Tag Archives: tortillas

Getaway extended: Taco night

I’d picked up some avocados and corn tortillas on my way home on Thursday, so for dinner last Friday we made another stab at what I would classify as Mexican food… namely tacos and salsa.

(That’s Sean’s plate with all the cheese.)

The stuff cradled inside the avocado is my attempt at pico de gallo, a mixture of tomato, cucumber, red onion, garlic, and cilantro. Once again, the tomato was a bit mushy (why is it so hard to find firm, crisp tomatoes here?!), but the garlic, cilantro, and onion pepped it back up, and the cucumber provided the crunch.

The tacos, bursting with flavour and colour, were a messy but yummy affair.

Most of the tortillas quite literally burst, though, even before we got our hands on them. I’d been looking around online for advice on how to reheat frozen corn tortillas, and a couple people advocated putting them in a steamer (or microwave) wrapped in a “clean kitchen towel”. Uh, we do have 3 or 4 kitchen hand towels in rotation but none of them can be considered clean in the sense that I’d wrap/cook my food in it — the washed ones have been collecting dust on a shelf.

So we used paper towels, wrapping 4 or 5 around a dozen thawed tortillas. I put the steamer basket with the tortillas in the rice cooker, brought the water to a boil, then after a minute pulled the plug and waited another 15. Maybe half of them came out intact, but a bunch of them had developed rips and we suspect a few disintegrated entirely, as we definitely didn’t end up with twelve tacos. They were warm and soft, though, so we were willing to make do.

Since we had filling left for a second round, we microwaved our next batch with dampened paper towels to see if they would fare any better. They came out worse, like cardboard. Thankfully, the tasty vegetables were able to save them from the garbage can.

I’m not sure how I feel about corn tortillas. Sure, they’re more “authentic” — and healthful — than the flour variety, but the flavour and texture, at least of these ones, were a bit lacking. I’m sure it has to do with them being pre-frozen and made in China and reheated incorrectly though. I’ll consider investing in a brand new kitchen towel for our next endeavour.

Oh, and I’m making burritos after I get my hands on some more flour tortillas! At least I can reheat those on a pan. (Yes, I’m totally trying to make up for lost Mexican food time. And yes, I know burritos aren’t “really” Mexican, according to some people. But I don’t really care :)

Taco filling
Vegetables of your choice, diced (I used garlic, onion, yellow squash, zucchini, tomato)
1 can red kidney beans (or other bean of your choice), drained and rinsed
Salt, paprika, cumin, basil (or spices/herbs of your choice)
Bit of cilantro, chopped
Olive oil

1. Heat a bit of oil in pan. Cook onion and garlic first for a few minutes, then add other vegetables (we’ll count tomato as a vegetable) and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Add beans, seasonings, cilantro. Be liberal with the seasonings.
3. Serve with salsa, avocado, sour cream if you can afford it, and properly reheated tortillas.
4. Forgive me for the wishy-washy recipe. I didn’t really follow a recipe, and there are a million ways to do this, so have fun making up your own! :)

Where to find…

  • Corn tortillas (frozen): Avocado Lady (274 Wulumuqi Lu), 28 RMB/~3 dozen
  • Cilantro: any vegetable market and probably supermarket, 1 RMB/lots
  • Red kidney beans (canned, local product): Parkson Supermarket (100 Zunyi Lu near Xianxia Lu), 5 RMB/can

  • Relevant resources:

  • The pico de gallo recipe I used, with some modifications (took out peppers, put in cucumber; lemon juice instead of lime, but only because they don’t stock limes in the fruit store)
  • Reheating corn tortillas; reheating corn tortillas


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    Weekend getaway II: Quesadillas

    Sean has a break on Sunday afternoons so he usually comes home for lunch. He bought some cheddar cheese on his way back last Sunday and we made quesadillas using leftover chili. I’d been craving a quesadilla since the New York Times did a column on it.

    Wanting to make this as healthy as possible, we were careful with the cheese and liberal with the filling…

    …which made it too watery and messy to eat politely.

    Much tidier omelet-style.

    Unfortunately, even with the conscious rationing of cheese, it (I suspect) still made me break out a day or two afterwards, so this won’t be done again for a while :'(

    Relevant resources:
    This is the recipe I started with, which is kinda messy
    This is the method I switched to

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    Weekend getaway I: Black Bean Chili

    It’s been an exciting week. Even as I settled into the routine of work, we managed to sneak in a weekend getaway… to Mexico! Well, maybe closer to Texas or CA, but somewhere in that general idea. I explored a few new foods and new possibilities that I’d never considered affordable, like quesadillas, which might be mundane for some people cooking in North America but is kind of a huge deal over here. Tortillas? Avocados? They’ll add up quick, and you might as well go out for an overpriced meal at a mediocre-but-trendy “Mexican” restaurant. (There is an affordable burrito place near my office that I’ve been meaning to check out, though!)

    But I found a few of those elusive ingredients at the Avocado Lady, and realized it was possible to venture beyond the 10 or so veggies that feature in our stir-fry rotation (eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic, onion, green pepper, carrot, potato, tomato [not a vegetable but whatever]). Having educated myself on the benefits of beans and prompted by a recipe my sister e-mailed over, I decided to make black bean chili for dinner last Saturday. I’ve probably had chili about once in my life, and it hadn’t been a very memorable experience, but it seemed like a practical way to make something of 300g of dried black beans.

    I put them to soak in the morning. A couple hours later they started looking like pill bugs, ughh.

    We prefaced the meal, which ended up not being ready til 9pm, with a mozzarella-tomato-basil appetizer which I’ve always loved but never felt “western” enough to make. Unfortunately, the tomato I used was a bit overripe, making the whole thing mushier than it should be; also, I realized how hard it is to slice mozzarella. Excusing the crappy presentation, the combination of flavours, especially the bit of salt that brought out the sweetness of the tomato, was still fantastic.

    As we continued to wait for the beans — which I’d forgotten need 2 hours to cook — to be ready, we dug into the ripe Mexican avocado that I’d gotten at the same store (10 RMB). Sean spread his half on toast but I ate mine right off the spoon with a bit of salt (I know I’d said we were conserving, but sometimes there’s no alternative!). I don’t remember the last time I was able to take such liberties with an avocado. It’s always so stingily laid out inside overpriced “gourmet” sandwiches.

    With about 20 minutes left on the beans, I started getting to work on the chili. I set diced carrots to boil in clean water, chopped up garlic, onion, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, and green pepper, and fried them (minus the tomatoes) in some olive oil.

    When the beans and carrots (in separate pots) were done, I drained them and put them back in the large pot along with the tomatoes, vegetables, and a bunch of spices (red chili powder, basil, cumin, paprika, dill, black pepper, salt). Also poured most of the water I’d saved from boiling the beans/carrots, and simmered for half an hour.

    I’d bought a pack of frozen tortillas (10RMB for 12) so I thawed a bunch and reheated them one at a time on a non-stick pan on low heat, flipping every 20 seconds or so.

    The chili ended up looking more like soup than my idea of chili, but I ladled it into our bowls with a slotted spatula so the water drained back into the pot. It was colourful, hearty, and warming, and delightful wrapped in soft tortilla.

    The best part: after stuffing ourselves, we had a giant bowl of the stuff left over! We rarely have leftovers, so that was exciting.

    This is the recipe I used (thanks Florence!), with modifications in parentheses:

    Black bean and vegetable chili

    1 cup dried black beans, rinsed (~1.5 cups)
    3 tbsp olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, minced (1 whole head)
    2 stalks celery, sliced (skipped, yuck)
    2 large carrots, diced
    1 cup each diced zucchini, onions, mushrooms, bell pepper (1 yellow squash, 1 zucchini, 1 large red onion, 2 green peppers)
    1 can tomatoes, chopped (3 fresh tomatoes)
    1 1/2 cup water or vegetable stock (water from boiling carrots & beans)
    1/2 chopped parsley (skipped)
    1 tbsp chili powder
    1 tsp each dried basil and oregano
    1 tsp each salt and ground cumin
    1/2 tsp pepper
    (I at least doubled all of the spices coz it turned out to be a huge pot)

    – Cook black beans (or used canned). Drain.
    – In large pot (or saucepan), heat oil over medium heat. Add all vegetables, stir for about 7 min or until softened.
    – Add beans, tomatoes, water, spices. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 min or until cooked.

    Where to find…

  • Dried black beans (organic): City Shop, ~18 RMB/330g [Edit: Trust Mart, 10.80 RMB/350g]
  • Fresh mozzarella: Avocado Lady, 17 RMB/100g
  • Avocado: Avocado Lady, 10 RMB each
  • Flour tortillas (frozen): Avocado Lady, 10 RMB/pack of 12
  • Yellow squash/zucchini: Avocado Lady, ~4.5 RMB each
  • Basil, paprika: Carrefour, 13-14 RMB/jar

  • Relevant resources:

  • How to cook black beans
  • Mozzarella-tomato-basil appetizer


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