“I compared Salma Hayek’s recommended homemade tacos to a Mexican restaurant and one made me sick” – Jessica Battison
Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek says she makes “the best tacos outside of Mexico” and uses a London store to help her do it. And who doesn’t want to live like a Hollywood superstar? Well, me at least, and I love to cook.
So, I wanted to put the Marvel star’s words to the test. Salma’s recommended store, Mestizo, also has a restaurant logged in and decided to try their most popular tacos before using their marketplace to make mine.
Appearing on the Hot Ones talk show, she said “you can buy all the Mexican ingredients, whatever you need, you can buy there to make the food at home” at Mestizo. And while she didn’t recommend the restaurant itself (I may have found out why), I found the store amazing.
I went locally on Hampstead Road, bought a bag full of Mexican goodies and sat down to a taco lunch at their restaurant and tequila bar. But one of the experiments went very, very badly.
Dinner at Métis
With woven baskets hanging from the ceiling in clusters to create pretty lampshades and framed photos of Mexico hanging on the walls, the restaurant has a real local feel. I was also reassured by the fact that there were three other tables of diners already enjoying meals within 15 minutes of Mestizo opening.
As I munched on a small plate of totopos and salsa, I was overwhelmed by the 20 options of taco toppings on the menu, all priced at £12. So I instead asked what their most popular dish was, which received a confident and quick response from “Pastor” tacos. The friendly waiter warned me it would be a big portion and I was excited for some spicy, meaty, flavorful food.
Just over 10 minutes of hungry waiting later, my impressive dish arrived. A steaming pile of thin chunks of pork mixed with chunks of pineapple sat in a small silver dish next to a warm package of five corn tortillas and small bowls of cilantro and white onion accompanied them. For £12 the waiter was right; it was certainly a generous portion for lunch.
I placed a dollop of the shiny meat on a soft tortilla, then sprinkled over the cilantro and white onion. I felt like salt bae. I was doing my own magic. This was going to be my own Hollywood feast.
But, how wrong I was. It’s so dry. The meat is incredibly dry and bland. Even the tortillas are dry – they feel like paper slowly disintegrating in my mouth as my teeth tear apart rectangles of dehydrated, fatty pork.
Even pineapple chunks lack that wonderful juiciness because they hide between the meat. That usual smoky chilli and garlic taste is completely absent, there is a hint of barbecue, a sweet flavor but no level of spice is present at all. I managed to give it a bit of a boost by asking for a side of sauces, to which they brought four. But you just can’t save poor fillings.
It’s so sad. It almost tastes like it’s been pre-made for a while, then reheated every time after that – which is especially worrying at the start of food service. I can see why Salma says she done the best in the world rather than here, because it’s anything but.
As I left, I felt jealous of those around me who had chosen many other dishes and seemed to be feasting on delicious food. And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I found myself on sick leave for the rest of the day as I had a massive wave of nausea and an unstable stomach. Washed out and sad, I couldn’t stop thinking about these tacos. And I wish I could.
made by me
After waiting for this terrible experience to pass and resolving the sadness, I created my own. I bought most of the ingredients from their market and the fresh coriander, onion and pineapple from Sainsbury’s.
At Mestizo, I passed by their frozen restaurant pack of the Pastor filling and opted for a pack of their frozen pork, Chilorio.
For £9 you get 300g of minced meat bathed in all sorts of chillies, tomatoes and seasonings. I then received a huge packet of fresh corn tortillas for £3.50, as well as adobo chipotles for £2.50 and a giant bottle of green salsa for £3.50 – I refuse to cook myself a meal dry.
I dry-fried a few chunks of pineapple to get the same charred salsa effect as the restaurant, but with the intention of retaining some of that juice. I also chopped up the toppings and reheated a good portion of the pork and tortillas. Assembly time.
On a bed of savory meat, I added a dash of divine salsa, a teaspoon of chipotles, a few chunks of fruit, and Salt-Bae’d on my topping. It already looked tastier.
At the first bite, I had reached it; flavor! humidity! tasty and edible food! I danced happily as I shoved the spicy, fiery, juicy taco into my mouth, doing more before I even finished my first one.
This pack of meat is heavenly, it’s a huge amount of filling and tastes smoky yet mild yet spicy and totally tender.
This story doesn’t need much summing up for its outcome, based solely on the fact that one seems to have made me sick, and the other just made me eat more.
Although I can’t compare myself to Salma, these are definitely the best tacos I’ve ever made and I’m no newbie.
I’m disappointed that my meal at Mestizo was so bad. I loved their supermarket so much and the atmosphere was so nice, but my meal was really terrible.
Maybe sometimes the best things in life — or the best tacos outside of Mexico anyway — really do happen at home.