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Melbourne’s Mex-obsession fires up

Mex-obsession: Melburnians are known to flock to order tacos and tequila, but what about the cuisine’s international roots?

Mex-obsession: Melburnians are known to flock to order tacos and tequila, but what about the cuisine’s international roots?

Thousands of Melburnians turned out in sombreros and fake moustaches on the weekend to celebrate their favourite international culture.

Queues for taco stalls snaked along the Yarra and a mass of people flooded Federation Square for Sunday’s ‘Mex Fest’, commemorating Mexican Independence Day.

Melbourne’s obsession with Mexican food and culture is nothing new, with tequila-lovers continuing to hand over up to $20 per margarita.

Salsas and tortillas now take up substantial space on our supermarket shelves, and hot spots like Mamasita and Touche Hombre are known to have queues into the street.

Hungry: Mexican restaurant Mamasita attracts crowds queuing onto the street for a table.

Hungry: Mexican restaurant Mamasita attracts crowds queuing onto the street for a table.

But fine-dining Mexican food here is in stark contrast to the international reality of corn cobs and tacos lining dusty streets, vendors flipping tortillas for a fraction of Melburnian prices.

Gerardo Lopez, owner of Flemington Mexican restaurant La Tortillaria,  says the amount of authentic Mexican food in Melbourne is impressive, but the contrast with his hometown of Mexico City is striking.

“Every state in Mexico will have different food,” he says, emphasising street food as a cultural institution in Mexico.

Gerardo says there are some fine dining restaurants in Mexico, but they don’t go to the same level as “fancy” Melbourne offerings.

“Street food, that’s what we do in Mexico,” he says.

Gerardo wasn’t trained in a formal kitchen. He says cooking is just a hobby for him, something he picked up from his grandmother.

“I grew up very close to the kitchen,” he says, which is where he learnt to make authentic tortillas from freshly-ground corn.

“The most important thing about Mexican food is the tortillas, right?”

With corn tortillas and lime zest continuing to sate Melbourne’s tastebuds, it’s easy to forget the roots of this cultural craze.

About the author

Bec Fary