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Posts Categorised: Mexico

So how did YOU celebrate Cinco De Mayo?

Well, this time last week we were holding our heads and groaning slightly, ready to indulge in our of our Mexican Hangover cures. Yep, it was the morning after Cinco De Mayo – a time when all of El Camion and The Pink Chihuahua get their party sombreros on.

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There was a great atmosphere in the bar for Cinco De Mayo, with people dropping in for margaritas, nachos, and general good cheer. So how did other places celebrate the victory over France at the Battle of Puebla? We take a little look…

FOOD:

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San Francisco loves a good bit of food – and so whether to celebrate the rich cultural history of Mexico, or simply another good reason to get tiddled on Margaritas on a week night, then the Bay Area threw a good party. These homemade tacos and corn chips represent some of the tastiest cuisine of the area, and there were several authentic menus, street fairs, and chances to immerse oneself in the Mexican culture.

FIREWORKS:

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It wouldn’t be a good party without a firework or two (Mexico has a whole festival dedicated to gunpowder, don’t you know!). Fireworks lit up the sky from California to the Southern tip of Mexico, marking the victory of the battle over a hundred years ago.

FIESTAS:

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From street fairs, floats, dancing and stalls celebrating traditional Mexican customs and costumes, the streets of Mexico City were a riot of colour and excitement!

And some good old patriotism..

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This image shows two caballeros in traditional riding outfits proudly lead the Cinco de Mayo parade displaying the flag of Mexico.

 

But remember – Cinco De Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day! This occurs on Wednesday, September 16th. Just enough time for us to start planning another big bash…

 

It’s nearly Cinco De Mayo!

It’s celebrated both in the US and in Mexico… people get dressed up, there’s folk dancing, maricahi music, parades… but it’s NOT MEXICAN INDEPENDENCE DAY!

Do you know the history of Cinco De Mayo, which will be celebrated next Tuesday? Well, the 5th of May1862 is a pretty big deal in Mexico, since it commemorates the victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). Despite being outnumbered two to one, a rag-tag group of soldiers defeated the french imperialists. And, although it is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations.

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We’ve found this awesome video for you, which pretty much explains the whole shebang.

http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/cinco-de-mayo/videos/ask-history-cinco-de-mayo

Now make sure you pop down to El Camion to celebrate Cinco De Mayo and the Battle of Puebla – with a margarita or two!

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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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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The Origin of the Chihuahua – (Not the pink kind)

 

Ah, the feisty chihuahua. Small, nimble, slightly bug-eyed, looks great in a sombrero… but why is it associated with tacos and burritos? We’re here to give you a brief history of that tiny little dog we love so much…

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The origin of the Chihuahua is slightly murky – history doesn’t have a clear cut answer for where these adorable critters sprung up from. One thing that folklore and science does agree on – they came from Mexico. The Techichi were companion dogs favoured by the Toltec civilization in Mexico, and dog pots from Colima in Mexico, found in tombs which date back to 300 BC, are thought to depict them.

 

However, the earliest representation of chihuahuas have been unearthed at Tres Zapotes in Veracruz, Mexico, dating from 100AD. It wasn’t just as companion pups though – in a 1520 letter Hernan Cortés wrote that the Aztecs sold the little dogs for food!!! Thank goodness those days are done…

 

And what about the name? Well, an ancestor of the breed was reputedly found in 1850 in old ruins near Casas Grandes in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The breed was first recognised as a breed in America by the Kennel Club in 1904. Hurrah!

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And here are some interesting facts about the wonderful chihuahua:

 

  • 1) They are officially recognised by the Kennel Club as the smallest breed of dog in the world.
  • 2) Their coats can be long, short, silky or wiry, and any colour at all. Even Chihuahua puppies from the same litter can have very different coats.
  • 3) The Mayans, Aztecs and Toltecs believed yellow Chihuahuas escorted their owners to the afterlife. The dogs were often sacrificed before the owner died so that they would be there waiting. Red Chihuahuas, on the other hand, were believed to take on their owners’ sins and were often sacrificed in their funeral pyres.
  • 4) Chihuahuas have a very long life span for a dog – their average lifespan is ten to eighteen years, but it’s not unusual for a Chihuahua to live for twenty years or more!
  • 5) It’s not just El Camion that has some superb artwork of these little fellas – Bottiicelli included a Chihuahua in his Sistine Chapel fresco, “Scenes from the life of Moses.” If you visit the Chapel, you can find a Chihuahua curled up in a little boy’s arms.

 

So, that’s a bit of history about the origin of the chihuahua. As for the pink kind? They’re very rare and very special – pop in for a cocktail and maybe we’ll let you in on the legend…

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Tonight – celebrate the birthday of Benito Juárez

Last Monday Mexicans all had a day free from work – banks, schools and most public transport was closed – and today is another national holiday, as celebrations are held for the birthday of Benito Juárez.

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Born in San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca, on March 21,1806, Benito Juárez was a lawyer who later held many public offices including as state legislator, civil judge, government secretary, and governor. He’s kind of viewed in the same way American’s view Abraham Lincoln. When the people were calling out for a leader, he stepped up to lead a nation. He was president for five terms in the turbulent years of 1858 to 1872, and is a national hero best known for making reforms to create a democratic federal republic.

 

One of the reasons it is perhaps so remarkable about the impact he made is his background, since he was a full-blooded native of Zapotec descent, and is the only full-blooded native to ever serve was president of Mexico. He didn’t even speak Spanish until his teens. This means he was held in very high regard by the country’s indigenous population, who view him as a trailblazer in native rights and justice.

 

There is a city (Ciudad Juárez) named after Benito Juárez, as well as countless streets, schools and businesses. On Saturday his birth city of San Pablo Guelatao hosts contests, tournaments, fireworks and popular dances in his honour. So if you’re in El Camion on Saturday night then be sure to raise a glass!

The Glorious Daiquiri

You come to El Camion, you know that you are going to get a mean Margarita. You may also have been tempted by our cool, creamy Batidas. But there is one other cocktail from the Latin Americas that we do and we do very well, and that is the glorious Daiquiri.

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The Daiquiri is thought to have been invented, or at least developed, in the late 1800s by an American mining engineer called Jennings Cox, who worked in an iron mine in Cuba called Daiquiri. Apparently, the locals drank rum with limes and, to make it more appealing to his palate, he sweetened the drink with sugar and mixed it with ice, when he could get it.

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Whatever the history, the drink has been a favourite in American bars since the 1940s and it has a league of famous fans, including the late Ernest Hemingway, who loved it so much that there is a variation named after him. It is one of the six basic drinks listed in David A. Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, which features the formula that our very own Dick Bradsell follows, and in turn, taught Simon Difford of Difford’s Guide.

In our Daiquiris we use Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, one of the most prestigious light Cuban rums available. It is a great quality rum and is perfect to mix in cocktails, without losing the authentic Cuban taste.

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Here is our list of Daiquiris:

Daiquiri Natural

Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, fresh lime and cane syrup, fine strained and served straight up. The original Cuban Daiquiri.

Frozen Daiquiri

Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, fresh lime, cane syrup and maraschino, blended with ice. Very refreshing on a hot day, and very, very drinkable.

Hemingway Daiquiri (Papa Double)

Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, grapefruit and maraschino, available blended or straight up like Hemingway used to like it.

Daiquiri Deluxe

Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, fresh lime, fresh pineapple and orgeat, blended with ice. Luxurious.

Strawberry Daiquiri

Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, fresh lime, strawberry and liqueurs, blended. Everyone’s favourite – summertime in a glass.

Banana Daiquiri

Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, fresh banana, creme de banane and cream, blended with ice. A totally tropical treat.
Winter is just about over. We make that Daiquiri Time.

 

This Friday Mexico celebrates Noche de Brujas

There’s something spooky going on in Mexico this Friday, when the festival of Noche de Brujas – Night of the Witches – descends on the pretty little town of Catemaco. In this celebration of all things mystical and medieval, a host of shamen, witches, sorcerers and fortune tellers join together in their annual convention, which sees tarot readings, palmistry, and other the opportunity to purchase a ‘limpia’ (cleansing).

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The town is generally quite a magical place on regular days, being the hub of Mexico’s witchcraft and witch-doctor collective. This spiritualism goes back to include Spanish medieval traditions, and is also a mix of indigenous beliefs, folklore, and voodoo practises from West Africa. Catemaco in Veracruz is located between mountain peaks and the shore of Laguna Catemaco in Southern Mexico, and year-round the streets are crowded with vendors selling charms, trinkets, potions and healings. If you’re looking for a spell then this is certainly the place to come, and in 1970 a local brujo (shaman) decided it was the ideal place to host a witchcraft convention.

 

But the festival of Noche de Brujas isn’t an occasion to fear, since the all-night event is in fact an opportunity for mass cleansing, intended to rid the soul of any negative energy from the previous year. Taking place at midnight on the hill of Cerro Mono Blanco, just outside of town, there is a definite air of carnival to the proceedings. So, if you’ve been thinking you need a lucky rabbit’s foot or a shamanic consultation, now you know for the future the best place to head!

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Churros, how we love thee…

Churros. How we love them – undoubtedly the superior, thinner version of the boring donut. They’re like the slim Latin American cousin that comes to visit one summer and steals all its bakery friends with their awesomeness. How can you not fall in love with this deep-fried golden pastry, covered in diamond-sparkles of sugar or spiced cinnamon, and just begging to be dipped in unctuous hot chocolate??

 

But there is a little more to churros than meets the eye. Sure, we sell them at El Camion as an indulgent dessert, but keep an eye open for our brunch menu soon, since did you know fresh churros are a traditional breakfast food in Latin America? Intended for dipping into melted chocolate or with a hot milky coffee… well, that beats cornflakes any day.

 

But there is still indecision about how the churro came to be, as a couple of different origin stories exist.

 

The first is that we have Nomadic Spanish shepherds to thank. They would spend long days on the inhospitable mountain sides tending their herds, and needed something they could easily fry in their pans. Thus these battered delicacies were created, named perhaps after the Churra sheep of the Iberian Peninsula, the horns of which look like the fried pastry. They would eat them rolled in sugar or pastry.

 

The other option is that Portuguese sailors brought the idea back from China, where they’d discovered a similar food named ‘You Tiao’. They put their Spanish mark on the treat by adding the star-shaped tip for those tell-tale ridges. That star shape ensures that the outside of the churro is perfectly crisp while the inside is fluffy as a pastry cloud.

 

As the for chocolate – it is thought this was added when Hernando Cortez returned to Spain with the secret of Aztec chocolate. Now they’re served in restaurants, by vendors, at fair grounds, as a great start to the day… who can’t resist a churro? We can’t – and neither should you by the end of this. Just in case, here’s a picture of our freshly made churros…

 

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Finger-licking good

 

We’ll see you soon!

Wine at El Camion – We uncork the reds…

If you fancy a drink at lunch but think it’s too early for cocktails and tequila (apparently, there is such a thing), we serve a fabulous selection of great wines by the glass, specifically chosen to pair well with the flavours and spices in Mexican food. In our last blog, we looked at our white and rose wines and gave suggestions of well-matched dishes. Now it’s time to look at the reds. Pass the corkscrew.

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Red wines

Our house red wine is the Tempranillo Pleno, Bodega Brana Vieja, from the Northern Spain region of Navarra. This wine is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes, which is the same grape variety used to make Rioja, and it has been aged in old oak barrels for at least six months, which is where it’s spiced oak flavour comes from.

Tastes like: Ruby red in colour, Tempranillo Pleno tastes like dark cherry and vanilla spice. Typical of Tempranillo wines, it is soft and fruity and has a pleasantly sweet finish.

Goes well with: A light and soft wine, it is lovely on its own or with grilled fish or grilled chicken. It would be a great match with a Chicken Tinga Burrito.

Prices: £19/bottle £5/glass

Pleno Tempranillo
The second red on the menu is the Merlot, Santa Puerta, which comes from the Maule Valley in Chile. The area is made up of rich and volcanic soils and produces powerful, spicy and aromatic wines.

Tastes like: At 14%, it is a strong and robust wine, with intense berry fruit flavours. It has been aged in oak for nine months, which gives it a deep, spicy layer of flavour. Warming and rounded, it has a pleasant, silky finish.

Goes well with: The depth of this wine can handle big flavours, plus its high alcohol content will help to break down meaty dishes. Perfectly paired dishes include anything with beef and pork. Why not try it with a Carne Asada Enchilada?

Prices: £23/bottle £6.50/glass

Merlot, Santa Puerta
Our wines are available by the glass or by the bottle – which one you order is up to you! Feel free to ask us to recommend a wine to go with your meal. ¡Buen apetito!