What is the essence of 'delicious'? It is obviously unique to every person but popular trends show preferences and appetites for certain cuisines over others. Some foods just seem to register high on the delicious-meter, with Mexican fare topping the charts. Why is that? Ricasalsa Restaurant in the Cook Street Village may reveal some clues.
Staunch British roots colour and influence many of my perspectives about life in general, including what foods are desirable and which ones are best left alone. That is why it has been so difficult for me to wrestle those fallacies to the ground despite all the contradictory evidence. Dinner at our house was usually some variation on the same bland theme: meat, gravy, potatoes and an overcooked mushy mess of vegetables. Any vitamins simply ran for their life. Yorkshire-bred and “long-live-Britain” to the core, my father cried foul when Mom had the audacity to serve tuna fish casserole for supper. Dear father raged away, refusing to eat one morsel. Admittedly, mother's “Chili Con Carne” and “Omelette Farcee” were culinary catastrophes, but at least she tried to stuff us with some variety.
It has required a major shift in mindset to experiment with cuisine from different cultures but I have never looked back. Many years ago, I discovered the tantalizing experience and utter deliciousness of Mexican food. The spices warmed me like a Latin sun, the exotic tastes tripped my pleasure nodes. But nothing prepared me for Ricasalsa. On a recent trip, I set aside two hours to bask in the pure sensual joy of their Taco Salad with chicken. As I tasted the sweet savoury vegetables bursting with fresh lime, the soft rice, warm garlicky black bean paste and creamy guacamole, a world of beautiful flavours exploded on my palate. In my mind, this was the Tao of 'Delicious.'
The chefs at Ricasalsa have turned cooking into an art form. John McQuaid writes in Parade Magazine about “How to boost flavour” - preparing delicious food involves boosting aroma and variety, balancing tastes, maximizing feel-goodness and ramping up the visual appeal. Likewise, everything in my Taco Salad was designed for maximum pleasure. The look, the smell, the taste and even how it felt in my mouth were all meant to tease and tantalize. According to topyaps.com, “Mexican cuisine contains everything from spicy and sweet to sour. It is as complex as Chinese or French. It’s the combination of different flavors that makes Mexican food a favourite for many. The food is famous for a variety of spices and colourful decoration. Mexican food, perhaps, makes use of the largest number of chili peppers, mostly for flavors and not heat.” The proof is at Ricasalsa. Small wonder that Mexican food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world.
An anonymous web writer doesn't mince words: “What manner of palate-challenged deviant could resist a fine Mexican meal? The mixture of flavors is addictive.”
Resistance is futile.