National Hispanic Heritage Month offers opportunity to celebrate Latin food

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National Hispanic Heritage Month creates an opportunity to discover the traditions and flavors of five Latin American countries that are celebrating their independence around this time of year. (KABC)

Robby Paredes of Hacienda Heights is enjoying the special at The Salsa Grill.

"It's meat and chilis and cheese, and bean frijoles and potatoes," said Paredes. It's just one of many savory plates created by chef and owner Marco Zapien.

"Mexican food in general is about tradition. It's about family. It's about recipes that are passed down from generation to generation," said Zapien.

Zapien has done that at his Pico Rivera restaurant for 25 years.

Zapien recently sold seasonal grilled New Mexico hatch chilis by the case outside his restaurant so customers could freeze and use them all year long.

And while Mexico is known for its chilis, they do get their influences from other countries like the Lebanon and Switzerland.

One example is Tacos Al Pastor. "It was brought to Mexico from Lebanese immigrants that brought the 'shawarma' or spit-roasted lamb," said Zapien.

Zapien uses pork butt or shoulder, but you can also use shrimp or tofu. The Adobada marinade is made with Guajillo dried chilis, onion, pineapple, orange juice, beer and a host of spices. And that smokey-tasting combo is put on corn or flour tortillas.

Another favorite is Enchiladas Suizas. "The enchilada 'Suizsas' was brought to Mexico by the Swiss who established themselves in Mexico with dairy farms.

Tomatillos, bell pepper and jalapeño are cooked down to help make a sauce with heavy cream and Mexican crema added.

Tortillas are first dipped in the sauce then spicy grilled chicken is rolled up, topped with Suiza sauce.

Zapien said it's not hard to do. "Once you know the basics, don't be scared, anybody can do it," he said.

Check out The Salsa Grill's Al Pastor recipe.

Related Topics:
foodfood coachrecipeLatino Heritage MonthcookingCircle of HealthPico RiveraLos Angeles County
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