Plato sin carne: Dig that egg.
If you ever tire of Mexican food (I know, fat chance) and want to branch out into other cuisines of Latin America, make sure you head up to Mi Cocina Mi Pais, a little storefront eatery in a busy strip mall on West Bell Road near 44th Avenue. There you'll find food from places like Peru and Ecuador.
I zipped up there for lunch the other day and found lots of unique and zesty flavors. Many of the entrees are $12 and $13, but there are a few Budget Beat-appropriate prices on the menu, especially when it comes to appetizers such as tamales.
I had a Mexican green tamale ($1.85) and an Ecuadorean tamale ($2.65). Both were excellent. When done right, there's nothing better than a tamale, and these were done right -- hot and fresh-tasting with moist masa, not the dried-out, made-days-ago stuff that a lot of eateries seem to serve. The Ecuadorean variety was especially yummy. It contained seasoned pork with chunks of vegetables and pieces of aji (a hot pepper found in Peru). The thing was bursting in flavor and two of them darn near filled me up.
Sanduche de Puerco: The salsa is the secret weapon. (Photos by Laura Hahnefeld)
Thankfully, the aji appeared elsewhere on the menu, including in a salsa that came with the sanduche de puerco that I ordered. At $4.75, the pork sandwich may be the best deal on the menu. Served on a crusty bread, the sandwich featured a juicy piece of seasoned pork and a piece of lettuce. As it was served, the sandwich was tasty, but when embellished with that aji salsa, it became a thing of beauty.
The missus ordered the plato sin carne, a meatless entree featuring flan, plantain, rice, and lentils. But the expected treat on this plate was the over-easy fried egg. Like the aji salsa I mentioned, the egg just kicked this platter up a notch. Highly recommended.
Finally, I have to make mention of a beverage on the menu that was flat-out delicious. It's called chicha morado, a purple fruit drink that was sweet without tasting too sugary. It was touted as having large amounts of vitamin a, vitamin c, protein, and phosphorus, but even if it didn't have all that good-for-you stuff, it made for essential quaffing.
For a taste of something different, Mi Cocina is one to keep in mind next time you're thinking of south-of-the-border tastes. -- Jay Bennett
Mi Cocina Mi Pais
4221 West Bell Road