Monday, November 14, 2011

Bringing Mexico Home: Horchata


I love food, and I love travel. Experiencing life in a different place, tasting new flavors, smelling salty or unfamiliar air and trying to capture it in my memory or through the lens of my camera resets my soul, makes me smile and reminds me of what life offers.

sunrise in  Mazatlán, Mexico

 sunset in Mazatlán, Mexico

One year ago, I was recovering from surgery to remove more thyroid cancer. A year later, I’m feeling the sand between my toes, listening to the waves crash on the beach, and enjoying a culinary tour of Mazatlán, Mexico.

One thing I love to bring home is a favorite taste to make in my own kitchen. Mazatlán is known as the Pearl of the Pacific. For me, the pearl-colored beverage, Horchata (or-CHA-tah), will always remind me of Mazatlán and Mexico. It was also one of the first things I looked up when I got home.

If you love rice pudding, then Horchata is rice pudding in liquid form: rice (along with nuts sometimes) and cinnamon are soaked in water (or milk) and then sweetened and flavored with vanilla and other spices and finally strained and poured over ice.

“In Spain horchata was made with with ground melon seeds but given the seeds were not available in the new world the Spaniards substituted the readily available squash seeds. Later almonds and rice were brought to the new world and incorporated into the drink as it is prepared today.”
(from link)

I tasted the best Horchata at a small village restaurant called El Mesón de los Laureanos in El Quelite just 45 minutes outside of Mazatlán. It wasn’t too sweet and quenched my thirst after a hot morning of sun and tequila tasting.

Horchata (from the Latin word hordeum, which means "barley" or Orxata in Catalan) was introduced to Spain by the Moors. The original Spanish version is made with ground tiger nuts (chufas) and is popular in Valencia (from link). Legend says that James I the Conqueror, King of Aragon, tasted the drink and exclaimed:

"Açò és or, xata!"
"That's gold, darling!"

Variations include almonds, lime zest, or even pecans and popcorn. Momofuku Milk Bar serves a Horchata Soft Serve Ice Cream with Cinnamon. And adding a dash of Tequila can improve its already soothing qualities. Salud!

Recipe for Horchata

For Horchata Base:
6 tablespoons long-grained rice
2 cinnamon sticks
2½ cups warm water

For sugar syrup:
½ cup sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To finish:
Milk, to taste
Ground cinnamon and nutmeg, for garnish

In a blender, blend the rice to break it up into small pieces. In a large bowl, blend the rice, cinnamon sticks and water. Cover and store in the refrigerator for 6 hours, or overnight.

To make the sugar syrup, melt sugar and water in a medium-heavy pot over medium-high heat until the sugar is melted. Add the vanilla. Let cool.

Remove the cinnamon sticks from the rice mixture. Strain the rice mixture through cheesecloth and squeeze out the rice to get the entire flavor out of the rice. Add the sugar syrup, to taste.

To finish, in a blender add 1 cup of the strained-rice/sugar-syrup mixture and ½ cup milk (or to taste). Blend until frothy. Pour into a glass and garnish with ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

For Horchata Coffee, prepare a double espresso. Froth ½ cup milk with ½ cup Horchata. Mix and garnish with ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

Bucket List
• Taste tiger nut Horchata in Valencia or Catalonia
• Taste Horchata Soft Serve Ice Cream with Cinnamon at Momofuku Milk Bar

The Bojon Gourmet: Horchata Ice Cream
TastyType: Horchata Ice Cream 
Vampire Weekend – Horchata: “In December, drinking horchata | I'd look psychotic in a balaclava”


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    Disclosure: I would like to thank for inviting me to the 2011 Gran Fiesta Amigos. All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared on my blog are completely my own.


    Andrew said...

    Those photos sum up exactly what I associate with Mexico - sunshine, vibrant colours and food! Just add some ruins, dessert and jungle and its all there!

    Holly Bruns said...

    I can make my own! I never thought of that. Thanks Shari.

    Jessica said...

    As the final step, do you blend 1 cup of the rice that you strained out of the blended rice liquid, or is this a cup of fresh rice? Thanks!

    Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

    Thanks for your comments, Andrew & Holly!

    Jessica, you use the strained rice mixture in the final step. Thanks for asking the question. I've edited the post so I hope it's clearer now. :)

    Mother Rimmy said...

    Wonderful photos - boy do I wish I were there right now! I've never had Horchata. I think I'm missing out!

    Anonymous said...

    LOVE Horchata! and now I am day dreaing about being in Mexico- Beautiful pictures!

    Nicola said...

    Hi there! found your blog on google when I was bored at work (shh don't tell them that!). Slowly going back through the entire site but love all the posts (I'm in 2009 now) and wanted to wish you well :)

    Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

    Hey Nicola, thanks for reading and you're so sweet to comment. Going backwards is a luxury, but I'm doing well, thank you for caring! xo ~Shari

    Cooking Rookie said...

    Beautiful photography! And a great drink :)

    Unknown said...

    This looks like a fantastic recipe, and I love your photos! Horchata coffee sounds like my cup of, um, you know...

    Thanks for the link love!

    Anonymous said...

    Interesting! I just recently discovered horchata and had no idea about its history. I love your historical information about how the preparation has changed depending on geography.