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Chicken.Kiev >> «Chicken.Kiev» internet-magazine >> World cuisine

Mexican cuisine

Despite their outlandish names which are difficult to spell: Albondigos en Salsa de Almendra, Sopa de Sobolla, Fajitas, Burritos, Empanados", Halapenos, or Juevas Rancheras, the Mexican dishes (unlike many others) are easy to cook at home. Their recipes are simple, and almost all ingredients are well-known (and, you can buy them at any market).

Consider, for example, halapenos small spicy green peppers filled with canned tuna; or Empanados fried Mexican dumplings of generous sizes, where meat is mixed with overroasted beans.

Beans are the kings of the Latin-American cookery, and maize is its queen. However, unlike the latter, beans appear in virtually every dish, either as the base, a garnish, or a simple sauce. Well, and if you want it so much, and you will always want it, with the addition of chili pepper, or simply chili, being one of the trade marks of Mexican food. There are about 80 kinds of that fiery or not so fiery chili, including the famous mulato, ango, pasilla, halapenos, and serrano, which can easily substitute each other depending on your taste.

It is here where your taste can totally go bananas. Mexican cookery, like its culture, is a mixture of traditions and customs of various peoples, from the early civilizations of the Aztecs, Toltecs and Maya, to the Spanish and modern American way of life. National dishes are as diverse as the country's landscape. On the same table, one may find spicy halapenos, fragrant Mexican salads, clear chicken soups, fatty crunchy ribs, puddings made from vanilla and chocolate, and fried ice-cream (the real cold ice-cream in hot breading). Such a variety can only be compared with a situation where you have neighboring Mexican tropical lowlands, high mountains, volcanoes, and torrid deserts.

However, if you dig even more deeply into the history of the country, you can find things of even more interest. For example, you will see that chocolate was first made by the Aztecs and not by the French. They invented it in order to satiate the gastronomic desires of their dreadful chief Montesuma, whose daily meals included 50 jugs of "chocolatl, which were brought to his bed by scantily-dressed concubines, who satisfied his raging appetite.

But it is not yet the end of the "Chocolate saga". Today, it is believed that the most festive dish of the Mexicans is Turkey in Chocolate Sauce (just like the Chinese "Peking Duck"). However, despite its sweet name, this sauce is rather spicy, with only its color resembling chocolate. It is difficult to disagree that the 15 kinds of pepper in this dish are unlikely to make this chocolate sauce "more chocolaty".

At one time the missionaries considered pepper as nothing else but a natural aphrodisiac, and told people not to eat this "devil's plant". Alas, it only caused the opposite. As the saying has it, the forbidden fruit is always the sweetest, although, it is in reality, rather hot.

However, it would not be correct to call Mexican cookery the spiciest in the world. Chili pepper is not added to every dish and those dishes that use it, may be prepared in a milder version. The most important thing is to know the proportions and types of pepper to use! Besides, in many "Tex-Mex" restaurants (the popular European name for Mexican restaurants) you can choose from a large variety of various spices to enrich the dish with an exclusive flavor to suit your taste.

Everything genial is simple

And perhaps tortillas (corn flatbreads) can be considered the simplest Mexican invention.

Crumble "masa narina" corn flour tortilla into bouillon and you will have your starter. Or wrap meat, beans, vegetables or seafood in it and now you have the main dish. Put ice-cream, jam or fruits onto it, and you have your dessert!

Once, in a restaurant, I heard how a girl called the waiter over and complained about the tortillas, which are also served with my favourite Mexican dish "fajitas":

 "They are raw!", she said unhappily.

 "You guessed wrong!", answered the waiter. "Tortillas are rather unleavened by taste, but absolutely not raw".

And he was right! For fajitas, tortillas should be stretchy and pale. How else would you manage to "seal" into them, like into an envelope, pieces of pickled meat fried with sweet pepper, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and spices, covered with sour cream, guacamole, and salsa, and sprinkled with grated cheese? And how to seal them in such a way that nothing be lost from that tortilla envelope on its way to the mouth? That's a trick!

I almost forgot! Tortillas, as well as their next-of-kin: nachos, cesadillas, tacos, tostados, chemichangas and other breads, can be used instead of spoons and forks. "Scoop up" the meat, fried eggs, vegetables or sauce and follow it down with a freshly cooked bread-scoop.

And how they fry eggs! And the secret is not in a special breed of Mexican hen, but rather in the way it's cooked, which is surprisingly simple. The eggs are fried in a generous amount of boiling sunflower oil and basted until done. It looks just like whipped cream. It tastes good too!

"And in the restaurant... in the restaurant...

neither Mexicans, nor gypsies" as a well-known Russian song goes.

I mean that the chefs in Kyiv's Mexican restaurants are not nearly of Mexican origin. Beleive me, that this is not a problem. Talent is the most important thing! You can't simply carve it out with an axe.

And you can evaluate that talent for 50-60 dollars (2 persons) at Tequila House or Arizona restaurants.

Tasting of Mexican foods at Cantina-Azteca will cost you 30-40 bucks (2 persons), and at Desperados around $40-50 (2 persons).

As you can see, the range of prices is fairly narrow, as is the quality of the service and the cuisine. Although, undoubtedly, every above-mentioned establishment has its own unique star attraction. Which one d'you want to have golden brown cesadillas with takos, or sizzling fajitas, or crunchy ribs, or spicy chili con carne, and perhaps a cosy interior and friendly atmosphere, only you can decide!

And to hell with gastritis! Mexican cuisine is so tasty!

That's interesting

Mexicans eat a lot of not only meat products, but also various types of fish, oysters, lobsters, muscles, and shrimps.

And it is good that Mexicans haven't yet become pink, like flamingos, whose lifelong diet consists only of saw-edged shrimps.

Shrimps and saw-edged shrimps are almost the same thing, although the latter differ in that they are slimmer, and their meat is sweeter. But both are excellent. 100 g of raw shrimps contain 120 calories, 23 g of proteins, 1 g of carbohydrates, 2 g of fat, 172 mg of cholesterol, and are completely lacking in fiber.

Want to slim? go on the shrimp diet, but without adding mayonnaise-garlic high-calorie Mexican sauces.

Mexican ravioli, or Empanados

Ingredients

Dough for the base: 1/3 glass of cold water, 1 egg, 2 teaspoonsful of vinegar, 3 tablespoons of flour, 1/3 glass of cold butter, 1/3 glass of cold frying fat, 1 teaspoonful of salt, and 2 egg whites.

Filling: 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 60 g of beef mincemeat, 50 g of pre-prepared beans, 1/4 teaspoonful of salt, 1/4 teaspoonful of paprika, 1/4 teaspoonful of black pepper, 1/4 teaspoonful of caraway-seeds, 1 tablespoon of chili, 1/4 glass of finely-chopped onion, 12 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 chopped halapenos, 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 finely chopped hard-boiled eggs, 3 tablespoons of chopped olives, 3 tablespoons of seedless raisins, 1/4 glass of tomato sauce.

Preparing:

Base. Mix the water, eggs, and vinegar. Put the flour in a separate bowl, add butter and frying fat to it and salt. Pour the liquid mix into the flour and mix the dough.

Filling. Pan-fry the meat and crushed beans in olive oil. Add spices, onion, garlic, pepper, and halapenos. Fry until ready and add the remaining ingredients. Cool down to room temperature after cooking.

Heat the oven to 210.

Roll out the dough, like for ravioli. Cut out circles 5 cm in diameter. Put one tablespoonful of the mixture onto each circle. Fold them in two and join the edges. Then brush the dough with egg whites and finally put it onto the greased baking tray and bake until golden brown.



 
 
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UKRAINIAN CUISINE

Budmo, hey! (Let's be!) The first thing which comes to my mind... No, that's not what I should say. The first picture which my imagination paints when I hear the words "the Ukrainian cuisine" is an episode from the movie of Hohol's "Evenings in the hamlet near Dykanka", where varenyky, having rolled around by themselves in sour cream, jump into Patsiuk(The Rat)'s mouth. What a great moment! What a great delicacy! And what a great way to eat it! It is certainly a pity that nobody has yet invented a "remote control for the mouth and the plate", and the above method of delivering food into the mouth is just the devil's trick or Hohol's project that is impossible to implement. But then, the amount of halushky (by the way, in a big, big bowl) is just right for our healthy and inspired Ukrainian appetite! Never mind how other people eat, but we, not so rich people, or one can even say people very far from being rich, are used to eating in grand style. It is not without reason that our phrase, "Love comes and goes, but you will always want to eat!", simply does not translate well into other languages - probably foreigners simply just do not have such words. So, what am I talking about? Oh yeah, about the unmatched Ukrainian cuisine! "There's no fish better than tench, and no meat better than pork." Among all the dishes of Ukrainian cuisine, for example, that of the very beginning of the XX century, one can single out several subcategories, which were the most popular among native Ukrainian people: those made from grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. Note than in the old days, dishes made from meat were considered food for festive days only, and among all the existing kinds of meat, the undisputable preference was given to pork and certainly (could there be any doubting it?) salo - oh, our Ukrainian salo!


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