Some years ago we were on a bus to Muswell Hill, and we saw the sign for a big-looking shop called “Rupashi Bangla Cash and Carry”, which got me very excited.
It was the year that I had got the “Fresh India” book from Meera Sodha and I was very happy to be learning about Indian food.
I was also on the lookout for supplies, because oftentimes they were whimsically, inexplicably, unavailable from supermarkets. So the sight of a big shop that could sell a huge variety of these things under the same roof and in big portions was MEGA thrilling to me. Thus we said we’d visit some time—after all, it is a short walk from our place.
That was in 2017. I finally went there last Saturday. It only took four years, but I did it.
And I got big portions of chickpeas and lentils, and I was fascinated by the huge variety and portions of spices and beans on sale—way, way wider selection than in my nearby supermarkets.
But that’s not the most exciting bit…
I was standing outside the cash & carry, adjusting my mask and etc, before entering. Since this area is not one I normally frequent, I was what you could describe as “highly vigilant” or trying to be aware of my surroundings. Which is why I noticed something else—a sign that said “Mestizo market”, next door.
“Hmm, that sounds Mexican”, I thought. But I decided to focus on the primary task (getting copious amounts of legumes) first. And then I walked next door, ready to figure out what was this Mexican sounding market.
The shop window was a delicious cornucopia of Mexican-ness. Mexican products mixed with plastic vegetables for decoration, and lots of funny signs in Spanish which I felt were the honey in the honeypot for curious cats like me. I had to come in and investigate!
Inside, it was like entering a parallel universe in which the product names and signs are in Spanish, but either I do not recognise what most of them are or I do not know how to use them. Chillies, pastes, sauces, corn tortas of various colours, flours, beans, several preparations to make hot chocolate in different ways, aguas frescas, horchata, beers, wines, exotic looking confectionary, and of course skulls and other Mexican classics…
What a delicious overload!
Of course I got out with a packet of totopos and a bottle of concentrated horchata. For science.
Then a thought formed in my head: I should cook Mexican food on Sunday, so I can eat the totopos and drink the horchata.
Except… I did not know how to do that.
There’s the internet, of course, but it can be overwhelming (where do you start??). But Devvers has a collection of small pocket-sized books titled “The Best Of… [ insert name of country ]” and although they’re a touch old-fashioned and sometimes a bit stereotypical, they are also pretty good as a starting point.
I browsed through the “Best of Mexico” book and found recipes for frijoles and Mexican rice. And that’s what we ate on Sunday! And what we had on Monday for lunch, because these dishes are very conducive to batch-cooking, I realised.
It tasted quite believable! And for once when I try to cook Mexican, it did not taste Spanish!
It was interesting to learn a few new things too: cooking the beans with the chilli, mashing a few of them to thicken the sauce, toasting the rice before cooking… and of course I’m now contemplating the deep internet abyss that is opening before my eyes and promises to illuminate me about All Things Mexican Food And How They Connect To Spanish Cuisine.
See you in 2025 I guess! 😂
In the meantime, if you want to look at these shops on your own, here are the addresses:
Rupashi Bangla Cash & Carry – 93-97 Hampstead Road, Camden, London, NW1 3EL
Mestizo Market – 101 Hampstead Road, London NW1 3EL – They also have a website https://mestizomarket.com/ and an associated restaurant (next door!).
I’ve also added them to my list of useful shops in London and the UK.