Tuesday, June 13, 2006


What's for dinner? I asked. I remembered there was this oven roasted tri-tip in the fridge from my party that is waiting to be turned into good eats. So, I rolled up my sleeves and cut them into big chunks and tossed them in a pot. Then I minced some ripped and juicy fresh tomatoes, yellow onions and chopped red bell pepper. I added some lemon and lime juice; and salt and pepper for seasoning. I also used a bit of tomato paste for color. I love cumin and garlic powder, so I added some with my ingredients that waited to be slow simmered in my old reliable cast iron pot. No liquid was added since the tomatoes were watery enough, not to mention the addition of lime and lemon juice.

I allowed this to simmer for an hour and a half until the sauce had thickened and the meat was tender enough to flake with a fork. Oh, did I say Caliente!? That's because at the end of the cooking process, I thought I'd kick it up a notch by sprinkling over it some finely minced jalapeno pepper. And, man! It was hot enough to put tears in your eyes. Tears of joy, that is... (Wink).

While it was cooking, I made myself a simple Guacamole with some chopped Avocado, red bell pepper, onions, squeezed lemon juice, cumin powder, and pasted roasted garlic, salt and pepper. It was superb.

Anyway, what was my inspiration for this? When I was in Puerto Vallarta not too long ago, I had awaken very hungry late one night in my hotel room not to far from the beach. I over napped of exhaustion from my sight seeing and walking along the beach all day. So, I decided to go out for a quick meal. It must be around 2:30 am and the only restaurant open was a full service one which I thought would be too elaborate for what I was interested in. I walked along this street, and close to the church area was a busy well lighted end of this lane. So, I looked around and on that side of Insurgencia St. were small catering carts that sold street fares cooked before your eyes.

It was a humid night and I was all sweaty from my stroll and all starved. So, thought to myself, I guess this is it. What better way to taste the culture than try their street cuisine. I looked forward to this and it was the opportunity that I was waiting for. So, I further shopped around, sticking my neck occasionally to what’s cooking in these wheeled restaurants and hoping to find the most inviting one, whose crews looked like they knew how to treat food well. After turning down several offers along the way, I came upon one whose workers wore uniformed white polo shirts and blue aprons. I said these are my guys. And though' I was somewhat shy of ordering what I wanted, I went on and got seated on a tall bench along side of this van. For a small operation, they sure had a wide variety of appetizing dishes. But this chopped meat stewing in this clay pot which smelled great pulled my attention. So, I asked this gentleman..."tres, por favor". Even gesturing with my fingers to make sure he and I are in the same page.

I was happy about my choice. I even watched with excitement as they prepared my very late night dinner hoping to imitate that dish in my own kitchen. I give myself a credit for coming close with this dish but the spirit of that pleasurable experience is never equaled.

My bill came down to “treinta y siete” pesos which included an iced-box-chilled Pepsi and an array of home made...or in this case, street made, Mexican condiments that totally captured my heart. I tipped the guys “diez pesos” and some lose change for the exceptional service and the occasional conversations they kindly threw at me while I ate. I actually got more for what I paid for because of the festive late night spirit that was around me, not to mention being serenaded with a kaleidoscope of loud music that leaked out of the surrounding bars and parked taxi cabs as I chow down on one of the most memorable experience I had in Vallarta. Now, that was HOT!

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