Fresh from an appearance at MesAmerica, Mexico's most prestigious international chef conference founded by Chef Enrique Olvera of the legendary Pujol, our own Sabina Bandera of La Guerrerense has been given the honor of representing Mexico at the 1st annual World Street Food Congress in Singapore. Sabina and her daughter Mariana Oviedo arrived a few days ago here in Singapore–I'm here too to attend some talks, and support La Guerrerense as Mexico's official coordinator for the festival. Our 1st lady of ceviche will begin a 10-day run at the WSFG's street food jamboree featuring vendors from 10 different countries including: Thailand, Indonesia, China, United States, Malaysia, Vietnam, Denmark, Singapore, and Mexico.
The congress has been created by Makansutra founder KF Seetoh, an entrepreneur and photo-journalist dedicated to spreading the gospel of street food as a culture and a viable small business model, with support by the Singaporean tourism board. It has been a challenge coordinating this event for La Guerrerense in terms of ingredients–Singapore's seafood products are simply no match for Baja California's rich and fresh fish and shellfish, and they're having to fry the tostadas here from tortillas that had to be shipped from Australia. Today, as I cut bitter Calamansi limes–almost like bitter oranges in taste and color–and we scrambled for equipment came the moment of truth–how will La Guerrerense play in Southeast Asia, without access to sea urchin and all the other magical ingredients that make them one of the best street vendors in the world?
When Seetoh made his rounds today,making sure everybody would be ready for tomorrow-the festival runs from May 31 to June 9th–hey, I know you're still on Thursday, but we are on Friday here in Singapore–he had his first bite of La Guerrerense and proclaimed, “yes, there is a god!”
I too was amazed, I mean the taste is different–the seafood is a bit strong here, the lime is caustic, and sea urchin is too expensive for Sabina to prepare her world famous tostada de erizo, but the flavor is still La Guerrerense, 100%. The chiles here are nice and potent; Sabina is featuring a salsa that normally uses habanero, and substituting it with a long red chile that's identical to a chile found in Brazil to add a local flavor–it is quite tasty, too.
During the day, Sabina, Mariana and I have been exploring the local hawker centers (Singaporan food courts found all over the city), and taking in the grand spice mix of cultures that is Singapore. Today, it was a taste of Southeast Asia as vendors from Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia stopped by Sabina's booth to offer a taste of their countries. Ceviche is such an unknown food in Southeast Asia, La Guerrerense has created quite a stir these past few days.
La Guerrerense will be reuniting with Anthony Bourdain (La Guerrerense was featured on No Reservations Baja), one of the World Street Food Congress council members during the course of this epic food event. Other council members include Saveur editor James Oseland, Bryant Ng of the Spice Table, and a cast of luminaries from the Asian food media scene.
If you can't make it to the jamboree in Singapore this week, you can head down to La Guerrerense in Esenada where Sabina's husband and sons are holding down the fort, or cart, while mom and sis are bringing their unique flavors to the world stage. One taste of the tostada of sea urchin ceviche topped with pismo clam, chiles de mi jardin, and fresh scooped avocado and you'll know why La Guerrerense has become Mexico's street food ambassador to the world. Arriba Mexico!
World Street Food Congress with La Guerrerense, May 31st-June 9th at the F-1 Pit Building in Singapore, www.wsfcongress.com/home1.asp
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