Cinco de Mayo becoming an international celebration of all things …
Oscar Selfa, left, and Fernando Fernandez in the Amerigos restaurant kitchen on Yas Island with two Mexican dishes: ceviche de atun and gambas saltedas al ajillo. Stephen Lock / The National
An against-the-odds victory in a distant battle was responsible for Cinco de Mayo becoming an international celebration of all things Mexican.
Nearly 150 years after the Mexican army defeated a much bigger French force on May 5, 1862, a similarly protracted fight with a Cinco de Mayo theme is going on in the UAE.
For Oscar Selfa, the Mexico-trained chef de cuisine at Amerigo’s restaurant on Yas Island, the foe is not military but his battle is no less difficult and one, some might say, with even worse prospects of a favourable outcome: finding good avocados in Abu Dhabi.
“We try and fight every week. we bring them in from Kenya,” he says. “And every time we bring them in, we have to send a lot of them back.”
Acceptable avocados come eventually, mr Selfa says. “But you have to fight. And you have to fight a lot.”
Anyone who has bought avocados in the UAE will recognise his predicament but the challenge will be more acute today when Mexican wannabes and aficionados join with the modest Mexican outpost in Abu Dhabi to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, as the date is expressed in Spanish.
After all, authentic Mexican food without avocados is a bit like an American breakfast without saturated fats or an Australian meal without meat. Unconscionable.
But that is just one of the battlegrounds involved in producing Mexican food, a cuisine that has long been under-represented in Abu Dhabi’s dining scene.
With the support of the Mexico-born restaurant manager Fernando Fernandez, the two have found sources around the world to ensure they produce the real thing rather than a dumbed-down version
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