Experience Authentic Mexican Cuisine Right Here In Kuala Lumpur

La Mexicana in Kuala Lumpur

Look at this food map of Mexico! (Source: Internet)


My first memory of anything Mexican was watching ‘Maria Mercedes‘ subtitled into Bahasa Melayu. It was so horrible that I didn’t bother watching it except when the theme song was playing during the opening and closing credit. 

And then there is the Tex-Mex cuisine which often confused people outside America including myself, thinking, “Oh, hey, this is Mexican dish!“. Of course, there is some truth in it, since the word ‘Tex-Mex‘ itself is a portmanteau of Texan and Mexican

*Note: Tex-Mex cuisine refers to the fusion of Ameican and Mexican cuisine, derived from the culinary creations of the Tejanos. Tejanos is the Spanish term for Texan. Among popular Tejanos include Selena Gomez and Eva Longoria. Being originated by the Spanish culture in Texas, Tex-Mex has grown from the South-Western of the United States of America, to the rest of the country and of course, Tex-Mex cuisine is also quite popular in Malaysia especially among those who love Western dishes. In Tex-Mex cuisine, it’s very common to see the excessive use of shredded cheese, meat, beans and spices. 
(Source: Wikipedia)

Welcome to La Mexicana, your gateway to true Mexican experience


Actually, I’ve been planning to do a review at La Mexicana for quite some time. Since 10th September 2014 actually, when I first met Chef Carmela De Ponte and her husband, Stephen Dennison at the Mexican National Day celebration at Hotel Renaissance, KL. It all started with me bumping into Mr. Jose Bustinza, the Deputy Head of Mission of the Peruvian Embassy in Malaysia who always sends me invitation to the Peruvian events. He introduced me to his friend, Joshua Norman from the American Embassy and with boys being boys, they were arguing about the history of tequila and mezcal. 

Mr. Bustinza said, tequila and mezcal were produced from two different plants while Joshua insisted that they were the same plant only from different districts in Mexico. Joshua made a RM100 bet that he was right. Of course, I was there as the referee. The tricky part was, none of us was a native Mexican. So, I called a couple of Mexicans whom I bumped into earlier and got them to help me with the bet. Even Amanda and her friends couldn’t really tell. 


Chef Carmela De Ponte and husband, Stephen Dennison of La Mexicana


That’s when Amanda called Carmela De Ponte who was a Mexican chef. Aha, could we go wrong with a Mexican chef in the house? So, Chef Carmela explained that tequila and mezcal were produced from different plants. But Joshua, a typical American that he was, he actually Googled and it turned out that, both Mr. Bustinza and Joshua were right. Tequila is produced from blue agave, while mezcal is produced from maguey which is actually a different species of agave, haha! So, they both won the bet.

Honestly, I was glad because I got to meet Chef Carmela and her husband. Stephen invited me to do a review at La Mexicana but I just couldn’t find the time. And just recently, with me transferring to a new department, I managed to find time to come to La Mexicana with my colleague, Mel Muzammil aka MelZura


Everything spells L.A. M.E.X.I.C.A.N.A. here!
Please, have a sit and enjoy the rest of the day at La Mexicana
The view in La Mexicana will leave you longing to fly to Mexico soon enough

Stepping into La Mexicana was already a pleasant experience as I was intrigued with the Mexican theme from the cactus plants outside the restaurant to the colourful decorations, all flown in from Mexico. What better way to enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine other than in a true Mexican atmosphere? And don’t forget the sexxxayyy Latino songs filling up the air.

Among the Mexican decorations that you can see at La Mexicana 
Look at these cute yet prickly cactus plants!


According to Chef Carmela De Ponte, she was professionally trained to cook authentic Italian cuisine as her father was from Italy, while her mother was Mexican. Before following her husband to Malaysia, Chef Carmela had three restaurants, all specializing in Italian food. Having spent 18 hours on a daily basis cooking and managing her restaurants, she finally decided to hang her apron for good and live life as a housewife. “I swore, never to open a restaurant again, it was too tiring,” said Chef Carmela.

The embroided cloths hanging from the ceiling are also flown in from Mexico
Among the wooden decorations signifying the Mexican identity

And she broke her words, which of course, was a great thing for all of us not having to lose another great chef in Malaysia, one who brought the real Mexican taste to Malaysian shores. Starting with catering commissions by the Embassy of Mexico in Malaysia, Chef Carmela‘s cooking earned her die-hard fans who seek the authentic taste of Mexican food and not Tex-Mex. Since 2012, La Mexicana has been a favourite hang-out among food lovers, especially among the Mexican community in Malaysia. 

It was a privilege, having to meet one of the best chefs, Chef Carmela De Ponte

While chatting with Chef Carmela to find out more about the real deal Mexican cuisine, Chef Carmela served horchata and Agua de Jamaica drinks on ice! Horchata is a special Mexican beverage made of rice and milk with a sprinkle of cinnamon to heighten the sweet taste. Agua de Jamaica is actually made of roselle, of course, is no stranger among Malaysians. In fact, Chef Carmela said, hundreds of years ago, traders brought ingredients such as roselle and tamarind from other parts of the world particularly South East Asia to Mexico and the Mexicans began cultivating them for food. 

Honestly, when the roselle tasted just like any other roselle drinks, I fell in love with the taste of horchata. I couldn’t really describe how it tasted like, I think, it’d be best for you to try horchata yourself. It was neither too milky or too starchy, heck, it didn’t even taste like rice! I thought, it was something that I’d love to drink on a hot day.


What wouldn’t I do for another glass of this right now? 


Later, we were served with tacos with various fillings. According to Stephen, many people often confused between tortilla and tacos. Tortilla refer to the flour used to make the flat bread that we all know used to make tacos, quesadillas and burritos. 


Try this tacos with seafood and avocado slices! Yummm! 

Each taco served comes with different condiments to complement the menu. You can request for chicken, beef or seafood filling for your taco, Chef Carmela will recommend the best menu. For the non-Muslim, feel free to order pork dishes. In fact, regular patrons of La Mexicana know Chef Carmela as a chef with visions. And I do mean, visions! Chef Carmela can simply look at you and guess your favourite food. “People think I’m a witch, but I know which food they like best and I recommend those to our guests,” she said again. 


You can eat the tacos with Molcajete sauce

Or just eat them as they are.. When in doubt, ask Chef Carmela



Then, there were the Enchiladas Verde, corn tortillas stuffed with chicken and ooooh, bathed in salsa verde. In case your tongue gets twisted learning all these new Spanish terms, well, salsa means sauce while verde is green. So basically, salsa verde is green sauce made of tomatillos. Like cherry on ice cream, the chicken enchiladas verdes was served with Queso Panela (Panela cheese) on top of it. 


To me, anything with cheese and chicken is the best, enough said!


The highlight during this lunch review was definitely the Nopal Asado con Queso, the grilled nopales cactus or Prickly Pear cactus with Panela cheese. I’m known among my friends as someone who loves salads and other types of vegetable dishes (and yes, I’m still fat). Honestly, I was extremely eager to try to nopal asado con queso and I was amazed with the unique taste of nopales. It was a fresh and crunchy, with a tinge of bitter-taste but was well-blended with the slightly salty taste of Panela cheese. With the sweet-sour salsa verde, I believed the best way to describe this explosion of taste was ‘heavenly‘. 


Ever thought of eating cactus pads? 


Chef Carmela told me, the nopales were known to have many nutrients including calcium and Vitamin C and also contained properties to assist in weight and cholesterol management. “In Mexico, you’ll see many overweight women but you’ll be surprised to know that they don’t have cholesterol issues,” she said. 

She also informed me on the current gastronomic trends in Mexico now. Apparently, after receiving recognition as part of the food cultural heritage by UNESCO along with French, Italian, Chinese and Indian cuisine, various Mexican groups are currently going to every village in Mexico to look for authentic recipes. According to Chef Carmela, back in the days, mothers only passed on recipes verbally and there was no written guide to all those amazing recipes, hence the effort to trace every single recipe before it becomes lost. 


Food, glorious food! 

On top of that, Mexicans are going back to the very basic of food, something that is inspired from the Aztec era where only the freshest ingredients and source of food are used. “Now, people are beginning to eat insects as they are not contaminated by chemicals and have high contents of protein and Omega 3. By the way, these are not the cockroaches that you have at home, we’re talking about the ones from the forest and mountains. In fact, the ant’s eggs are now known as the Mexican caviar,” Chef Carmela explained. 

Chef Carmela shared a funny incident that took place when she was back in Mexico to visit her family. “I followed my relatives to their ranch and they took me to the mountains for a little picnic. Then, they prepared something for me and I asked them what it was. They just told me to eat it first. It was one of the best things I’ve ever tried. After I finished eating it, only later my relatives told me to look around. I did and I saw snake skins hanging. Then, I knew, it wasn’t chicken that I ate,” she said, laughing.


Chef Carmela is proud of her own little garden


Continuing to talk about her passion for food, Chef Carmela said, her father always reminded her, if she wanted to have her own restaurant she must make sure that her family and friends eat there too. That was a good indicator that the food that she serves is of high quality. In fact, she grows some of the herbs and spices herself. She also spends time to make her own tortilla bread and Panela cheese which she also sells. The ones that she doesn’t grow, she will make sure she gets the best and freshest. 


Another plant that she brought in from Mexico


So, up for another adventure in the gastronomic world? Well, La Mexicana is the place. Of course, must always remember, it’s a non-halal restaurant so for those who are sensitive about this sort of things, then, better not go. 

Visit La Mexicana which is located right behind Hock Chun building at Jalan Ampang

Address: 

241 – B – Lorong Nibong,
Off Jalan Ampang,
50450 Kuala Lumpur


For reservations, please call +603-4253 5251.

Visit their website for further info: authmexicancuisine.com

See you in the next confession!

All my love, XOXO,
Miss Paris




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