Wednesday 12 July 2017

#readcookeat recipe : Tlayudas (Mexican pizza) & Mexican, American & Indian dishes from Lucky Boy

As is often the case when I'm on holiday, at the top of my culinary to-do list this week was getting through some of the bookmarked recipes in my blog's draft folder. I'm on a roll at the moment and so far I've been tackling some of the numerous #readcookeat recipes that I've highlighted over a number of months and never got round to making. 

Lucky Boy, which I read back in April, features a custody battle between a young undocumented Mexican immigrant who is in a detention centre and the Indian-American family who foster and ultimately want to adopt her young son. Both sets of parents want to share their culture with their son and this results in a whole catalogue of foodie mentions for American, Mexican and Indian cuisine. I discovered a number of dishes I'd never heard of before.

p125 Mr Cassidy smiled. "Stay there." He got up and went to the fridge and came back with a stack of creamy pastry on a plate. "Have you had a Napoleon before?"
No, she had not. Soli didn't know where to begin with the concoction. She knew from what drifted to her nostrils that it was sweet and rich. It rose before her, a castle of pastry layers topped with a solid pane of sugar, a candied cherry. The fragrance of cream sent a willowy ache up her jaw.

Mille-feuille 20100916

According to Wikipedia, a Napoleon is just a custard slice or millefeuille by another name - slices of pastry filled with vanilla cream and topped with icing. Nice but not exotic enough - next !

p167 Silvia picked up tamales and an apple pie and litre of fancy-looking soda from the expensive supermarket, the one they never went to. The corn casings of the tamales were fresh and warm, but the chicken inside was dry. Even amid their bounty of food, the gratifying hunger of the boys, the sparkle of the tree and the presents beneath it, Soli couldn't help but think of home : Mama patiently grinding and mixing her mole, the wafting scent of romeritos, the rich and potent bacalao, the syrupy rosca cakes that lined the shelves of Senora Garza's tortilleria.


We reviewed some tamales from Mexica last year (the ones in the picture above) and we enjoyed them, but the corn husks would be hard to source for recreating them from scratch. Mole is a generic name for a number of Mexican sauces, but outside of Mexico, it usually refers to mole poblano, a dark red or brown spicy sauce served over meat that can contain anywhere from 20-30 ingredients. Wikipedia helped me out with romeritos - a Mexican dish from Southern Mexico, consisting of sprigs of a wild plant known as seepweed, usually served with patties of dried shrimp and potatoes in a mole sauce and traditionally enjoyed at Christmas and Lent. Mexican bacalao is a twist on the Spanish salt cod dish - I have already shared the version of bacalao that we tried in Norway, as well as Portuguese Bacalhau a Bras, and they are all very similar dishes. Rosca cakes are King 's Cake pastries, eaten to celebrate Epiphany.

On to the Indian dishes ...

p306 "I've bought you rasam," she said, watching Kayva from the corner of her eye. "And cabbage khichdi, and I made some rice, but I made it yesterday so maybe you want fresh rice, no? And some idli and some carrot halwa from temple, and some pickles, but I know you have pickles, and I know you have papadums, because last time I gave them. We can put them in the microwave, no need to fry. And I wanted to make you vada, but I thought I had no time -"
Uma began shoving dishes into the fridge, muttering about the shelf space and the mess.

Rasam Idli - A Traditional Indian Food

Rasam is a South Indian spicy soup, using tamarind juice as a base. I do actually have some tamarind in the cupboard, but it has quite a vinegary taste, so we're never too keen on the finished dishes. According to my google search, cabbage khichdi is often used as a baby weaning food and is a soft, mushy mix of cabbage, peas or dhal and rice. Idli is a traditional savoury cake made with ground rice and fermented black lentils. Carrot halwa is something I may well come back to, as I have a bookmarked recipe for it - it's a sweet dish. Wikipedia explains that vada is a common term for many different types of savoury fried snacks from India, including fritters, cutlets, doughnuts and dumplings.

Gulaab Jamun (homemade!) bright

p309 Uma rose from her seat, returned her paper bag, and pulled from it one last item, a tinfoil parcel, creased and crunched enough to look like recycling. She unwrapped it with careful fingers, pressing out each metallic fold, until it lay open on her palm. At its centre lay one round and golden gulab jamun, the size of a ping-pong ball. Its syrup pooled in the foil. It had been squashed one one end, and its pale insides peeked out from the amber crust. Gulab jamun : deep-fried and solid, bathed in syrup. Gulab jamun spoke of spoiled, peachy-faced children, fat and soft in the arms of doting grandmothers.

Wikipedia again comes to the rescue, explaining that Gulab jamun is a milk-solid-based South Asian sweet, particularly popular in India, Myanmar, Nepal (where it is known as lalmon), Pakistan and Bangladesh, made mainly from milk solids, traditionally from freshly curdled milk, and often garnished with dried nuts such as almonds to enhance flavour.

I didn't really fancy eating any of those, but luckily there was one final mention :

p193 Silvia was making tlayudas with fresh salsa.

Tlayudas, I discovered, are basically Mexican pizzas. Wikipedia describes them as "a handmade dish in traditional Oaxacan cuisine, consisting of a large, thin, crunchy, partially fried or toasted tortilla covered with a spread of refried beans, asiento (unrefined pork lard), lettuce or cabbage, avocado, meat (usually shredded chicken, beef tenderloin or pork), Oaxaca cheese, and salsa". As with their American and Italian cousins, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to toppings though. I stayed very basic, sticking with what was in the fridge, but you could add other meats, veggies and cheeses, as well as chilli flakes.

Tlayudas (Mexican pizza)

ingredients :

1 tortilla wrap per person
1/2 a can of refried beans
leftover barbecued meat (smoky pork, for us)
cheese (we used mozzarella)
anything else you fancy !

Spread the tortillas with refried beans.

Top with strips of meat.

Scatter over the cheese. Add any extra toppings and/or salsa that you have in the fridge.

Pop under the grill and they're ready as soon as the cheese has melted and the wrap is hot. You could also quickly fry the tortilla for a crispier base, if you don't mind the extra calories !

Adding to the #readcookeat linky at Chez Maximka.

Also adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky because it cleared out lots of odds and ends (refried beans, cheese, cooked meat) from the fridge.


  1. Napoleons are very popular in Russia. They are on my list to bake one day, but the task of making the pastry from scratch seems very daunting. Love how you found all the food references, descriptions from Wikipedia and images. I imagine you are a great teacher. :) I haven't heard of Mexican pizza before, but would be very happy to try it. Sounds delicious.

    1. That was my research for finding out what I wanted to make ! I do stop what I'm doing and look things up on internet on the whiteboard in the middle of lessons when there are cultural references that the kids don't understand though ! ;-)

  2. Oh wow, some lovely recipes to try out, the Tlayudas looks amazing xxx

  3. Love the idea of Mexican pizza!


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