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April 29, 2010

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Fare from haciendas and streets

MEXICAN chef Gabriela Fernandez admits she likes the hectic pace of Shanghai so much that when she returns to her small rural community in Mexico to visit family she has a simple way of telling it's time to get back into the fray.

"I pack a suitcase full of clothes and when I have worn them all I know it's time to leave," Fernandez says.

The chef certainly has a lot of pots on the boil, what with organizing the food for the Mexico Pavilion at World Expo 2010 and running her recently opened Mi Tierra restaurant. She also operates a food production plant preparing frozen Mexican food for diverse businesses and consumers.

She has accomplished a lot since arriving in Shanghai in 2007,

Fernandez was part of the initial kitchen team at popular Mexican restaurant Maya before venturing out on her own, and today she has ambitious plans for the food at the Mexican restaurant.

The 580-square-meter Mi Tierra is expected to serve as many as 1,600 people a day.

Fernandez prides herself on using recipes handed down from traditional dishes prepared by her grandmother and mother, using locally sourced produce and ingredients.

She hopes to provide traditional Mexican offerings, including an evening taco bar, enchiladas and salads.

Fernandez says she will be producing many of the options on her soft-opening menu at Mi Tierra's branch in the Mexico Pavilion.

"It is a big goal and we won't know until we get it fully operational if we can do it, but we want to try," Fernandez says.

"I want to introduce Mexican food and culture to everyone. What we try to do every day is to make our customers feel like they are coming to a friend's house to eat, so they leave happy."

Since it opened earlier in the year, Mi Tierra has quickly developed a reputation for high-quality, diverse and authentic Mexican offerings.

The first-floor restaurant in a 1920s residence on Yongjia Road has a central glass-roofed dining area. Private dining and event areas are on the second floor.

The restaurant has been renovated to have the feel of a traditional Mexican hacienda, with terra-cotta walls, dark wood beams and Mexican-style fittings. It has a large taco bar and bar selling a range of premium tequilas.

The menu offers rustic, traditional fare, with ingredients prepared in house. Executive chef Maria Trinidad says she prepares the mole sauce using more than 20 ingredients, including dark chocolate, which is slow cooked for more than three hours. The complex spicy sauce can be used as a condiment for many dishes.

"Every country has its street food and when people travel to a country they often say it is the street food that is the best," she says.

"We want to make the best of Mexico's street food here but with nice presentation. What we want people to experience is the traditional food of the streets when they come here."

Address: 17 Yongjia Rd

Tel: 6225-7639


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