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.”
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
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.
• 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 www.gomazatlan.com 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.