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August 8, 2010

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More than Tex-Mex fare

The Mexico Pavilion's restaurant has one of the most extensive menus of any of the pavilions at World Expo Shanghai.

Gabriela Fernandez, the chef and owner of popular Mexican Restaurant Mi Tierra, runs the Zone-C Expo restaurant that has proved a hit, serving more than 1,000 people a day at its busiest.

Mi Tierra has developed a loyal following of diners who enjoy the selection of authentic dishes drawn from the country's rich culinary tradition.

Fernandez is passionate about Mexican cuisine and has created an Expo menu that aims to provide both authentic versions of well-known Mexican favorites and some lesser known traditional dishes to explore.

There are some Tex-Mex favorites such as jumbo nachos (120 yuan/US$17.70) and classics like a range of burritos (85 yuan) and enchiladas (148 yuan).

While the nachos might raise the eyebrows of some Mexican food purists, Fernandez has adapted the recipe using traditional Mexican ingredients and uses homemade white cheese, refried beans and chorizo sausage.

As well as these favorites, Fernandez offers dishes to challenge those who like their Mexican food hot.

The Camarones a la Diabla Fernandez is simply described as "Evil Prawns (Prawns of the Devil)" and even for seasoned eaters of Mexico's hot fare these little babies pack a punch.

"When you see the cartoons and you see someone with steam coming out of their ears, it's like that, really hot," Fernandez says.

That's the feeling when you try the dish, but it's very tasty. Still, it's only for those who love spicy food.

One of the encouraging things about Fernandez's Expo menu is that she hasn't taken shortcuts.

Many of the dishes from her Mi Tierra restaurant are faithfully replicated at the Expo restaurant despite logistical difficulties of getting ingredients onsite.

Another popular dish is the hearty Chilaquiles, which Fernandez says is a favorite hangover cure for Mexicans looking to shake the effects of their legendry tequila.

"It is the only dish Mexicans want to eat after a big night, Mexicans believe it is real natural medicine," she says.

The Chilaquiles is certainly a fortifying meal for those queuing-fatigued Expo goers, with a choice of steak (135 yuan) or chicken breast (115 yuan) served with red or green sauce, tortillas and potato -- enough to cure even the most hardened business banquet stomach.

Fernandez says she tries to help visitors gain a better understanding of Mexico's diverse regional dishes.

"Many people don't know some of the dishes we have on our menu, they read it and see burritos, quesadillas and nachos but they may not know other dishes that well," she says.

At night time the restaurant is well worth a visit as the taco bar is open.

The long bar serves eight different types of tacos ranging from tender marinated pork or chicken filled tacos to a beef and tequila grilled offering.

At just 25 yuan for a taco, this is a great way to try a diverse range of Mexican ingredients and there are three tacos to a plate, making it ideal for sharing.

Fernandez says she also wants customers to feel the legendry hospitality and warmth of Mexican people.

"We want our restaurant to have heart. Even though it is hot and busy, we hope we can take the time to show people real Mexican food.

"We have many Mexicans working in the restaurant and we want to welcome customers and the Chinese community who always tell us how famous Mexican food is here."


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