Mexican food has come a long way in Ireland in recent years and Irish foodies have finally come to realise that it does not include Tex-Mex dishes such as Burritos, Chille Con Carne and Fajitas.
Sourcing ingredients for cooking authentic Mexican food here has always been difficult which led to the setting up of MyMexicanShop.ie by blogger Lily Ramirez-Foran a few years ago, partly in response to readers of Lily's blog on Mexican cooking (amexicancook.ie).
Lily and her Irish husband Alan have now taken the plunge into the offline world with their shop Picado on South Richmond Street.
Picado is on one of the trendiest streets in the capital opposite the George Bernard Shaw pub (hipster headquarters) and beside Wall and Keogh's very fine tea shop.
Opening in late Summer 2014 the shop has built up a fine selection of imported Mexican ingredients, some sourced in Mexico itself and some sourced from ex-pat Mexicans in Europe.
For example fresh corn tortillas are sourced from Lily's auntie in Spain using the recipe her Grandfather created - Lily's family have been commercial tortilla producers for generations.
The most popular ingredient in the shop is probably Masa Harina (enriched corn flour) which is particularly useful for Ireland's many Coeliacs given that it is gluten free but also of course essential for making corn tortillas and chips. Most of us don't realise that commercial tortilla chips are often made largely with wheat (up to 73% wheat in some incidents) as it is significantly cheaper than corn – you will of course only find full corn tortilla chips in Picado.
Lily's philosophy is that she stocks nothing that she would not serve her own family and she stands over every product. Her favourite product by the way is probably Gran Luchito Mexican smoked chilli paste from Oaxaca in Southern Mexico. Picado also stocks Rebel Chilli sauces from Cork and Inferno hot sauce from Wicklow and is hoping to have fresh ingredients such as Irish grown chillis and tomatillos in the coming months.
As well as dried chillis, piloncillo raw sugar cane, sauces, chocolate (Ibarra brand), and tins of tomatillo, Picado also sells, tortilla presses, skillets and Molcajete – the Mexican pestle and mortar which is essential for making good fresh salsa.
More important than all the ingredients from Lily's point of view is the shop's educational role and every Friday and Saturday Lily runs themed cooking courses in the kitchen at the back of the shop.
Courses are limited to six people and might cover themes such as tortilla making, enchiladas, salsa making or understanding chillis. The cost of the class is €35 per person and includes materials and a meal at the end of the class.