6 Minutes @ Juan Miguel Prada

If your thought of Mexican food is about Tacos, Nachos, Guacamole, Fajitas, Chili con carne and etc. STOP!! Those are only Tex-Mex food which has been Americanized by the immigrants. As the genuine Mexican food has been designated as part of UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Mexican food has over 9,000 years of history. Authentic Mexican cuisine is a comprehensive and fascinating set of sensations, rather than merely hot and spicy dishes. The culinary excellence demands specialized chefs with a profound understanding of the country’s rich cultural legacy. mylifestylenews finds out more from Juan Miguel Prada, guest chef for The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong during his recent visit in conjunction with the celebration of the  Mexico’s National Day in the month of September......
First of all, let's not get confused with the TEX-MEX cuisine which it is often referred to as "Mexican Food" in the US and Canada. Mexican cuisine is primarily a fusion of indigenous cooking with European. We are influenced by the Spanish as a based and little that you may know also the some of the French cooking's technique as an enhancement.

Back in the 16th century, there are elements that added after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire and the basic staples remain native foods to us such as corn, beans, Chili peppers. Then the European introduced a large number of other foods.

The most important of which were meats from domesticated animals like beef, pork, chicken, venison, goat and sheep. Mexico is divided into 16 different regions, the coastline people rely a lot from the fresh catch of the sea and the central region will use a lot of game and meat in their cooking. Even daily products like cheese and other variety of herbs and spices are commonly used in Mexico cooking.

With the Spanish initially tried to impose their own diet on the country,the foods and cooking techniques began to get mixed. This resulted in various regional cuisines based on local conditions. Flavors is the key thing in genuine Mexico cooking, we usually cook the sauce before the meat where I know that in Asian cooking is vice-versa.

Mexican cuisine is closely tied to the culture, social structure and popular traditions of the country. As to that connection, we use a quite a bit of mole are used (sauces that is originally used in Mexican cuisine as the base of all dishes) for special occasions, festivals and holidays, particularly in the south region.

Mexican food is about tradition, diversity, spectacular and refined. It is as complex as many other great cuisines in the world. Lots of corn, chili peppers, tomatoes, squashes, avocados, cocoa, vanilla as well as edible flowers & vegetables like huauzontle, papaloquelite and criollo avocados. Fruits wise, we have mostly tropical fruits like guava, prickly pear, mangoes, bananas, pineapple are popular.

<Fish Tacos> "Pastor Style" fish tacos with "salsa verda Cruda"
Vaso de chamoy, conchas y clamato 
("Clamato" Chamoy sauce, shellfish, celery salad) 
Crema de poblano con dumplings de huitlacoche 
(Poblano chili cream soup, huitlacohe wonton, rajas)
Pescado Tikin Txic, aire de habanero, ensalada de quelites y sal de celestun 
("Tikin Txic" Sea Bass)
Filete de res en salsa borracha, croqueta de frijoles y platano macho y vegetables al vapor
(Beef Tenderloin, salsa borracha, refried bean and plantain croquettes)
Espuma de Cajeta con Teja de Naranja
(Cajeta Foam)

Mexican food relates closely to family, it is comfort food to us all and best to enjoy with a group of people, family. It is about sharing among others in a comforting environment.

Mole is best represent Mexican food. As far as I know, there are 17 different kind of mole all around. <Quelites> are popular, they can be made from all kinds of edible green from their leaves such as spinach, cilantro, water crest and etc. <Mole Poblano> is the best known of all mole varieties and also become our "National dish". Hence the state of Puebla is identified with mole poblano and it comes in black, red, yellow or green.

During holidays like All Saint days and other festivals, we cook <Posole> which is a traditional Mexican dish from the pacific coast region of Jalisco. It is a thick soup usually made with pork, hominy, garlic, onion, chili peppers, cilantro and broth. <Romeritos> is popular during Christmas, it consist of  sprigs of a wild plant known as Romerito that looks like rosemary, usually it serve with patties of dried shrimp and potatoes in a mole sauce. <Chiles en Nogoda> is the Poblano chili filled with picadillo ( a mixture usually containing shredded meat, aromatics, fruits and spices) tops with a walnut-based cream sauce called nogada and pomegranate seeds. My grandma has a very good old recipe of this dish.

This is my first Asia trip and I am preparing a few dishes that applying ancient techniques as well as contemporary approaches and tradition.

My inspiration always comes from my love of Mexico and its ancient roots as well as the idea of today’s variety in gastronomy.  It is important for me to respect the traditional methods and harmonious flavors of our cuisine and to keep in mind my grandmother and mother’s teachings.

As a chef, passion is very essential and my cooking philosophy is to to put in a lot of care in every dish and to make people feel good.

My recent find of a Mexican restaurant is the Quintonil restaurant in Mexico and the are one of the 50th best restaurants in the contemporary approach.

I would like to find challenges of new ingredients of all flavors, exploring new cooking techniques with new innovation. Simple cooking with genuine ingredient used and homage to the tradition and cultural heritage. Seeing the pleasure of people in front of you eating my food is a great contentment.

After more than 21 years being a chef, I would also like to go across the boundaries by learning a bit of Chinese and Japanese way of cooking. I am impressed and admired by the Japanese was of dealing with fish.

My favorite possession is the chef knife that I have carried with me at all time since my culinary school time.

"Mexican food is about tradition, diversity, spectacular and refined." ~ Chef Juan Miguel Prada

For reservations & menu enquiries: 
Ritz Carlton Hotel Hong Kong
Tel: + 852 2263 2270 

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