of the Netherlands) than in the rest of all of Europe combined.

(maybe Dutch and their rather bland native cuisine "needed help" from an exotic imported influence more than the Spanish food scene did?)
Not just restaurants. I went to the Netherlands to visit one of our factories, and half the food in the cafeteria was Indonesian. We went to Amsterdam for dinner, and wanted to eat Dutch food - and found that very difficult to find. We wound up eating in a hotel restaurant.
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:26 PM
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Not just restaurants. I went to the Netherlands to visit one of our factories, and half the food in the cafeteria was Indonesian. We went to Amsterdam for dinner, and wanted to eat Dutch food - and found that very difficult to find. We wound up eating in a hotel restaurant.
Most immigrant food comes from influx from countries where there are connections and colonies and shared languages. Thus a lot of north african food in France, lot of turkish food in Germany (large influx post WWII), lots of Indian food in the UK.

I think the Dutch East Indies was related to Indonesia, so in effect a colony.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:06 PM
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Authenticity, really, shouldn't be an issue in and of itself. There are many, many well-loved and thriving Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurants in the U.S. that aren't particularly authentic. Same is true of a strong majority of popular ethnic restaurants in the U.S., I would think.
Sure, but they might not be considered "good" examples of what Insert_ethnic_cuisine_here is. If you take Chinese food as an example (which I know more about than Mexican food), the overwhelming majority of restaurants will serve Chinese dishes that aren't "adventurous" for the locals, stuff that's very much like local food but cooked in a wok and so on ; or actually Chinese stuff that generally resembles local food. Here in France for example most every Chinese restaurant will serve what I call "Frenchified Chinese cuisine" : beef & onion, fried chicken, lacquered duck, salt & pepper shrimp or pork, fried rice with egg & ham, wonton soup... Stuff that's "foreign", but not too foreign. Maybe there'll be a dish or two with peanuts in it, for the more adventurous connaisseurs . And if you ask the chefs at these places, they'll all tell you the same thing : "if I make real Chinese food, I won't have customers any more - if you call in advance I can make it for you, but I can't put it on the regular menu".
That's not to say they make bad food btw - there's truly excellent Frenchified Chinese food to be found. It's just not, yanno, Chinese food .

If there's a large enough ethnic community however, then you'll also find Chinese restaurants that do Chinese food for Chinese people, which is where you'll find menus featuring duck tongues and chicken feet and lion's head meatballs and xiaolong baos and a million other dishes you'd never heard of and never seen in any "Chinese restaurant" (and some which you probably shouldn't have. I tried the tendons once, with ample regrets.)
Most of these places also serve the "Frenchified Chinese" dishes, but don't Frenchify them at all - and the dishes are often better for it. Same is true for Korean food ("Korean BBQs" are a dime a dozen, but my friends and I found a lone, family-owned Korean restaurant in the heart of the Parisian south west, which is lowkey Koreatown, that does "real" Korean cuisine and it's to die for), Japanese food (a billion bad trendy sushi places, but around the Opera where the Japanese immigrants live there are Udon joints and even Japanese curry joints that'll make you believe in Shinto), etc...

So going backwards to the OP, I'd be willing to guess the reason Mexican food is pretty bad all over Europe is that there aren't really any large South American "enclaves" anywhere that would make serving food "like in the old country" to nostalgic Latinos/as profitable in the short run.

Last edited by Kobal2; 08-06-2019 at 01:07 PM.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:10 PM
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Thought experiment #2:

I make ground beef tacos at home for the family all the time. Sometimes I use a prepackaged spice mix to season the meat. Other times, I'll throw in the onion, garlic, cumin, etc. myself to taste. They're different, spicing it the two different ways, but both good and satisfying. Plenty of flour tortillas (don't do crunchy corn shells a lot), sour cream, lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheese on hand. Sometimes we'll make our own pico de gallo and use that in lieu of other toppings. Sometimes we'll be super-lazy about it, dispense with chopping veggies, and just stuff it with seasoned ground meat and shredded cheese.

Anyway. I find myself living in Paris. Or London. Or any other European capital. And I want to make home tacos pretty much the way I describe above. I've got a pocketful of Euros or pounds or whatever local currency I need. I know where the major grocery stores are, and I am prepared to ask around for the locations of specialty grocers if necessary.

Given those conditions -- what is it that prevents me from making home tacos very similar to what I made back in the U.S.? Assume that ingredient prices aren't an issue -- it's OK if the ground beef costs triple what it costs in the U.S., or if cumin is priced like saffron or something. Would I likely have to make my own tortillas by hand, as opposed to finding decent ones for sale at the grocery?

Thought experiment #3: so I'm in Paris (or European capital of your choice), and I have persevered and done my best with what's available locally, and gone ahead and made some home tacos. I invite a bunch of my local European friends to partake. Would they pretty much universally dislike the tacos because that kind of food is just not familiar to them?
They may already do/have something of the kind, because what you describe is not Mexican food. If I went to a Mexican restaurant in Europe and they served tacos on flour tortillas with lettuce, tomato, and sour cream, I'd have the same poor opinion of Mexican cuisine in Europe as the OP.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:17 PM
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(oh, forgot to add : the "authentic" places are also where you'll find chefs who have actually heard spices mentioned once or twice in a food-related conversation. Dishes labelled as "caution : very hot !" in a Frenchified Chinese joint would barely ping the Texan-o-meter. But you should probably call the fire brigade in advance should you try the "caution : very hot !" dishes at an authentic southern Chinese restaurant however. Bastards measure their chili peppers by the truck, I swear )
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Old 08-06-2019, 03:25 PM
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. . .there aren't really any large South American "enclaves" anywhere that would make serving food "like in the old country" to nostalgic Latinos/as profitable in the short run.
Specifically, there aren't any Mexican enclaves. You can find a "Mexican" fast food outlet at most mall food courts in Colombia, but you will be extremely hard put to understand what the hell it is that they are serving you.
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Old 08-06-2019, 06:06 PM
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According to my SO, who is technically Australian (but he hasn't lived there in decades), Mexican food is considered "gourmet" in Oz, and would be accorded the same respect as, say, a French restaurant in the US.

I worked with Australians in Indonesia for over 7 years and never picked up on that. Perhaps one of our Australian Dopers could comment?
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Old 08-07-2019, 04:18 PM
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[...] what most people call patatas bravas... [...] I happened to be part of the first taste-test group (they were invented by a bar-owner in my hometown in the summer of 1984)[...].
I beg your pardon in case this was sarcasm and I missed it, but no. Jamás de los jamases. Patatas bravas predate you and me for sure. By centuries.
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Old 08-07-2019, 04:48 PM
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I believe the biggest problem with Mexican cuisine in Europe is that Europeans are much more into wheat than into corn. Maize is the most widely grown grain crop throughout the Americas, it is more often used as feed in Europe. The only traditional dish that comes to my mind is polenta. I would guess that we eat more chick-peas or lentils or beans or potatoes than corn, and I would also guess that in the Americas it is the other way around. Though my observations may be biased.
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Old 08-07-2019, 04:54 PM
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I believe the biggest problem with Mexican cuisine in Europe is that Europeans are much more into wheat than into corn. Maize is the most widely grown grain crop throughout the Americas, it is more often used as feed in Europe. The only traditional dish that comes to my mind is polenta. I would guess that we eat more chick-peas or lentils or beans or potatoes than corn, and I would also guess that in the Americas it is the other way around. Though my observations may be biased.
When Mexican food started becoming very popular in the United States, flour was a very common substitute for corn meal. Corn (maize) was not considered mandatory.
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Old 08-07-2019, 11:29 PM
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Off the top of my head I can think of three good Mexican places in Oslo. Various hot sauces on the table, different meats prepared by various means, at least one of them has seafood and serves michelada. Oslo counts as European, right?

Edit: I just thought of three more, though two might not still be open.

Last edited by Plumpudding; 08-07-2019 at 11:33 PM.
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Old 08-08-2019, 06:53 AM
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They may already do/have something of the kind, because what you describe is not Mexican food. If I went to a Mexican restaurant in Europe and they served tacos on flour tortillas with lettuce, tomato, and sour cream, I'd have the same poor opinion of Mexican cuisine in Europe as the OP.
Thank you. That reminded me of my mother's 1950s "taco night" recipe.

Re: Chinese food, most have experienced the dumbed down American variety (an old roommate of mine liked to order "Gen. Tee Sao".) I read somewhere about immigrants to the US bringing their local ~Chinese cuisine to the US, e.g. Ecuadorian Chinese, etc.
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Old 08-08-2019, 06:56 AM
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I beg your pardon in case this was sarcasm and I missed it, but no. Jamás de los jamases. Patatas bravas predate you and me for sure. By centuries.
Not the current style, eaten by itself; that there were other dishes by the same name I won't deny, but salsa brava was invented by the owner of Estrella II. Do you also believe that pacharán was widely available everywhere? Patatas a lo pobre are oven-cooked at the same time as whatever you're roasting, it's a completely different thing from what's called patatas bravas anywhere.
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Last edited by Nava; 08-08-2019 at 06:59 AM.
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Old 08-08-2019, 07:04 AM
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You could ask the same question about any country in Europe. Why should Mexican food be any more popular in Spain than, let's say, England or Poland?
Exactly. The reasoning many people have is that Mexico stemmed from the Spanish breeding with the locals during the time of the Conquistadores, so they are somehow connected culturally. The few Spanish I've met, a Basque in particular, look down on Mexicans, considering them culturally inferior hybrids of the real thing, if you will.
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