photo from www.nooschi.com

Being a temporary native Angeleno and New Yorker, I’ve had more than my tummy’s share of Mexican food. From Baja Fresh (hello Baja burrito!), Burritoville, Blockhead’s and La Salsa’s fast food twist, to Lula’s, Dos Caminos, Cafe El Portal and Frontera Grill’s delectable decor and authentic taste, Mexicana is ALWAYS on my mind.
Especially now, when, faced with pangs of burrito withdrawal syndrome, I am left with almost no option for Mexican food in Manila. Sure, I was satisfied by Tia Maria’s when I was a kid, but how can you go back to Faux-xican when your tongue has tried Lula’s Enchilada Suiza??? Add to that, the coma inducing shrimp tacos at El Portal or worse, Frontera Grill’s applause worthy, mix-inspiring guacamole?Those were the very thoughts lingering in my head when I decided to make guacamole last week.

  I had the usual suspects: cilantro, tomato, onions, garlic, salt, lime and… avocado.
Here’s the rub. My father’s cock farm (don’t laugh, he’s a cockfighter) grows a plethora of random fruit trees, one of them being avocado. I was 100% sure there were avocados at my disposal when I headed home, but alas there were none. So I decided to get some. But the ones at Hypermart were… a tad green.
I still brought them home. Of course the cook says ‘ay nako hilaw pa yan’ (Oh my, that’s still not ripe) with a mild snicker that only a well trained fruit buyer could do. So I waited a day, coz you know when you’re craving for guacamole you don’t care if the avocado is a bit on the not-quite-ripe side. After 24 hours, I mixed my ultimate recipe for the guac.Note to self: never make guacamole until the avocado skin is completely devoid of the color green. Let me describe the taste in this manner: there was a certain zing to it. My parents didn’t care and ate it.

So I decided to take a breather, trying to forget the lingering guac-withdrawal. When I arrived from Bohol this Sunday, lo and behold! It was raining avocados from our farm! THANK YOU JESUS!

Grinning and uppity was I as avocados were halved, cored, and scooped out into a glass bowl, then the usual suspects left the fridge into my island counter.
Tomatoes: check.
Onions and garlic: check.
Lime: check.
Secret ingredient: check!
Cilantro: …
(found in the tablespoonful of zingy guacamole left from last week)

No worries… Celso to the rescue! Celso is my brother’s driver who, for lack of a better term, can get away with anything as long as he flashes his toothless grin. I tell him to buy me Cilantro, or Wan Suey as it is called locally. The cook wrote it down on a piece of paper because I also asked him to buy me some Tostitos Hint of Lime chips. This, I believe, led to the downfall, because this is when the hoopla begins.

He calls me from Hypermart: Bos, walang cilantro dito(boss, there’s no cilantro here). So I ask to speak to the staff. Indeed there is no cilantro at Hypermart, so I instructed him towards Shopwise, where he confirmed that, indeed, the lucrative cilantro is found.So relieved was I for his find that I energetically return to the kitchen, chopping, mincing, squeezing and folding… just waiting for that authenticity that only cilantro could offer. Celso comes back, toothless grin and blue plastic bag in tow like a sleuth discovering where Waldo really is.

I open the bag, and …
(gasp)
It’s CELERY.

He did, however, justify that celery looks a lot like cilantro, only the stalk is bigger. Much Bigger. This is going to become a very long week.

(to learn more about the restaurants mentioned, click on the ff links)
Frontera
Lula’s
Dos Caminos
El Portal
Baja Fresh
Burritoville
La Salsa
Blockheads