Mexican street food gets a contemporary twist (while staying true to its roots) at one of Singapore’s most authentic Mexican restaurants in CHIJMES
Ask anyone for an opinion on Mexican food, and you’ll most likely hear a comment about tacos, burritos, and nachos. And it’s not surprising, considering that these are the culinary symbols of Mexico. But this simple, comforting cuisine has so much more to offer, as this authentic Mexican restaurant, El Mero Mero, was about to show me.
What is ‘authentic Mexican’?
Believe it or not, but ingredients like beef, cheddar cheese, black beans, and wheat flour aren’t traditionally part of Mexican cuisine. Instead, these are modern additions influenced by Texan cuisine. This contemporary Mexican restaurant, however – while decidedly forward-looking in terms of its flavours – remains anchored in tradition with its corn flour tortillas and omission of American cheeses and bean-heavy Tex-Mex dishes.
Our first taste of El Mero Mero was the street corn sampler that featured grilled baby corn, huitlacoche, cotija and chilli mayo – and in case you’re wondering, the huitlacoche is a Mexican delicacy resembling a dark brown donut that’s not often found in Singapore. You might be interested to know that the soft, richly-flavoured fried snack owes its taste to a rather unappetising-looking pathogenic fungus (corn smut) that grows on corn. But my first taste of huitlacoche made it very easy to look past its fungal origins.
Slow-cooked before receiving a quick char in El Mero Mero’s Josper charcoal grill, the Atlantic octopus is a prime example of seafood done right. The perfectly cooked arm is tender and lightly seasoned to complement the heavier creamed sweet corn that’s served with it – a balancing act of flavours that brings it all together.
But you can’t possibly visit El Mero Mero and not try their tacos. The dish here, is authentic as it comes. The restaurant owns the only tortilla factory in Singapore, ensuring that the tortillas served are done precisely to El Mero Mero’s standards. I opted for the grilled wild fish tacos. The dish features lightly fried white fish with chipotle mayo and two Japanese-influenced ingredients – tempura battered shishito pepper and onions. While a slight departure from the restaurant’s usual authenticity, the fusion of ingredients works delightfully.
In five words…
Street food without the street.
El Mero Mero, #01-20 Chijmes, 30 Victoria Street, Singapore 187996. p. 6337 1377. Open Thu-Sat 12pm-3pm, 5pm-1am; Sun-Wed 12pm-3pm, 5pm-1am.