Rosio Sanchez: The Tacos, the Pride and the Blasphemy of Squeezing Lime on Mole
The most exciting restaurant opening in Copenhagen this year isn’t an haute cuisine house of decadence or a Nordic biology lesson in edible weeds. It’s not even a restaurant; it’s a humble taqueria serving extraordinarily delicious tacos.
Hija de Sanchez is where Rosio Sanchez, former head pastry chef at Noma in Copenhagen, is mining her Mexican culinary heritage and collaborating with producers – from Oaxaca to Copenhagen – to explore the craftsmanship behind the taco.
In an outdoor stall at the food market Torvehallerne, Rosio and her crew of chefs roll out corn tortillas on Mexican machinery and grill beef for al pastor tacos on a kebab-style rotisserie. There are carnitas made with slow-braised pork belly, caramelised on the grill and topped with coriander stems and smokey pasilla chili salsa; there are tacos filled with tomato sauce and crispy cod skin, which has been blanched, air-dried and fried. There are nacho chips made from freshly ground corn, cold hibiscus tea and iced avocado lollies.
Pride fuels Rosio’s aim to champion true Mexican cuisine in a country where many still think tortillas are dense wheat frisbees stuffed with bland beans and synthetic spice mixes. “I was worried that I would not be able to find chefs in this city that were interested in doing this kind of food but we have had Danish chefs who have been amazing and really want to learn everything,” says Rosio. “I feel really proud so far. And I’m really proud of the people that work with me.
“It’s the best decision I could have made to move forward with this and really push my own culture and learn more about it at the same time. I have spent the past five years making dishes with brown cheese and Skyr and it’s all been a lot of fun. But now I’m using that same intensity for myself. It’s really fun. It’s really exciting.”
Here, Rosio explains the processes and ingredients behind some of the key components for the tacos at Hija de Sanchez:
Our corn comes from Oaxaca, from a corporative of small farmers and local families. We receive the dried corn kernels which we cook with calcium hydroxide; this changes the pH and extracts all the starch from the corn. We let the corn kernels sit in this solution overnight so they really hydrate – they almost double in volume – and then stone grind them the next day in a huge machine we got from Mexico. This forms the dough, the masa, for our tortillas.
You can leave the corn in the calcium hydroxide solution for two days, but once you grind the corn it only keeps for about a day. I’m trying to get people to understand why we go through all this trouble to really get the true flavour of corn form Mexico. I’ve made several trials during the last year with corn from the US and Europe, and I’ve really noticed the difference, both in in terms of flavour and texture. It just doesn’t have the same intense corn flavour.
You can either flatten the masa in a tortilla press or use the machine we have bough in Mexico – from a brand called Lenin – which helps speed up the process. It cuts out the shape and has a wire, like a guitar string, which keeps the tortillas at a certain thickness. I like to cook the tacos to order. They start to become a little dry after a while, so we usually take any spare ones aside, cut them into quarters, let them dry a bit more, fry them and serve them as chips.
I grew up in a Mexican neighbourhood in Chicago surrounded by tortilla factories. If we wanted to cook tamales, which is a small dumpling, my mom would always go and buy fresh masa. You could buy tortillas in any corner store and they were still warm from the factory. It was an everyday thing. That’s the feeling I’m trying to bring here, but we still have so much work to do. I want to get people to know us and for everyone to try it – not just chefs or foodies that follow the restaurant scene.
There are lots of ingredients in the mole – maybe about 30 in total. The chilis we use are imported from Mexico. We take out all the seeds and toast the chilis for five minutes at 190C so they blacken a bit. Let them cool down, and if you do this at home you need to leave the room because you won’t be able to breathe. Once you burn the chilies they become more intense. We grill onions, tomatoes, garlic, and toast spices such as cinnamon and bay leaves. To thicken the mole we use toasted bread, nuts and tortillas.
You prepare the ingredients in separate stages – toasting, grilling or braising them – before you put it all together in a big pot, cook the mole and then pass it through a stone grinder. You can also use a blender, but there is something special about using the stones. It adds something to the flavour, just like when you make salsa with a mortar and pestle.
After you grind the mole, it’s quite thin. You cook it down for a few days until it thickens. We serve the mole with chicken – roasted with lemon thyme and bay leaf – which we shred and mix with chopped-up crispy skin.
The best way I can describe mole is that it is very similar to curry. You have all these wonderful spices that are mixed into a beautiful harmony. The moles can vary immensely according to family traditions and have different colours: black, red, green, even pink. I took my inspiration from the work we did in the test kitchen, mixing in traditional Mexican items and adding what I liked here, including Danish honey and organic chocolate.
One thing I don’t like here is that people tend to squeeze lime over the mole. Mole is fine just the way it is, but I guess that’s a personal thing. To me, adding a squeeze of lime is just blasphemy.
Our cheese is made by La Treccia here in Copenhagen who use quality organic milk from Danish dairy Naturmælk. For the quesadillas, I wanted a cheese very similar to mozzarella. The texture is like string cheese, but the difference is that it’s stretched. Usually you cook mozzarella and form it into balls, but you stretch this cheese with your fingers and then tie it into a little ball so it looks like a yarn bundle. It’s drier and saltier than mozzarella.
The other cheese La La Treccia makes for us is queso fresco, which is a dried, crumbly cheese. It’s one of my favourites; it’s so good just to have it with a tortilla. It’s pretty much like a feta, a bit drier and more salty, and we serve it with guacamole as our vegetarian option.