Unlike Japanese or Chinese food, Mexican cuisine is seriously underrepresented in this part of the world. For most Filipinos, exposure to Mexican food has consisted of cheese-drenched nachos from a food-court cart, ketchup-sodden tacos at school cafeterias, and Tex-Mex viands at Taco Bell.
I used to get proper Mexican food from a little place called Taqueria Chilanga at the old Greenbelt Food Choices. They used to serve up a serious platillo filled with tangy cilantro salsa, a good-sized tortilla, arroz con tomates, frijoles refritos, and a generous helping of one’s choice of meat: pollo con carbon, carnitas, or carne asada. Alas, like many of my favorites in that area, it closed down when the mall was remodeled.
So, where does a hungry girl go in search of Mexican grub? Well, seeing how Mexicali is no longer an option in my neck of the woods, a trip to Tia Maria’s was definitely in the cards.
While most people will opt for the usual round of nachos, tacos, and margaritas, I usually skip these and go for the more substantial numbers: burritos, soft tacos, anything off the grill, and – most definitely – enchiladas.
The word enchilada actually means ” filled / covered with chili” in Mexican Spanish and actually refers to the state of a person who has had one too many of the incendiary peppers with a meal. In a culinary sense, it refers to tortillas rolled around a meat filling and smothered in a fiery sauce and sprinkled heavily with cheese.
Tia Maria’s enchiladas are true to form in that respect: slivers of grilled steak are tucked into two flour tortillas, drenched with chili sauce, and finished with melted cheese and a drizzle of cream. These are served with a mound of rice cooked with tomatoes and spices and a smaller mound of shredded lettuce dressed with guacamole. (Man, how I love that tangy, spicy avocado puree!)
These enchiladas aren’t the best I’ve eaten: the chili sauce is a bit on the sweet side and the meat can be tough at times. But when you haven’t got much choice, even a plate like this can be quite satisfying.