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Our Brand New Regional Oaxacan Menu Launches at Wahaca Covent Garden

After the huge excitement of cooking with one of Mexico’s finest and most renowned chefs, Alejandro Ruiz on Tuesday evening, our original Covent Garden restaurant will be offering an exclusive menu, dedicated to his home region, and the state that gave us our name, Oaxaca.

The menu will be available for 8 weeks only from Wednesday evening and has been designed by Tommi and our development team to highlight the finest ingredients from the region, showcasing how lip-smackingly sumptuous eating in Southern Mexico can really get.

Here’s what’s on offer…

Oaxaca Menu

The dishes are available alongside your favourites from the Wahaca menu, so feel free to order 1 or more, to share or be selfish with.

The menu uses traditional salsas, moles and cooking methods that you’ll find across the Oaxaca state including venison fillet with an incredibly rich spiced fruit sauce from the Isthmus de Tehuantepec region and our own home made dark Oaxacan mole alongside the meltingly tender beef short rib.

Roast vegetable pipian

Fans of our recent campaign to get the sustainable practice of entomophagy (that’s insect eating) into British diets can give our Chorizo and Chapulines memela a try, and see if the nuttiness of crumbled grasshoppers gets you voting #ChapulinYES or #ChapuliNO. If you’re able to resist Tommi’s Chocolate brownie with burnt salted Mezcal caramel and clotted cream, you’re stronger willed than we are, and to be completely honest, you’re probably doing something wrong. It’s going to blow your mind.

We’d love to hear what you think about our interpretation of dishes from the Oaxaca state, so please tweet us your thoughts using #CulinaryTrip.

To find out where we’ll be taking you next on our mission around Mexico’s top foodie regions and to hear the latest on our supper club series, keep your eyes peeled on the blog.

Beef Shortrib

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Our Guelaguetza competition winner jets off to Mexico

Those of you who have been reading our blog over the last few months will have seen the competition that we ran to send one festival loving author to Mexico to report back on the Guelaguetza festival in Oaxaca. Last month we chose a winner and right now Mark Weir, is getting stuck into a few tacos and (hopefully) donning an elaborate headdress whilst joining the carnival atmosphere as the parade winds through the streets.

This is not Mark Weir

We had loads of entries in the competition and were truly impressed with the quality of the reports we received. It made it really difficult to choose a winner, but it was Mark’s descriptive style and ability to get himself into and out of various scrapes whilst exploring the back end of the Czech Republic that singled him out as a man who should be jumping on that plane to Mexico. Have a look and let us know what you think:

Language, lyrics and getting lost at the ‘Rock for People’ music festival in the Czech Republic.
By Mark Weir

It’s tough asking for directions when you can’t pronounce the destination. ‘Hradec Kralové’ may look like a sorcerer’s spell in JK Rowling’s book of magic, but here, on the outskirts of Prague, it’s a name on a bus that I need to catch. 6 months of German lessons at Uni and a handful of friends from the Czech Republic haven’t given me the ability to wrap my western tongue around that eastern dialect. The girl behind the counter of the tiny coffee shop looks at me disconsolately and probably mutters the same word that I use many times when stuck behind people on escalators in London – tourist.

Good detective work saves the day though, as I figure out that following people with backpacks, Muse t-shirts and sleeping bags will get me to the bus on time. We’re off to ‘Rock for People’, the Czech Republic’s best musical celebration. And like any foreign festival it seems to be living up to the expectations we always have when venturing abroad for a musical experience. It’s scorchingly hot. Anything with the shadow profile larger than a VW Golf has huddled masses of bodies cowering from the sun’s rays. It’s cheap, as I spend five euros for three nights camping, and grab a pint of beer for a single euro. And it feels exotic, foreign, a world apart from being stuck in traffic on the M6. This is a festival erected in the remnants of an abandoned Soviet airfield. Pitching your tent next to a rusted helicopter before seeing bands perform in converted bunkers certainly doesn’t say ‘Clapham Common.’

I do feel slightly guilty though. Usually when travelling to another country I learn at least a few phrases. A polite ‘hello’, a casual ‘your football team is rubbish.’ Anything to avoid behaving like that American tourist who marches up to the locals and starts bellowing in English about the price of gas. But here, I feel I can get away with it. Seeing a local gypsy act bounce energetically around the stage to a packed house isn’t diminished by the fact that I have no idea what they’re talking about. That death metal band that has me banging heads with the locals can’t really be accused of singing in any language at all. Music transcends the boundaries, making friends of everyone. Or at least until The Prodigy comes out onto the main stage and begins clubbing people about the head with beats.

It’s quite a beautiful feeling. That you can still experience a foreign land without having to download an app for it, surviving on a big smile, a polite nod and plenty of hand gestures instead. It’s humbling too, wandering from stage to stage like a mute, relying on the patience of others, the fortune of getting someone at the bar who takes the time to talk in broken English. I’ll return again soon, Hradec Kralové. You won’t be any easier to pronounce, but at least I’ll know where to find you.

Watch out for more of Mark’s writing coming your way as he takes up the position of our roving reporter telling us all about his trip to Oaxaca in the next edition of OLA LONDON, which will be ready for you to ogle at in October.

Thanks once again to The Mexican and Oaxacan Tourist Board, British Airways and Hostal de la Noria for helping us send Mark to Mexico.

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Win a trip to the Guelaguetza festival in Mexico!

We’re hugely excited to say that we have 2 tickets up for grabs for 1 lucky reader and a friend to travel to Mexico as our roving reporter at the Guelaguetza festival in Oaxaca, Mexico this July.

Guelaguetza is one of Mexico’s biggest cultural festivals, and is a real feast for the senses. This annual celebration includes fantastic costumed parades, bands, amazing food markets and traditional dancing and we’re looking for our most eloquent reader to tell us all what’s it’s like to get in amongst the sights, sounds and smells of this incredibly vibrant celebration of all things Oaxacan.

To be in with a chance of winning, simply email Ola@wahaca.co.uk and tell us, in no more than 500 words about your best festival experience. The closing date for entries is the 31st May.

It could be the tale of your last trip to a literary fair, or how you found yourself in a field in Suffolk, or the amazing flavours you discovered at a local food festival. You’ll need to be pretty handy with a pen though as the winners’ Guelaguetza report will be featured in the next winter edition of our newspaper ‘Ola London for us all to ogle at.

We’re really excited to be able to offer such a brilliant prize and are hugely grateful to the amazing people at the Mexican Tourist Board, British Airways, The Oaxacan Tourist Board and Hostal de la Noria for making this trip a possibility.

So what are you waiting for? Get your pens out and get writing…

Terms and Conditions

This competition is open to all persons resident in the UK or Republic of Ireland, aged 18 Years or over except employees of the promoter and its subsidiaries, anyone professionally connected with this prize draw and immediate family members of any of the above persons.  BA reserves the right to verify the eligibility of Eligible Participants.  By taking part in this promotion, Eligible Participants confirm that they accept the terms and conditions set out below.

Entries must be submitted via email to Ola@wahaca.co.uk no later than May 31st and must be no longer than 500 words.

The prize: Two flights with British Airways travelling World Traveller class return from London Heathrow to Mexico City and connecting flights to Oaxaca, Double occupancy accommodation in Hostal de la Noria, Oaxaca, Airport to hotel transfers in Oaxaca and entrance for two to the Guelaguetza celebrations.

Flights depart from London Heathrow on 18th July and return to London on 25th July.

The prize is not transferable and no cash or credit alternatives will be offered.  The prize-winner will be responsible for all transfers to and from the airports, insurance, visa if necessary and spending money.

BA reserves the right to provide a substitute prize of similar value should the specified prize become unavailable for any reasons beyond its reasonable control. 

BA reserves the right to cancel or amend without notice these terms and any tickets or vouchers issued free in the event of major catastrophe, war, earthquake or any actual, anticipated or alleged breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other circumstances beyond the reasonable control of BA.

This prize draw is governed by English law and is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts.

The winner will be selected by Thomasina Miers and Mark Selby on the basis of style, creativity and relevance by May 1st and the winner will be notified by email soon after. The winner has 10 working days to respond to the notification. In the event that no contact has been made within this time the promoter reserves the right to award the prize to a second favourite entry.

The winner must agree to submit a short report of around 500 words about the trip, which will be published in the ‘Ola Wahaca newspaper and on our blog. The report must be submitted no later than 10 days after returning from the trip.

The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

The promoter of two prize tickets is British Airways plc (BA), Waterside, PO Box 365, Harmondsworth, UB7 0GB.  Registered Number  1777777 England.

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Photos from an Oaxacan

Last week we were lucky enough to get a visit from Daniel Molina, who came in to sample our wares. He’s a potographer from Mexico, Oaxaca to be precise.

Keen to support those from the area that has supported us so well, we thought we’d share some of the brilliant work he’s done, with you good people.

The selection below is taken from his gallery of pictures entitled, “This is not London”. Now, not wanting to be pedantic, but I’ve had a hard look, and I’m pretty sure it is, I guess that’s just the Mexican sense of humour. Anyway, we’ll let you decide.

If you like this small foray into Daniel’s work, then be sure to check out his website for more of the same. And indeed if you know of any other up and coming Mexican photographers or artists, please let us know by commenting below. We’d love to make it a regular feature on the blog.

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Huitlacoche – The Mexican Corn Truffle

Mexico is the 5th most biodiverse country in the world and on a recent trip to Oaxaca we saw how many incredible different types of produce they have just in their local markets. Coming from a UK supermarket where everything is flown in from all around the world it is pretty incredible visiting these markets where all the produce is locally grown and the variety is incredible.

Huitlacoche is one of those Mexican produce that is impossible to get fresh in the UK so at Wahaca we get it brought in from Mexico canned. (We are hoping to encourage some British farmers to grow the huitlacoche for us!)

It is a very new flavour and ingredient in the UK and it is through Wahaca that many are probably trying it for the first time. Probably half the time not knowing what they are eating but hopefully enjoying the flavours.

I therefore thought it would be good to tell you all a little more about this ingredient.

Huitlacoche growing on the corn

Huitlacoche is a fungal, and in Mexico a culinary delicacy, that grows on ears of corn as they ripen after a heavy rain or period of high moisture. While most farmers will treat it like an infectious affliction that ruins corn crops, it has a long history in the cuisine of the Aztecs, Hopi & Zuni.

The Zuni Indians call the corn fungus corn-soot and say it symbolizes the “generation of life” whereas farmers have called it smut, soot or devil’s corn. The word huitlacoche comes from two words in Nahuatl, the language of ancient Aztecs occupying the area that became Mexico.

“Huitlatl” means excrement and “coche” means raven which apparently is named so because the first time Aztec farmers discovered it they saw the grey appearance on the corn and thought it was ravens excrement. Fortunately as some of the best culinary discoveries have been made someone decided to try it out and discovered one of the most appreciated delicacies in Mexican cuisine. For more information click here for the Wikipedia page.

Fresh huitlacoche, Casa Oaxaca and Alejandro Ruiz

Huitlacoche has been used in Mexican cuisine since then adding a rich, earthy and pungent flavour to stews, tamales, taquitos and quesadillas. We cooked with it in Mexico at Casa Oaxaca with renowned Mexican chef Alejandro Ruiz.

I took lots of photos while going around the markets of Oaxaca of the produce… click here for a few of these.

Created with flickr slideshow.

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The Mystery of Mezcal

You might have heard the news about the opening of our brand spanking new cocktail and Mezcal bar in Canary Wharf which is already serving a fantastic range of tongue tingling cocktails to the good people of Canada Square. You might even have read our post with a little background information about the “Elixir of the Gods” that is Mezcal. But we thought we’d share this beautiful film produced by the Oaxaca State Government, which brings to life all of the passion that has been bottled up in the production of this mysterious spirit for generations.

We’re always keen to hear from you, so please let us know if you have any Mezcal stories, or any favourite Mezcal cocktails by commenting below.