Apparently Friday nights are taco nights in Sweden. There’s some understanding (thanks to a clearly ridiculously successful marketing campaign) that Friday nights are for cosy nights in with tacos (or pizza) and junk food; there’s even a word for it – Fredagsmys (cosy Friday). Swedish tacos are … very different from Mexican tacos and perhaps are more similar to those eaten of the Old El Paso kit variety here in the UK. Actually there are some clear differences from these as well as this hilarious Reddit post illustrates.

Anyway, I thought of this tradition as I munched away on some excellent Mexican food in Sweden. We’ll rewind to half an hour prior to proper tacos – after a few days of butter and cream, I couldn’t face another very rich cream-laden Swedish meal. I contemplated the highly rated vegan Chinese place near my Airbnb flat but when I saw the reviews for La Neta, a Mexican joint just a little further walk away, tacos tacos tacos consumed my mind.

The restaurant on Barnhusgatan is tiny – it’s a basement joint with a large kitchen (I believe they make their tortillas on site) and shared dining tables and a counter by the window. Queue at the till, place your order, find a seat, and pick up your order when your buzzer goes.

I had one each of the tacos on offer that day: Tacos de Pastor (marinated pork with pineapple), Suadero (a slow cooked beef), Bistec (grilled steak). They were 22 kr each and were served on homemade corn tortillas.

Tacos

Of course, tacos are not complete without a salsa bar – and I’m glad to report that La Neta had a little one! I added the chopped onions and coriander and helped myself to the green and red salsas on offer. From what I can see on Instagram, their salsas are made fresh each day. They were perfect – the tacos and the salsas. The meats were all tender and flavourful and tacos just looked right. An aside: I read recently that La Neta was opened by two natives of Monterey, California, both of whom missed the Mexican food they could get easily back home – these were legit tacos.

Tacos and Salsas

There were quesadillas too.

Quesadillas

had a Rajas (poblano chili, courgette, corn, onion and philadelphia – 28 kr) …

Rajas

… and a Choripapa (potato, chili, onion and chorizo – 28 kr). Both were excellent and of note was the Mexican chorizo which was totally on point.

Choripapa

My Mexican dinner hit the spot – and fret not, I went straight back to trying more Swedish foods after my palate was refreshed here. There are freshly made tortilla chips and larger tacos in flour tortillas too. And you can even buy their freshly made corn tortillas by the kilo. I love this place!

La Neta
Barnhusgatan 2
111 23, Stockholm

There’s a second branch on Södermalm.

Over the last long weekend, we found ourselves in our old hood, dropping by on old friends. We lunched at a new Mexican restaurant I’d spotted a few months ago – Habanera, a Mexican restaurant on Uxbridge Road, close to Shepherd’s Bush. The place was empty that Monday and we found a seat in the back, under the skylight, easily.

To take the edge of our hunger, we started with some chips and salsa (£3.50) – I liked that we could choose our salsa and we went with their excellent salsa verde with its tomatillo, coriander and chilli. The chips were whole small corn tortillas that they’d clearly fried themselves – good stuff.

Chips and Salsa Verde

To my delight, there were lots of non-alcoholic options on the drinks menu. A Sandía (watermelon, raspberry & tarragon) (£3.95) was refreshing, as was a homemade lemonade with mint (£2.50).

Drinks

Chicken tinga quesadilla (£5) turned out to be two and they were generously filled with spiced chicken and lots of perfectly toasted cheese.

Chicken Tinga Quesadilla

Carne asada tacos (£5.50) were topped with grilled steak, avocado, and salsa verde. I would have liked some extra hot sauce for these but I didn’t see any bottles until later, behind the counter. Our waitress could have been a bit forthcoming with this.

Carne Asada Tacos

Huevos rancheros (£7) were a generously sized portion of eggs, tomato, avocado and salsa verde again. This would make a fine brunch for one and I liked that they’d properly warmed the flour tortilla on the side.

Huevos Rancheros

The only thing is…we were eating a lot of salsa verde! I wish our waitress had actually looked properly at our order and warned us that the dishes we’d ordered all had salsa verde (they only say that there’s salsa on them). We would have switched the salsa with our chips at the beginning if we had known.

For dessert, I was thrilled to see an impossible cake (£6) on the menu. It also goes by the name chocoflan as, yes, it’s half chocolate cake and half flan. What makes it impossible is how it’s made – one of the batters is poured over the other but it magically separates while in the oven. We got a huge slice to share between us and to make it even more insane, there was a drizzle of dulce de leche or some other caramel on top!

Impossible

Overall, good food and generous sized portions but service needs some stepping up. It’s a great addition to Uxbridge Road though.

Habanera
280 Uxbridge Road
Shepherd’s Bush
London, W12 7JA

Korean/Mexican fusion! That’s the basis behind Kimchinary, started by Hanna Soderlund as a street food stand, and which has currently popped up at the back in The Catch Bar in Shoreditch. If you’ve been following this trend for a while (as I have – I love both cuisines), you’ll know that it’s been around in the States for a while now and Kimchinary is not the only place here in London that’s explored Korean fusion like this. However, it’s possibly one of the most talked about in the city as its menu is quite novel and exciting.

Anyway, by invitation, a friend and I headed to The Catch Bar for the launch night of the Kimchinary popup.

Kimchinary

That night, we had the opportunity to try a number of the tacos on offer (the menu may change since we visited). Tacos are priced at £6 for two and all come on freshly made corn tortillas (excellent!).

Buttermilk fried squid – Pickled pineapple relish, kimchi guac, herb salad – was delicious. The squid was fried to perfection and the accompaniments were excellent with it. I would have liked a bit more heat though – maybe a bit more heat in the kimchi guac or some hot sauce on the side.

Buttermilk fried squid - Pickled pineapple relish, kimchi guac, herb salad

To my surprise, the Braised cavolo nero – Soy pickled enoki, kimchi puree, queso fresco – was one of my favourites that night. There was some great contrast between the ‘green’ cavolo nero, silky mushrooms, tangy cheese. It was very well balanced.

Braised cavolo nero - Soy pickled enoki, kimchi puree, queso fresco

Corn flake chicken thigh – Doenjang buttered corn, potato salad, crispy chicken skin – was promising but needed a bit of kimchi to give it all a kick up the backside. There was a bit too much salt and something sour like lime was required to balance out the oily and creamy.

Corn flake chicken thigh - Doenjang buttered corn, potato salad, crispy chicken skin

“Bulgogi” ox cheek & tongue – Radish kimchi, blackened spring onion, horseradish – the bulgogi beef was delicious and the horseradish did give it all a great kick. I only wished there was more kimchi. Well, to be honest, I absolutely adore kimchi so I’d like lots of it all the time!

"Bulgogi" ox cheek & tongue - Radish kimchi, blackened spring onion, horseradish

The only non-taco we tried that night was the Dukbokki – Rainbow chard, crispy shallots (£4) – and this was my favourite thing to eat that evening. The sticky rice cakes had been deep fried, with a great crust, and then coated with a spicy sweet sticky sauce. Silky strands of chard and crispy shallots and coriander and sesame seeds completed the delectable bowlful.

Dukbokki - Rainbow chard, crispy shallots

Overall, the little bites need a bit more heat and a squeeze of lime here and there but they’re fine little treats otherwise, especially with drinks; I’m sure everything will be ironed out with time. Service at The Catch Bar, however, needs improving. But then I realise that this is a bar, not a restaurant, so I guess that’s ok. Kind of.

Thanks again to Hanna for the invitation! Kimchinary will be at The Catch Bar for three months from January 17.

Kimchinary at The Catch Bar
22 Kingsland Road
Shoreditch
London E2 8DA

The birthday celebrations continued over the weekend and on Sunday, I was taken to brunch by one of my best friends. Mexican food at Mestizo! We’d been saving trying this restaurant for an occasion and this was a good excuse to try their Sunday brunch buffet – only £20 per person! Booking in advance is advised.

Mestizo is located at a funny spot – very close to Euston station but very much feeling like a neighbourhood restaurant what with all the residential buildings around. Anyway, we arrived that Sunday to a very large spread of rather nice things to eat.

Taco Toppings Pork, Chicken and Empanadas

Tamales, Tortilla Chips, Salsas and Soups Salads and Enchiladas

Two gigantic containers of aguas frescas sat at one corner next to desserts and while we could go up to help ourselves, our waitress insisted on bringing over a jug of what we preferred most of the two – horchata (the other was tamarindo). I have a bad feeling I drank a lot of horchata, thus limiting my available eating space!

Horchata

I started with chips and salsa and a taco al pastor. Those homemade salsas were fresh and spicy and zingy and excellent on chips and tacos.

Chips and Salsas

I loved the sweetness from the pineapple with the grilled pork in my taco. Tacos, quesadillas and egg dishes are made by a man watching over a giant hot plate. Orders are placed with him (there’s a list of available fillings behind him) and he’ll call you over again when it’s ready to pick up. Then you go to town with the taco toppings (top left photo in the first batch of 4 in this post).

Taco Al Pastor

From the hot buffet, we tried a bit of everything. Here’s my plate with (roughly clockwise from 10 o’clock) a green chile chicken enchilada, a dried pork dish, stewed beef, chicken in a cream sauce, rice and beans, a tamal with beans, and an empanada with peppers and cheese. The stewed dishes were alright but I loved the simplicity of their beans and their enchilada was excellent. The tamal was delicious but oh so heavy.

A Bit of Everything

Two soups were available that day and both were new to us, thus both requiring sampling. Pozole was a very mild soup with giant corn kernels …

Pozole

… and menudo was tripe-based and the more tasty of the two. I like how soups can also be topped with various ingredients to one’s taste.

Menudo

There was another taco and a few more chips. And then another taco. I think my favourite things to eat there are their tacos.

We had to stop with the savouries to make room for desserts (our waiter insisted that we try them!). Homemade ice creams (that week they had rosemary and strawberry) were intensely creamy and full of flavour. Rosemary and Strawberry Ice Creams (Helados)

Their eggy flan casero was flavoured with orange and was delicious but by that point, we were truly struggling!

Flan Casero

It was a great brunch with a very good varied spread of typical and not so typical Mexican dishes and as it wasn’t too busy that day, they were fine with us lingering past the two hour limit (they have two seatings: one at 12:00 and the other at 14:00). It’s fun, it’s casual and is ideal for large groups. Thanks for the lovely brunch, Roxanne!

Mestizo
103 Hampstead Road
London NW1 3EL

Mestizo on Urbanspoon

I was going to have tacos. Of course, a lack of good corn tortillas in this country was a bit of a limiting factor but I was determined to try making my own at home and I pictured myself wrapping them around tender pork, lots of delicious salsa and definitely some chopped fresh coriander. Oh, just the thought of them has me thinking of making them again this weekend.

However, the process didn’t go entirely smoothly at first. I made the amateur mistake of confusing masa harina and masa arepa. Both are corn meals made of precooked corn but only masa harina is made of corn that’s undergone nixtamalization (it’s cooked in an alkaline solution) and is the correct one for making corn tortillas. Just to confuse things, the side of the package of masa arepa that I purchased first (PAN brand) states that it can be used for tortillas too. I bought my masa harina from the Cool Chile Co. (Maseca is also a famous brand).

Taco Party

On our first go at making corn tortillas, we pressed them using a heavy pot…quite painfully and tediously. The next day, I went straight out and bought a proper cast iron tortilla press (again from the Cool Chile Co.). Oh, how it makes life easier! Fresh corn tortillas are pressed so quickly and without any effort whatsoever! I can’t believe I’d been buying corn tortillas (sometimes taking up precious space in my suitcase when I was travelling back from the other side of the Atlantic) when they’re so easy to make at home!

Pressed in a Proper Tortilla Press

Corn Tortillas

Take 2 cups of masa harina and mix with a little less than 1.5 cups of warm water. Mix together to a dough – it shouldn’t crumble (too dry – add water) or stick to your hands (too wet – add masa harina). I read somewhere online that it should have the texture of play dough and that’s truly how it felt. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, heat a cast iron or nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Take a plastic freezer bag and cut two circles of plastic out of it – they should be big enough to line each side of your tortilla press. Take a small golf ball sized nugget of masa dough and roll it into a ball. Place in between the plastic circles and flatten in the tortilla press (I like mine quite thin – it’ll be about the size of the palm of your hand, I think). Peel off the tortilla and slap into the hot pan. Cook for about 30 seconds on the first side, flip and cook for a minute on the other side, flip again and cook for another 30 seconds. On the final side, the tortilla should start puffing up – pressing down on the tortilla can encourage it. Take out of the pan and cover with a clean dish towel. Repeat with all the masa.

You can eat tortillas with any meal, of course, but it’s most fun to make tacos at home. I slow cooked a lot of pork shoulder the first time I made tortillas, shredded the results and used that as a very simple filling for tacos.

Slow Cooked Pork for Tacos

1.5 kg pork shoulder, cut into chunks
juice from a large orange
2 bay leaves
1 chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a slow cooker and set on high for 4 hours (mine only is set to high – it’s a rice cooker – though I reckon perhaps low on a regular slow cooker for 8 hours is also ok). Take out the meat and shred with two forks or your hands. A lot of liquid would have come out of the meat – I used some of it to moisten the shredded pork. Serve with corn tortillas.

The pork is a bit plain on its own. Better is topping your tacos with some pico de gallo. Or if you’re pressed for time/ingredients, just chopped onions pickled lightly in lime juice.

Pico de Gallo

1/2 a small onion, chopped
1-2 medium sized tomatoes, seeded and chopped
a very small handful of fresh coriander, chopped finely
juice of half a lime
salt

Mix all the ingredients together and then chill until ready to serve (give it an hour, I reckon, for the flavours to meld).

Now you’re almost ready for tacos!

Set out some chopped fresh coriander, a salsa (I’m working on recipes but this was just a good canned salsa verde), perhaps some sliced avocado or guacamole, sliced radishes and lime wedges and you’ve got a taco party! Well, it was just for two in our case but yeah, a party!

More Tacos

The best part is that you’ll have plenty of pork leftover. I suggest frying up some of it in its own lard (the edges go all crispy…mmmmmm) and having more tacos! There will definitely be more taco adventures in my future.