Yesterday, we interviewed Julieta Ballesteros about her newest venture, China Latina. She talked about the marriage of Latin and Chinese cuisine and where she gets her inspiration. Today, Ballesteros reveals that she will eat anything that people give her including one of her favorite dishes from Hidalgo, Mexico — ant larvae.
New York often gets a lot of beef for not having good, traditional Mexican restaurants. What makes your restaurants stand out?
My cuisine is really authentic. Of course, it has been through an evolution. It’s not like the Tex-Mex or Southwestern food you see. People get confused about that. When people think about Mexican food, they think Tex-Mex, like fajitas and nachos. But it’s not that at all. Authentic Mexican food is more refined. It’s more elaborate. My food takes hours to make. It’s like an art.
You also have a background in French technique. How do you incorporate that in your dishes?
My restaurants are fine-dining. My background is French cuisine, French technique, and French presentation. So in all of my cuisines, I try to have that element and that touch with details. You know, nice and clean and the portion is not too big and not too small.
Mexico and Latin America has been in the food spotlight for a while now. Where are some culinary hot spots you would recommend?
Oaxaca has beautiful ethnic food. It’s where you can get black chilies. They can’t grow in other parts of Mexico because of the soil. That’s how you make the black mole. Also Hidalgo. They were the ones who introduced the fried yucca in Mexico. Also it’s where you can get escamoles, which are the eggs from the ants. It’s a big ant. They serve that with hot spices, garlic, a little bit of cilantro, and you eat it with a fresh handmade tortilla.
Wow. Ants eggs? Is there anything you won’t eat?
No. I love food and we should try everything — especially when you are a chef. You should always try everything no matter what.
Any upcoming projects or are you just focusing on China Latina?
There’s a lot of work to do here at China Latina. The response has been really good. People are really excited about it. The Chinese and Latin ingredients really go well together and people are impressed that it works.