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Monthly Archives: April 2015

El Camion – keeping you cool when summer comes

Sometimes, when you really stop and think about it, parts of the world just don’t make sense. Such as why do so many people fancy Harry Styles when his hair looks like he fell asleep and a badger nested in it, and why do people in some of the world’s hottest countries eat spicy, chilli-laced food? Surely they should be all about the ice creams rather than curries, salsas and peppers?

Well, El Camion can reveal that eating spicy food is actually a rather good way of keeping your temperature down. Yep, as the sun makes a more permanent appearance in our lovely London town, there will be call to cool down – and a bit of fiery hot sauce might be just what you need. The reason people from Central and South America lace things with chilli? Well, because it makes you sweat, and so this naturally cools you down more!

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Ok, so it’s tempting to grab something cold like iced tea or a lollypop – but beware, as this will cool your internal temperature too rapidly, and your body will end up compensating by raising your temperature. So that Magnum you thought was such a good idea will actually make you more hot and bothered. Alternatively, eating spicy foods works to raise your internal temperature and makes your blood circulation increase, which in turn makes you sweat and, when the moisture has evaporated, you’ve cooled off. Want to know the scientific term? Because naturally there is one. Yep, those beads on your forehead just after you’ve chowed down on a particularly jalapeñ-heavy enchilada is called ‘gustatory facial sweating‘.

So there we go. Now summer is here, if you find yourself a little too clammy for comfort then come and order a taco and then dare yourself to our wall of hot sauce.

Definitely accompany it with a chilled batida though – a heavenly cocktail of cachaça mixed with fruit juice or coconut milk, cane sugar and, ideally, condensed milk to make it creamier, and then blended with ice. Now that’s the best of both worlds…

The legend of Quetzalcoatl

There are many myths and legends present in Mexican culture, and probably one of the most famous is Quetzalcoatl. Now, if you can’t say it properly, never fear – El Camion can give you a brief lesson in linguistics…

kEt-sO-kO-Ot-uL – the Ot-Ul sounds “like bottle”

Say the “quet” like the spanish “que”, pronounced “kay”. 

“zal” like “sal” in spanish, with an “ah” sound, not a short “a” 

“co” has a long o, but combined with the a after it has kind of a “cwa” sound 

“atl” again uses an “ah” sound
So, now we know how to say it – what does it mean?? The name means ‘Feathered Serpent’. It brings together the magnificent green-plumed quetzal bird, which symbolises the heavens and the wind, and the snake,a symbol of earth, rebirth, and fertility. It can also be translated as ‘precious twin’. In some myths, Quetzalcoatl has a twin brother, Xolotl, who has a human body and the head of a dog or of an ocelot.

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Quetzalcoatl was one of the most important traditional deities in Mesoamerica, and appears in some of the regions most enduring tales.

One particular legend states that Quetzalcoatl was searching for the bones he needed to create mankind, and reached Mictlan, which is the ‘the region of the dead’. This is where the evil god Mictlantecutli was waiting, and tried to stop him from collecting what he needed. Aided by sacred bees and worms, Quetzalcoatl is able to get the precious bones and then uses them to bring human kind into the world.

If visiting Mexico, then keep your eyes open – his face appears on structures in the ancient city of Teotihuacán, and around many Aztec ruins.

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Beer and Mexican food – a perfect match at El Camion!

The weather is glorious in London at the moment and there is one thing that always accompanies the sunshine, aside from our blinding Hawaiian shirts, and that’s the hiss and crack of a beer bottle opening. What a great sound.

At El Camion, we’re known for our cocktails, but we love a nice cold one too when the occasion calls for it – and we all know that beer goes superbly well with Mexican food. Like with Indian food, beer complements bold flavours and spicy heat. And who are we to argue?

We’ve got a great selection of beers on our menu, plus the added option of having your beer Michelada or Chelada style. But we’ll get to that later.

A few of our beers…

Modelo Especial

Created in 1925 as Mexico’s first ‘model’ beer, Modelo has been a king in its own country for decades and has only recently been quietly gaining status worldwide. Now that people have found out about it, it has become America’s second most imported beer. We love it because it’s damn tasty – it’s a rich and full-flavoured pilsner beer, which is slightly sweet due to the premium two-row barley malt that it is brewed with. Perfect to sink whilst chomping on your nachos.

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Alhambra Reserva

The Alhambra brewery is regarded as the leading craft brewery in Spain, and its Alhambra Reserva has won awards as an ultra premium lager. This is a natural, additive-free beer, which benefits from low-carbonation, making it a perfect accompaniment to food. Alhambra’s rich, deep flavours and caramel finish makes it a great match with meaty dishes, particularly beef. That beef burrito is looking rather lonely by itself…

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Cerveza Pacifico

Crafted in the Pacifico Brewery, in gorgeous Mazatlán in Mexico, Pacifico has been around since the early 1900s. It was a favourite with American surfers who took the beer back to the U.S. and it has been part of the Baja California lifestyle ever since. It is a light-tasting, clean lager that is extremely drinkable, matching well with all-types of food, particularly seafood. A match made in a coastal heaven with our grilled fish ensalada.’

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Michelada

Ask for your beer to be served Michelada in true Mexican style. This is when your beer is mixed with spices, including salsa inglesa (Worcestershire sauce), Maggie sauce, pepper, salt and hot sauce, and fresh lime juice, and is served with salt rim. The purpose of it is kind of the same as a Bloody Mary – it’s awesome on a hangover.

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Chelada

This is beer with lime juice, served with salt rim. Tastes like summer and gives you the pre- or post- drinking kick you need. Close your eyes and imagine you’re on the shores of Cancún.

El Camion: A Child of Soho!

El Camion has been proudly part of the fabric of Soho for five years now and on Brewer Street we have found our spiritual home. But what is this magical place we have become part of? What is it about this Soho spirit that now flows through our tequila-coursing veins?

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Soho has always had animals inhabiting it – it does now and it did back in the 16th century when it was just farmland. Sometime in the swinging sixties (the 1660s) the Earl of Leicester built a mansion on Leicester Square, making it the most fashionable address in London. Dignitaries, royals, playwrights and other VIPs flocked to the area to party and the rich used the surrounding acres as hunting ground. The hunting cry, ‘Soohoo!’ was, alas, what gave Soho its name.

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Later that century, city overcrowding meant that building the Soho land began. The street on which we dwell – Brewer Street – was once called Wells Street but then became home to two breweries, and the name followed. You see, our reputation as a drinking den was inevitable – it’s the street! It’s ingrained in our nature.

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Add in a couple of bookshops, strip joints, cafés and a sprinkling of sex shops, and we’re in the place we call home. Looking at the history, Soho has long been the favoured place for debauchery – why change an institution? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. All hail the mighty Soho! We’ll drink to that.

Down Baja California Way…

Come along to El Camion and we promise a little slice of Baja California, right here in Soho. From our authentic Mexican grub (shredded chicken tacos.. mmm) to our vibrant, brightly coloured tablecloths, we like to bring the sunshine. But how much do you know about Baja California? And what kind of things can you expect to see when you’re over there?

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Baja California

‘Baja’ is actually the world’s second longest peninsula, and is the most North Westerly state in Mexico. Officially known as Free and Sovereign State of Baja California, it became a state in 1953. Renowned for its beautiful beaches, stunning scenery, lush forests and friendly, relaxed people, it is a great destination spot. This is where famous cities such as Tijuana and Los Cabos are located, and the lapping waves of the Pacific ocean make this the ideal spot to find a beach bar and sip ice cold margaritas. Or embrace a more adventurous side by wandering through the pastel canyons or braving the surf for an adrenalin kick!

The cuisine of Baja California is a blend of traditional Mexican fare – incorporating beans, tortillas and spice – with the fruits of the land. There’s superb fish thanks to the seaside proximity (think fish tacos – delicious), and expert beef preparation because of its arid-inland ranching. These are the kind of authentic vibes we’re channeling in our menu!

So if you do find yourself down Mexico way, what can you expect? Well, here are three things not to be missed:

Espiritu Santo

Located in La Paz, this gorgeous collection of shallow inlets and sugar-pink cliffs is a Unesco World Heritage Site. With activities such as snorkelling or kayaking, or just the chance to absorb the beautiful sites, it is certainly worth a visit. La Paz itself is a bustling collection of lively squares, city streets and stunning beaches.

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Centro Cultural Tijuana

For those culture vultures, then a trip to this arts centre is a must. It’s got just about everything you could want – an art gallery, the Museo de las Californias , a theater, and the globular cinema Domo Imax , which shows predominantly art-house movies. See, Mexico isn’t just about the beaches!

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Parque Nacional Sierra San Pedro Mártir

To experience Baja Californian wildlife at its very best then a visit to this national park can’t be missed. The flora and fauna is home to bobcats, deer and bighorn sheep, but make sure to look UP, since this is one of only six places in the world where the almost-extinct California Condor is being reintroduced into the wild. As well as keeping your eyes open for this stunning bird, you can wander through pine-scented air beneath the impressive conifers. A great and magical escape.

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So there you have it – some of the amazing sights to behold if you ever do head to Baja California. But if you can’t spring for a ticket just yet, don’t worry – a visit to use, with margarita in hand and a quesadilla to munch on, is almost as good…

 

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So, You’re a Fan of Hot Sauce?

If you’ve ever been to El Camion, there will have been one thing that wowed you upon entry (no, not just our fabulous-looking wait staff and bartenders). THE WALL OF HOT SAUCE. This wall, that confronts you as you walk into our restaurant, is more like a shrine to the sauce we like best – hot sauce.

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It is a dedicated collection of hundreds of hot sauces from around the globe (we have around 350 to 400 in total – we stopped counting) that anyone is welcome to try on their burrito at any time. But what’s the big deal about hot sauce? Why do those who like it, LOVE it?

It’s slightly addictive if we’re honest. Not in a chemical MSG way, but because of what it does to your tastebuds. It’s sets them alight (sometimes literally), it sends your salivary glands into overdrive and it brightens and enlivens flavours – that’s why it’s so good with delicious Mexican food. And, of course, there’s the heat. Gotta get more of that heat!

Here’s a look at a few of the hot sauces on our wall. We could totally turn this into a game of Top Trumps.

 

Batch 37 Pain is Good Garlic Hot Sauce

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‘There is a point where pleasure and pain intersect. Once the line is crossed, once Mo’s hot sauce touches your lips, there is no going back. His special blend of habanero peppers, carrots, garlic, lemon and lime will leave you addicted!’

This hot sauce is 100% natural. The verdict is that the garlic flavour adds a nice dimension, meaning that you don’t just taste fire.

Heat: HOT

 
You Can’t Handle This Hot Sauce

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‘Designed to smell & taste great, while the extreme heat level allows your mouth to surf the big ones.’

Hidden beneath a black velveteen cloth, you get the feeling you are about to do something bad before you try this hot sauce. Sure, it might look and smell like BBQ, but it tastes like somewhere Satan lives. Seriously – one drop at a time.

Heat: VERY HOT

 
Doc Holliday’s Feel Good Elixir

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‘This elixir won’t cure anything but it will make you forget all your other pains and problems! No Preservatives or artificial heat enhancers. Use “Doc” for all your hot sauce needs, it is just what the Doctor ordered!’

It comes in a medicine bottle, so it’s good for you – right? Quite possibly… It’s got a southern-style barbecue flavour to it and it’s not going to burn the roof of your mouth off. It’s excellent with Mexican food flavours.

Heat: PLEASANTLY HOT

 

Hombre Loco Tequila Jalapeno Sauce

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‘Hey Gringo, a leetle Jalapeno and a leetle tequila es good for you soul! This combination of fresh Jalapeno peppers & top shelf tequila delivers an unforgettable flavour sensation to any food.’

Tequila and jalapeños – sounds like a great match! It’s certainly tangy and will add a sharp kick of heat to your nachos.

Heat: PRETTY HOT

 

Enjoy your hot sauce – make sure you let us know what you think!

Where to go for a good margarita if you’re not in Soho!

El Camion is a whole 5 years old this year, so celebrate with us, wherever you are in the world, by raising a glass filled with our favourite cocktail: the margarita.

If you don’t happen to be in Soho and can’t join us in the Pink Chihuahua bar to sip our infamous margaritas, we’ve scoured the world for amazing margaritas – so wherever you may be, you can join in with the celebrations, El Camion-style.

1. Tres, San Francisco

Tequila Lounge and Mexican Kitchen, Tres pride themselves on specialising in 100% Agave Tequilas. When it comes to margaritas, we like Tres because they put the tequila first – their goal is to highlight the character of 100% blue agave tequila, rather than mask it with sweetness. Tres hand-squeeze Mexico imported limes and use agave nectar to sweeten (the most expensive natural sweetener in the world). Plus, they also make a note of always giving a full pour. Tres is our kinda place.

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http://tressf.com

2. Mayahuel, New York

A year after opening, Mayahuel won Best New Cocktail Bar in the World at Tales of the Cocktail 2010 by championing the complexity of agave spirits. Their aim is to use agave spirits to their full potential and have created a menu of over 50 cocktails to suit all palates. Though we’ll bet our bottom dollar that Mayahuel make the best margaritas in NYC, they might encourage you to try something different – we like the look of The Kessel Run, made with Reposado Tequila, Tapatio 110, Giffard Apricot, cumin, honey, lemon, orange & Angostura Bitters.

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http://www.mayahuelny.com

3. Ohla Boutique Bar, Barcelona

Starting life with the guidance of one of the world’s most highly-rated bartenders, Max La Rocca, the Boutique Bar in Barcelona’s Ohla hotel is definitely a must-visit for incredible cocktails in this crazy city. It’s certainly on the fancy side, but totally worth it – there are no smoke and mirrors here, just beautiful cocktails made with an excellent selection of spirits. But it was the margaritas that caught our eye – we like the sound of the Jalapeño-infused Tequila Margarita with a smoked salt rim. Yum.

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http://www.ohlahotel.com/en/gastronomia/ohla-boutique-bar/

4. Freda’s Bar & Canteen, Sydney

One of Sydney’s hidden drinking dens, we hear this is the place to come for a well-made margarita that packs a punch. Their signature cocktail is the Grapefruit Mezcal Margarita, made with El Señorio Mezcal Reposado, Cointreau, fresh lime and pink grapefruit juice, with a Murray River pink salt rim. Served straight up in a chilled coupe, it is the smokey taste of Mexico.

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http://fredas.com.au

5. The Basement, Edinburgh

Offering ‘imaginative home-spun cocktails’, this Mexican joint is the place to come in Edinburgh for a well-made tequila cocktail, as they have a whole menu dedicated to them. Their Classic Margarita is made with Sauza Hornitos Reposado Tequila, Cointreau and fresh lime and is served on the rocks or frozen with a salt rim. They also have a choice of Sangritas, which we like and respect.

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http://www.basement-bar-edinburgh.co.uk

 

The Origins of the Taco

Before you get too excited, leap up from your chair and start calling all your friends, telling them you’ve finally found the answer… wait. In this blog we’re only looking at theories of where the humble taco is from, since the origin is really unknown. Still, a hunt around articles on the internet written by eminent scientists has given us a fair idea of taco-history, which we’re going to share now.

 

Basically, one theory is that tacos are named after a stick of dynamite. Just think about that when you’re dousing one in hot sauce and shoving that little torpedo of flavour into your maw.

 

See, the word ‘taco’ used to refer to little pieces of paper that would be wrapped around gunpowder, before being inserted into holes in the rock face. This was during the 18th century, when there were silver mines dotted all over Mexico and miners would be trying to excavate ore. So many people believe the actual word taco dates from this time. And you can imagine the corn tortilla like a piece of paper wrapped around fiery goodies.

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As for official references, the first one comes from the end of the 19th century, and one of the first described is called tacos de minero—miner’s tacos. Kind of like the Mexican version of a Cornish Pasty, we suppose.

 

So how about the taquería – when did that become popular? They started popping up in working-class neighbourhoods, when the lure of industry brought migrants to Mexico City. The area became a melting pot of various cuisines from the different regions. These taquería sprung up in neighbourhoods where different fillings could be added and news could be exchanged, and it is thought there were string influences from Lebanese immigrants that brought their skills in kebabs and soft flour wraps with spit-cooked pork. The taco is simply a tortilla with a filling, much like a sandwich. They can be made with soft corn tortillas or be fried and filled.

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There are three main types of taco sellers in Mexico:

 

Taco al Pastor – The most popular taco in Mexico – it means “shepherd’s-style taco.” Usually filled with pork, they are a Mexican adaptation of Lebanese kebabs.

Breakfast Tacos– Breakfast tacos or burritos are available at many restaurants across the Southwest (especially New Mexico and Texas). It is a fried corn or flour tortilla that is rolled and stuffed with a mixture of seasoned meat, eggs, or cheese, and other ingredients such as onions and salsa.

Fish Tacos – Ensenada, Mexico claims to be the birth place of the fish taco, and they are advertised at restaurants throughout the city where many claim that their taco is the original. The fish tacos served are simply small pieces of batter-coated, fried fish in a hot corn or wheat tortilla. They are incredibly popular in San Diego.