For Foodies: The Mexicali Hot Shop
Getting your Mexican fix in Prague
I thought marrying a Mexican would come with some benefits in the food department, you know, homemade tortillas, Grandma’s mole recipe, guacamole with every meal… My husband rationally pointed out that in Mexico you just go to the tortillería where 9.90 pesos (about 15 CZK) buys you 1 kilo of tortillas, plus they give you a freebie to nibble on while you wait in line—almost nobody makes them. I guess it’d be the equivalent of baking your own rohlíky at home.
I eagerly await the annual visit to the in-Iaws to gorge myself on rich, chocolaty mole and carne asada wrapped up in fresh corn tortillas (of course I’m happy to see my in-laws too). Until now, whatever myriad collection of canned goods and bottled hot sauce I could cram in my suitcase had to tide me over between trips to Mexico. But what if I told you that I found a place here in Prague that sells both mole and fresh corn tortillas? And I’m talking must-use-in-three-days fresh, not that strange, canary yellow variety of tortillas sold in Tesco and Albert. Yep, that’s right. The Mexicali Hot Shop supplies all the products you need for your Mexican fix.
“Our shop is great because the people really know Mexican food,” says owner Clint Koch, a Texan who’s lived in the Czech Republic for eighteen years. He’s trying to promote the authentic Mexican taste here, none of this Czech-Mex business. The flour for the tortillas is imported directly from Mexico and he carries the La Costeña line of products in his shop. “We’re always trying to boost the variety of what we offer,” he adds.
I’m already plenty impressed with what’s on offer. You can buy typical things like chips and salsa or something more exotic like cuitlacoche, nicknamed Aztec caviar. A variety of colorful salsas adorn the shelves, ranging from your classic red or green salsas to habanero hot sauces. They even sell tamale kits with corn husks and seasonings in case you dare to make your own.
Clint says the tortilla chips, tortillas and various seasonings are his top sellers. It’s easy to see why—a 400g bag of restaurant style chips is only 46 CZK. In addition, they just came out with a new line of chips called Sabor Especial, with fun flavors like habanero, jalapeño coriander lime and chipotle adobo. The chips and tortillas are produced in Mochov under the brand-name Nuevo Progreso.
The whole time I was politely listening about the different products, I couldn’t take my eyes off the pozole (112 CZK). Of course this thick pork and hominy stew is best sampled from a big cauldron at a market stall in Mexico, but what’s a girl in Prague to do? The cuitlacoche (165 CZK) grabbed my attention as well; I mean, it’s not often you see corn fungus sold in a can. By the time I walked out of the shop, I had acquired two bags laden with chips, salsas, tortillas, pozole, cuitlacoche, mole and seasonings. Get ready stomach, here we come!
Once home, I barely managed to hang up my jacket and set my bag down before digging into the chips and salsa. The plain restaurant style chips get my vote over the fancy Sabor Especial ones because the salsa is so tangy and flavorful you don’t want to detract from it. That said, if you’re into flavored nacho chips, the Nuevo Progreso version is much better—they don’t leave that salty, chemical aftertaste in your mouth. Of all the La Costeña salsas, my favorite, as usual, was the salsa verde (250g 47 CZK)—I have a weakness for tomatillos (green tomatoes).
After the pre-dinner snack, it was time for the main event: pozole. And boy did that hit the spot. As far as canned soup goes, the quality is amazing. To spruce it up a bit, top the pozole with shredded lettuce, sliced radishes, a dash of dried oregano and some freshly squeezed lime or lemon—your friends will never guess it’s from a can.
Round two was scheduled for the following night, with cuitlacoche quesadillas appearing on the menu. I had chosen the 6” corn tortillas (40 pcs/78.5 CZK) with that in mind. (Also on offer: a 6” thinner version for frying and 4” taquito size.) For the quesadillas, we used some mild Gouda cheese and spooned a bit of cuitlacoche inside each one. I wouldn’t use a stronger cheese, like cheddar, because you don’t want to overpower the earthy, mushroom-y taste of the cuitlacoche.
At the shop, I discovered the tortillas come frozen, and at first, I was a bit leery of the whole fresh- frozen oxymoron, but once defrosted, my husband stepped in for a closer inspection, and he practically shed tears of joy at the authentic smell (not to mention the taste). I was able to separate the amount I needed and stick the rest back in the freezer for a later date. Once defrosted, Clint recommends keeping them in the fridge and using them within three days.
Before your rumbling stomach drives you to hop on the yellow line to Českomoravská, where the brick-and-mortar shop is located, check out the website first. You can order online and either pick-up your goods in person or have them delivered for an extra 132 CZK. They’ll even package your chips and salsas separately at no additional charge, so your chips don’t get crushed en route. The only product unavailable for delivery is the fresh tortillas.
If you’re looking for authentic taste at good value for money, the Mexicali Hot Shop meets both criteria, although a part of me is worried that a stampede of hungry expats will cause a price hike. On the bright side, the cost of fresh tortillas, minus a spendy plane ticket to Mexico, is a bargain no matter what the final bill.
WHERE: Kovářská 939/4, Prague 9
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: subway or bus 151, 158, or 375 to Českomoravská
OPENING HOURS: Monday-Friday 09:00-17:00
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