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The best Mexican food... really!

The ongoing Real Mexico Food Festival organised by the Imperial Hotel and the Embassy of Mexico at Daniell's Tavern recreates original recipes from the Mexican home kitchen, dishing out to the guests the pleasure of fine dining, finds out SUMITRA SENAPATY... .

HOLY MOLE! Those intense combinations of chillies, nuts, vegetables and fruits, tortillas and, of course, Mexican Chocolate - we are referring to the Real Mexico Food Festival now on New Delhi's Daniell's Tavern in Imperial Hotel. At this festival, the Imperial and the Embassy of Mexico have recreated original recipes from the Mexican home kitchen to offer authentic Mexican fine dining in a never before fashion.

I would say, it is the best Mexican food ever in town, but even that praise doesn't do justice to the achievement. This is cooking of a very high order, executed with concentration, confidence and a sure knowledge of traditions culled from Mexican roots. The dishes at Real Mexico will strike most of us as stunningly original, despite the fact that our tastes in Mexican food have been dulled by countless mediocre Tex Mex meals.

Digressing a bit. Fifty years ago, when the first Ambassador of Mexico to India was sent on the diplomatic assignment to Delhi, it was the Imperial that became his first home and also provided for the Embassy offices.

Indeed, a long-standing relationship or "tradition", as Ms Alejandra Sanchez Gavito de Faesler, the current Mexican Ambassador's wife, puts it, developed. Today, Ms Faesler has formed an integral part of the hotel's culinary team to present the original flavours of Mexico.

Now for the food and drink. As in Mexico, prepare to eat in a correct and educated way by first toning the stomach with a good shot of tequila - the national aperitif par excellence. After the ceremony of that first, appreciative shot, you can permit yourself to have some Quesadillas, those preliminary snacks always present in every decent Mexican meal. The tacos are like nothing you've had. They are explosive, popping with unexpected tastes, specially the mushroom tacos. We also liked the Potato and Chilli Quesadillas as well as the Mexican Bruchettas served with salsa, a heady, palate-cleansing treat. You should order, if only for the fun of pronouncing it, Chiles Rellenos De Picadillo De Carne O De Queso -- Chillies stuffed with minced meat or cheese. We discover that the Mexican salsa finds its support and foundation in the vigorous, spirited, vehement, but at the same time sensual and subtle flavours of the chilli. A very popular, but erroneous belief is that Mexican salsa, as it contains chilli, must be unbearably hot. But that is not true. The flavours of the salsa, at once mysterious and necessary, keep coming at you in waves of pleasure.

Among the Festival entrees, the mole is a standout. Served over chicken breast, it is so intense and complexly layered that you'll want to swab up every bit. Real Mexico's version has the depth that comes from a patient blending of a dozen herbs and spices, peanuts, almonds, tomatoes, fruits and chocolate. The chocolate contributes richness to the sauce while adding only a hint of sweetness. Although mole is usually served with poultry, it is just as great drizzled over the vegetable enchilada filled with green peppers, zucchini, onions and cheese. The word `mole' derived from an Aztec word for stew, is a sauce thickened with groundnuts, seeds, even corn and usually made with dried chillies. As with all the dishes, the mole never masks the main ingredients, though certainly the sauce is the main event. The high point of Real Mexico food is the fact that the menu has been crafted out of the original recipes that have been collected by Ms Faesler as a previous heirloom given to her by her mother and her grand mother who had it handed over to them, in turn, as a rich legacy by their mothers. Truly a culinary tradition, further heightened by original Mexican mocktails, eternally popular Margaritas and surprisingly different desserts.

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