--- See the new season of Pati's Mexican Table weeknights at 5.30pm from Monday 4 July to Friday 15 July. Episodes will be available at SBS On Demand for six weeks after they air. ---
For Pati Jinich, exploring the birthplace of tequila doesn’t just mean a chat with a tequila expert: it means sharing breakfast tacos with jimadores in the middle of a vast field of agave plants.
In the new season of Pati’s Mexican Table, Jinich is on a journey through the vibrant central-western Mexican state of Jalisco, taking in both the country’s second-largest city, Guadalajara and the popular beach holiday destination of Puerto Vallarta.
“It was amazing to get an in-depth experience of a region that has given to the world so many of the iconic and beloved staples: mariachis, tequila and birria!” says Jinich, when SBS Food talks to her about her adventures.
Mariachi music and tequila have travelled the world, but birria – a slow-cooked, saucy meat dish – has only recently been more widely known.
"It used to be that you could only find birria if you went down to Mexico. Not even in big cities. You needed to go to the countryside or to small towns, or you needed to find a roadside stand that specialised in birria. Now birria is like, the hottest thing in America," says Jinich. Just outside of Guadalajara, at Tlaquepaque, she visits a much-loved restaurant, Birriera Chololo, and after you watch that episode, where she shares more about the traditional versions of this dish, you’ll want to make your own. (Well, we certainly did!)
Birria is often made with a goat; in the show, Jinich makes her version (get the recipe here) with lamb. The meat is marinated in an adobo rich in chilli, garlic and nutmeg. “The more it marinates, the better it will be,” Jinich says. The slow-cooked meat ends up falling-apart tender, perfect for serving up in tortillas.
But before that deliciousness (the recipe features in episode 5), her Jalisco adventure kicks off in the state capital, Guadalajara, with a visit to a legendary street cart for a taste of the city’s most iconic sandwich, tortas ahogadas, a salty, crusty roll stuffed with carnitas and topped with several sauce and salsas. It’s a perfect start to a journey exploring familiar and contemporary food in the area, plus traditions such as the much-loved mariachi folk music, which is the focus of episode 4.
“You know that sound as soon as you hear it, the music of mariachi. And we Mexicans don't just hear mariachi. We feel it - the music, the songs, the stories. They share who we are with so much heart,” Jinich says.
In Guadalajara, she has lunch with the leader of one of Mexico’s most accomplished bands, Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán. Then, she visits a guitar shop owned by true craftsmen, with an interesting new take on the mariachi guitar.
And of course, there’s tequila. Jalisco is home not only to a town called Tequila, but also to a dormant volcano that shares the name, too.
“These lands are crowned by the Volcán de Tequila, the Tequila Volcano. Though now dormant, its eruption tens of thousands of years ago left the region blanketed in rich soil, making it perfect for growing the blue agave plant,” she explains in the ‘Heart of Tequila’ episode. The name of the episode is a nod not only to where she is, but to how the drink is made. It is the heart of the agave plant that is used – and it requires the hard work of the jimadores (agave farmers). “Starting at 5am to avoid the midday sun, they grapple with these mighty cacti, disarming them leaf by leaf... ...until what's left is a prized piña, or heart. And this is what tequila is made from. It's hard work.” Jinich has timed her visit well, and gets to share breakfast tacos with some of the workers. “These were breakfast tacos tucked with refried beans, scrambled eggs and a salsa verde,” she tells us, when we ask exactly what was in that delicious-looking field meal.
Tacos are also the focus of the final episode of the new season, where she tries two of Jalisco’s best - marlin tacos in Puerto Vallarta and barbacoa tacos in Guadalajara. Back in her own kitchen, she creates taco and tostada dishes including mushroom tacos with chile de arbol salsa.
Among the other dishes, she shares in this new series is a twist on a classic Mexican dessert, an almond-rich tres leches cake (“After seeing how so many people are playing with desserts in Jalisco, I wanted to take my tres leches cake to unexplored territory,” she explains in the show); a fiery take on guacamole; and a vibrant arroz rojo (red rice).
It’s all inspired by an area that, as Jinich says, is a hub of creativity, and with so many amazing food options. For anyone looking for some armchair travel, Pati’s Mexican Table will do the trick, and offer you recipes to put Mexico on your table, too.
The previous season (Season 9) of Pati's Mexican Table is also available at SBS On Demand until 29 July.
These are my 'dressed up' version of a cookie I learned to make in Mocorito, with crunchy sugar covering them and sticky caramel inside. My favourite cookie of all time!
Each person can “puuch” or mash and mix their chosen garnishes in their bowl, then mop it all up with warm corn tortillas.
I lived in Texas for three years and my first son, Alan, was born in Texas. So here I'm pumping up the Mex in Tex-Mex. Alan loves bacon, and cheddar cheese, so I've started adding that to our cornbread. This is one of those things that you can make and eat right out of the oven, warm, but then as it cools it’s delicious and then the next day for breakfast, even cold, it's delicious too.