Home Away From Home?
People are always saying to me that they had Tex-Mex in New York City or at a restaurant in Florida.
And I’m always saying, “No, you didn’t.”
Not to get to picky about what is and isn’t Tex-Mex, because that’s a debate that books have been written about, but when I’m talking Tex-Mex, I mean the kind of made from scratch, hopefully with real lard, from recipes handed down through generations. The kind of grub you can really only get in South Texas. The kind I first ate as a kid visiting my grandparents’ ranch in Poteet, at that little diner with the plastic checkered tablecloths that exists only in my memory now.
When I think Tex-Mex I think of combo plates with enchiladas and gravy, maybe a fried egg on top, Spanish rice and refried beans. And chili con queso topped with spicy picadillo and lots and lots of hot, fresh tortilla chips.
I once ate at the aforementioned Tex-Mex restaurant in Florida and the food was about par with Taco Bell. I’m not knocking Taco Bell, but I’m just saying if you go to Florida, eat at seafood restaurants.
But now versions of Tex-Mex have spread, probably along with the diaspora of Texans, around the world.
When I’m talking Tex-Mex I mean the kind of made from scratch from recipes handed down through generations. The kind of grub you can really only get in South Texas.
As for so-called Mexican and Tex-Mex eateries in other countries, the last time I was abroad, and yes it was a long time ago, there was not a sign of a tortilla anywhere in Europe, so I’m no authority on this. Which is why I turned to my sister.
Sis is a real globetrotter who hasn’t lived in the United States in so long she barely remembers we have 50 states. Okay, I kid. She hasn’t been gone that long, but it’s been a while.
So when she comes home to visit Texas she wants to eat Tex-Mex. Three times a day if possible.
But she recently moved from a country where she had electricity at only certain times of the day to Bangkok. Now, besides living in a city of some 7 million people, where the gridlock makes Houston traffic look like a stroll in the park, she’s been thrilled to have constant electricity and hot and cold running water. And Tex-Mex.
The very first day she arrived, she ate at a place called Coyote. The very first day.
“The chef is Thai,” she explained on Skype the other day. “But he was trained at the Hong Kong headquarters.”
A Burgeoning Market
Coyote has several locations, including three in Thailand. The one in Bangkok apparently is wildly popular with foreigners, in part because of the huge margarita bar. One of the 75 margaritas served here is a mint chocolate margarita. Oh hell no. That’s just wrong.
The website says the restaurant serves “classic Mexican dishes alongside the adventurous and ultra-hip Southwest U.S. cuisine such as quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas and Coyote (sic) very own cowboy skewers.”
Who knew burritos were ultra-hip?
Anyway, Sis went with the “ultra-hip” enchiladas. Spinach and mushroom, to be exact.
“They were pretty good,” she reports. “My friend had the nachos, and she liked them.”
Not exactly a stellar recommendation, but hey, better than nothing when you need a Texas food fix.
Apparently a lot of folks agree, because there are several restaurants in Bangkok serving up nachos and enchiladas. According to the Bangkok Post, there are 27 restaurants dishing up versions of Mexican, Tex-Mex and Southwestern U.S. food.
Sis also tried a well-known place called Charley Brown’s. She reports the soft tacos were pretty good, and she says she has a friend who knows of another place that actually has a chef from Mexico.
And she went back to Coyote the other day for fajitas.
“I could have had something more exciting, but the fajitas were a lunch special for 199 Thai baht, less than $7, and Bangkok is expensive,” she says. “You can order chips with all kinds of things to dip, including queso with chorizo and a sun-dried tomato and mango salsa. But they don’t put chips and salsa on the table for free like Texas.”
She also took photos of the fajitas and the staff, which showed to Christian over at El Real Tex-Mex, who recognized the fajita platter, but when he looked at the staff picture, he figured it was a Tex-Mex eatery in an “alternate universe.”
Which, basically, it is. But it’s still just nachos, enchiladas, fajitas and tacos. And it’s nice to know that if you find yourself in that part of the universe, there are places you can go to get a taste of home.
“All the food was pretty good,” Sis says. “Coyote is the best so far, but, no, it’s not as good as home.”
Yep. There’s no place like Texas.