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Putting the 'olé' in boleh*

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chicken enchiladas (photo from 500 Mexican Dishes)
* boleh = Malay for "can/able to"

500 Mexican Dishes declares itself to be "the only compendium of Mexican dishes you'll ever need" in the subtitle. I don't know about that, but I do know that it is a nice little book to have for those who want to try their hand at Mexican cooking for the first time.

The recipes in this book are not intimidating ­­– they're easy enough for the novice. However, some of the ingredients, for example the cheeses and chillies, may not be so accessible depending on where you live. That shouldn't be a hindrance since substitutes are always available.

I reviewed this book for the Don't Call Me Chef Cookbook Review column in The Star (the link to the published article will be up shortly is now up) and there's really not much more to say about it here, except that Mexican food is based so much on fresh ingredients, vegetables especially, and that's the big appeal for me. I tried out the Mexican Roasted Sweetcorn and Chilli Soup and Prawn-Papaya Quesadillas with Mango Cream for the review and they were really easy to do. In fact, I even made flour tortillas from scratch (recipe below). They're much softer than the hypermarket brands you get in Malaysia.

The Chicken Enchilada pictured at the top of the post is another recipe from 500 Mexican Dishes. I had to use the image from the book because, distracted by the extraordinary Kristin Chenoweth singing on a rerun of Glee, I left the dish a little too long in the oven ­­– which was on full blast as you will notice in the recipe ­­– and the top turned black. The enchiladas still tasted good but they weren't fit to be photographed.

Serves 6-8
Salsa roja (recipe follows)
250g grated Monterey Jack or Chihuahua cheese (substitute with a sharp Cheddar)
450g shredded cooked chicken
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
12 tortillas (store-bought or homemade)
  • Preheat the oven to 230°C. In a medium bowl, mix 60ml salsa roja and 50g cheese with the chicken. Season with salt to taste. Coat the bottom of a medium frying pan with oil, and place the pan over a medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, dip each tortilla into the remaining salsa to lightly coat, then fry on both sides until softened. Transfer to a plate. Add more oil when necessary.
  • Spread out the tortillas on a flat surface and place 50g of the chicken filling in the centre of each one. Roll up. Place each roll in a 23x33cm baking tin. Spoon the remaining sauce over the rolled tortillas and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbling.
Makes about 700ml
6 large, ripe tomatoes
3 serrano chillies (hot chillies; substitute with bird's eye ­­– cili padi)
3 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
40g chopped onion
Salt to taste
  • Place the tomatoes and chillies in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the tomato skins are peeling off and the tomatoes are soft bu not mushy, about 5 minutes. Remove ½ cup of the cooking water and whisk it with the chicken bouillon in a small bowl until completely dissolved. Remove the tomatoes and chillies with a slotted spoon and leave to cool for a few minutes. Then peel off the tomato skins and stem and seed the chillies.
  • Place the bouillon mixture, peeled tomatoes and deseeded chillies in a blender or food processor and pulse to process for just a few seconds until blended but still chunky. heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat , then sauté the garlic and onion until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato mixture and cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened, 6-8 minutes. Season to taste and serve hot.
Makes 12 (23cm) tortillas
300g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons salt
240ml warm water
  • Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir in the water to make a soft dough, adding a little more water if necessary. Divide the dough into 12 portions and form each portion into a ball. Cover with a damp cloth to keep the dough moist and leave to rest for 15 minutes. 
  • Roll out each ball of dough on a floured surface to a 23cm diameter round. Heat an ungreased frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook each tortilla for 1 minute per side, pressing down with a spatula for several seconds or until browned and blistered in spots. Remove from the pan and start cooking the next tortilla. Stack the cooked tortillas on top of each other, cover with a tea towel and place in a sealable plastic bag to steam until ready to serve.


  1. I am not very familiar with Mexican cuisine. I would very much like to try something called quesadillas.

  2. Oh yes, Mei Teng, you must try a quesadilla! I don't know where you can get it but it's easy enough to make at home. You'll need shredded cheese and leftover meats or vegetables; spread them on one half of a tortilla like a pizza, fold it over and shallow fry. And there you have a lovely snack!


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