Mexico has given the world many things, from tequila and piñatas, to Mariachi music and Frida Kahlo. But perhaps the country’s greatest gift to us is its food. Vibrant, tasty, fresh and fun, it’s no wonder Mexican cuisine is popular across the globe. Here in the UK, our love of Mexican food just keeps growing, with research by CGA and AlixPartners Market Growth Monitor finding that the number of Mexican restaurants in the country has risen by 49% since 2013.
Leading the charge is Wahaca, which is now the UK’s biggest Mexican restaurant chain with just under 20 outlets nationwide. Specialising in fresh and authentic Mexican street food, Wahaca has also won plaudits for its design and sustainability, including becoming the first UK restaurant group to be certified as Carbon Neutral.
While nothing can beat visiting a Wahaca restaurant itself, sometimes you want nothing less than to leave the house. In these situations, knowing how to recreate your favourite Wahaca dishes at home is an awesome skill to have, both for yourself and for impressing others. Which is why we’ve explored exactly how to do this below — you can thank us later.
The quesadilla is one of Mexico’s most iconic dishes, with its roots in New Spain (colonial Mexico). As explained by Gran Luchito, a quesadilla is “a tortilla primarily filled with cheese and sometimes other ingredients such as chicken, steak or vegetables. It’s then griddled in a pan until toasted and is delicious.”
Wahaca’s chilli chicken twist on this classic is among the restaurant’s most sought-after selections. Bursting in flavour — largely down to the restaurant’s renowned chipotle sauce — this is a simple-to-make yet sublime dish that’s sure to wow your friends and family
- 200g chipotle chillies
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Half a head of garlic, cloves roughly chopped
- 2 medium onions or 1 large, roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
- 1-2 tbsp thyme leaves
- 3 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
- 2-3 fresh bay leaves
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 250ml red wine or cider vinegar
- 50ml balsamic vinegar
- 7 tbsp Demerara or palm sugar
- 1 tbsp sea salt plus more to taste
- 250g of leftover roast chicken
- 4 tortillas
- 100g mature cheddar cheese, grated
- 3 spring onions, sliced
- 2 roasted red peppers from a jar, sliced
- Small handful of coriander, chopped
- For the marinade, first wash the chipotle chillies in cold water before chopping off the stalk end and removing the seeds.
- Cover in a saucepan with cold water and add the cinnamon stick, allowing the mixture to simmer on medium heat for around half an hour until the chillies are soft. Drain and rinse off any seeds.
- Mix the onion, garlic, herbs and spices with 100ml of water and the chillies, before puréeing to a smooth paste.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan until hot and add the chilli paste, frying for around three minutes. You should stir constantly to ensure the paste doesn’t burn.
- Next, add the vinegar, sugar, salt and another 100ml of water and heat for a further 15-20 minutes until the balance of flavours is right, stirring every few minutes.
- Once the chipotle sauce is done, cut the chicken into thin slices and cover.
- Put the desired amount of chicken onto the tortilla, before adding the roasted peppers, spring onion, cheese and coriander to the filling
- Fold the tortilla in half and apply a small amount of olive oil.
- Warm a pan to moderate heat and griddle both sides until the cheese is melted and the filling is oozy.
A Mexican eatery isn’t complete without a selection of burritos on the menu. Made up of a flour tortilla wrapped into a sealed cylindrical shape around different ingredients, the burrito is a staple Mexican dish. The dish originated in Northern Mexico and was first mentioned in The Dictionary of Mexicanisms in 1895.
Wahaca’s various takes on the burrito are all delicious, of course, but perhaps the pick of the bunch is the chargrilled steak variety. Consisting of succulent chunks of steak and the restaurant’s delicious chipotle sauce, this dish is certainly one you want to master.
- 600g (1lb 5oz) skirt steak
- 3-4tbsp olive oil, plus extra for frying
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- Juice of ½ an orange
- 1 chile de arbol, finely chopped
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 4 large corn tortillas, chapattis or other wraps
- 4 spring onions, chopped
- About 150g (5½oz) tinned black beans, warmed
- 200g (7oz) warm cooked rice
- Chipotle salsa (either store-bought or made from the recipe above)
- 1 avocado, peeled and mashed with the juice of a lime
- 3-4 tbsp crème fraîche
- Coriander leaves, chopped
- 120g (4¼oz) extra mature Cheddar cheese
1. Butterfly the steak into thin streaks by cutting it down the middle. Then marinate the meat in the olive oil, garlic, orange juice, chilli and seasoning for half an hour, leaving some marinade aside for later.
2. Heat the wraps in a dry frying pan for around 10 seconds on each side to ensure they’re soft and pliable.
3. Warm up a griddle or frying pan and add 1 tsp of olive oil. Then put in the spring onions after seasoning with salt and pepper.
4. Pat the steak dry and place it in the griddle pan. Sear for a minute on both sides, before leaving it to stand for another minute as you cook the spring onions.
5. Remove them from the pan once cooked and add the rest of the marinade. When it’s sizzled up, pour the marinade over the warm beans.
6. Cut the steak into small pieces before filling up the wraps with it and the beans, rice, salsa and spring onions, plus the avocado, crème fraîche, coriander and cheese. Serve with tortilla chips.
Perhaps even more iconic than the burrito is the taco. The small hand-sized corn or wheat tortilla can be distinguished from its counterpart by being smaller and folded rather than rolled. Tacos were made popular by Mexican miners in the 18th century, with the term actually referring to paper that was wrapped around gunpowder and inserted into a rock face during silver mining. Nowadays, they’re among the most popular types of Mexican food.
Wahaca’s taco of choice is without doubt its pork pibil offering considering it’s remained on the menu since day one. But how exactly can you make this delectable dish yourself?
- 1tsp allspice berries
- 2tsp ground cumin seeds
- ½ tsp cloves
- 1tsp peppercorns
- 100g achiote paste
- 3tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- large bunch of fresh oregano or 1tsp dried oregano
- 3 fresh bay leaves
- 2tbsp sea salt
- 3tbsp olive oil
- Juice of 6 oranges (roughly 450ml)
- 1.5kg neck of pork, cut into a few large pieces
- 1 habañero or Scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
- 25g butter
- 1 large red onion or two medium sized ones cut thinly
- A small amount of finely chopped fresh habanero chilli
- Zest and juice of 2 limes
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- Salt and pepper to season
- To make the marinade, warm the spices in a dry frying pan for 3-4 minutes, before grinding to a fine powder.
- Put the spices in a blender with the paste, onion, vinegar, garlic, herbs, salt and olive oil and pulse.
- Gradually add the orange juice with the blender running to ensure a smooth paste.
- Pour around a third of marinade over the pork, thoroughly coating it. Refrigerate overnight and freeze the rest of the marinade for later use.
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 130C/266F/gas 1.
- Put the pork in a large casserole dish before adding chopped chilli and butter.
- Bring to a simmer, then cover in foil and a lid, allowing it to cook for 3-4 hours until the pork is soft
- For the pickled onions, initially place them in a saucepan with boiling water for ten minutes to get rid of the bitterness and soften them.
- Then drain the onions and add them back to the saucepan with the chilli, zest and juice of the limes and the orange. Season to taste with salt and pepper before setting aside for half an hour to let them marinate.
- Once the pork and onions are ready, place the pork in heated, store-bought tacos, and top with the pink pickled onions, plus coriander.