Mexican fiesta food for Cinco de Mayo – My @AlbertaatNoon column for May

Light and lively Mexican cuisine photo - Karen Anderson
Light and lively Mexican cuisine
photo – Karen Anderson

This week on CBC Radio One’s Alberta at Noon I’ll be talking about light and lively Mexican food that you’ll find easy to prepare for Cinco de Mayo or any time you feel like refreshing your Mexican cooking repertoire.

I learned these simple and delicious recipes while visiting Zihuatanejo (Zi-wha-ta-nyay-ho – only it sounds much more beautiful when Mexicans say it) Mexico on a recent family holiday.

I took a food tour and Mexican cooking class with chef Mario Ramirez of Club Intrawest resort this year and in years past I’ve done the same tour with his predecessor the amazing Edgar Navarro (who has now moved to Whistler to run two restaurants at that bustling resort). Ramirez was kind enough to share the recipes included in this post. I hope you enjoy them and the photos of my market tour with him.

99 bottles of tequila on the wall photo - Karen Anderson
99 bottles of tequila on the wall
photo – Karen Anderson

Chef Ramirez and Club Intrawest offer these market tours and cooking class excursions weekly and they are open to the general public. Pre-registration is necessary and the cost is about $70 Canadian including snacks, transport, cooking lesson and a lovely luncheon with a cocktail. Ramirez is young, energetic and has a smile as wide as the Pacific. His technique and abilities are masterful and he’s very well respected throughout the restaurant scene in Zihuatanejo having trained in Mexico City and worked at several fine resorts. I really enjoyed my time in his company.

Here’s a look at my food touring experience with chef Ramirez.

And here are Chef Mario Ramirez’s delicious recipes.
Pico de Gallo
5 tomatoes, halved and diced
1 Vidalia onion, finely diced
1 chili, finely diced – habanero for hot, jalapeno for mild, or ½ of each for medium
½ c cilantro leaves, chopped
2 key limes, juiced
Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, toss and season with salt to taste.

Salsa Mexicana
2 c cooked nopales, diced (you’ll find canned nopales in Latino markets)
1/3 olive oil
1 – 2 t. oregano (Mexican oregano if you can get it)
1 t. salt
Add all of these to your Pico de Gallo recipe to create Salsa Mexicana

½ – 1 avocado per person
¼ c Pico de Gallo per person
Salt to taste
Split the avocados and remove pits
Place in a bowl and mash
Add about ¼ c of Pico de Gallo per person
Mix well and serve on crispy tortilla chips or as a side for your favourite Mexican dish or margarita.

Tequila Shrimp
You’re aiming for 4 shrimp per person so adjust as necessary.
1 T butter
4 T Vidalia or white mild onion
4 T garlic, finely chopped
3 dried guajillo peppers, crushed into flakes
2 lbs extra-large shrimp, butterflied, cleaned and deveined
3 oz tequila blanco
6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 T chicken bouillon powder or 2 cubes
Olive oil for drizzling
Melt butter in a large fry/sauce pan and sauté onion, garlic and dried guajillo until starting to turn golden.
Add shrimp and sauté till pink; stirring to coat.
Add tequila and light a flame with a long lighter and then allow that to burn off.
Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken bouillon and stir till well mixed and heated through.
Plate the shrimp with white basmati rice, Salsa Mexicana and a sprinkling of queso fresco – drizzling with olive oil to finish.

Where to find the goods
In Calgary, I usually shop for Mexican staples at Salsita, La Tiendona, Uni Market or Tres Marias. I’m addicted to Tres Marias tortilla chips – they are the best in the free world.
Red Deer also has a Uni Market.
In Edmonton, you can check out Tienda Latina or Paraiso Tropical

I hope you can source the chilies and nopales you need to make these dishes – if not substitute a little bit of chipotles in adobo for the guajillos and finely diced zucchini instead of nopales.

This May 5th – Cinco de Mayo – I hope you’ll join the celebration of the strength of Mexican culture, the pride of her people and the joy of finding a community to unite with wherever we are in the world. If you want to attend a fun event in Edmonton check out the party the Mexican Society has planned. In Calgary you could join in the posh party the Mexican Consulate has planned in support of Contemporary Calgary or join in the fun Hola Calgary is promoting.

Here’s one last photo to make a toast and wish for you to savour it all.

forget Tequila Sunrise...Tequila Sunset is  the way to go photo - Karen Anderson
forget Tequila Sunrise…Tequila Sunset is the way to go
photo – Karen Anderson


  1. Rob Hutchinson

    Hi Karen. I have been waiting for this delightful post to arrive! What a treat, to go back to Zihua and re-savour the tastes, aromas and the warmth! Thanks for the shout out on the radio too, I happened to be listening today! Cheers to your family. Rob Hutchinson

    1. Karen Anderson

      Fantastic Rob,
      I’m so glad you were listening. That’s so fun and Todd and I were delighted to spend the day touring and cooking with you in Zi.
      Same time next year?
      Stay in touch and all the best for Cinco de Mayo.
      Cheers, Karen

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