Mexicans around the world will unite on May 5 for the annual Cinco de Mayo Festival, a celebration of heritage and pride for the central American country. With it’s origins in the Mexican-American communities in the ‘Wild West’, it has been observed since the early years of the American Civil War.

Of course, Mexico is best loved for it’s brilliant cuisine, plenty of which can be found around Dubai and the UAE. So on this, one of the nation’s most important days, we hail all things salsa-inspired with this idiot’s guide to Mexican cooking, courtesy of Chef Carlos Hannon, head chef as Tortuga, Madinat Jumeirah. Read the review for Tortuga right here.

Three ingredients you can’t live without?
As key ingredients in the Mexican kitchen, not a day goes by without corn and tomatoes. I use them on a daily basis in everything I make. The last ingredient I need is Mexican chilies. I use chili in everything; the quantity varies but there is always a hint of it.

Difference between red salsa and green salsa?
The green salsa is made of green tomatillo and Serrano chilies whereas the red one comes from plum tomatoes and normally red chili de Arbol. Both can be as mild or spicy as you want depending on the amount of chili you add to it.

And what about chilis?
There are two ways to eat chili in Mexico: fresh or dry. Some of them have different names depending on this. The most popular chili is jalapeno (fresh version), also called chipotle when dry. The hottest chili is habanero. Unless you are a chili expert, it is very difficult to tell how hot a chili will be based on its color.  The best way it is take a tiny bite at the tip of the chili and decide if it is spicy enough for your taste. But always remember to never rub your eyes when chopping chili!

How to pack the perfect fajita?
To pack the perfect fajita here are a few easy to follow steps:
Rule 1: the ingredients and their preparation are as important and the packing stage
Rule 2: your meat, vegetables and spices should be served on a sizzling cast iron
Rule 3: at Tortuga your fajitas will come with a side of beans, guacamole, fresh salsa. We do not use sour cream in our fajitas as it is a Tex Mex condiment.
Rule 4: choose your tortilla: flour or corn. The flour tortilla is used in the North of Mexico and has less flavor than the corn one which you will find in the Centre and South of Mexico. Personally I like the corn one.
Rule 5: take your tortilla and throw in the fajita, guacamole, beans and fresh salsa.
Rule 6: grab your filled tortilla like a taco and take a bite. Do not fold it, it tastes better this way.

How to fold a burrito?
In Mexico you will not find burritos, it is a Tex Mex dish so mostly available in the southern states of the USA. At Tortuga, we have decided to offer our customers a revised – more genuine version of it.

To fold the burrito here are a few easy to follow steps:
Step 1: take a big flour tortilla and put pinto beans or bayo beans first, the put the shredded chicken and beef, cheese (loads of white cheddar mild cheese).
Step 2: get the right condiments along with it such as rice, guacamole and sour cream.
Step 3: start folding for the longest sides of the burrito first, then top and bottom.
Step 4: grab it with both hands and enjoy.

How to make mole?
In Mexico, mole is a ritual. I had  a look at my recipes but do not have a short and easy to make one. You need about 35 ingredients and 10 hours – cooking, roasting, toasting and grinding – in the kitchen to prepare mole. Mole is the equivalent of curry in the Indian culture for example. There are three kinds of mole: negro, verde and poblano. The latter is the most popular in Mexico.

Anything else we should know?
If you are a Mexican food lover or simply curious to discover its cuisine, I invite to come and try My Grandma’s corner on the Tortuga’s menu. All the dishes under this section are delicacies inspired by my grandmother Elena and how she taught everything I know about truly authentic Mexican food. It is my heritage and my home. Andale!

 Mina A’Salam, Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, noon to 2am. Tel: (04) 3666730. Taxi: Madinat Jumeirah.