A Taste of Mexico City
New Mexican street food van brings authentic flavours made with the heart
By Rachel Karasik
El Changarro, the newest street food offering in Priory Meadow Shopping Centre, is serving “authentic Mexican street food made with the heart.” After swinging by for lunch the other week and sampling half their taco menu, which is full of bright flavours, a gentle amount of heat, and a variety of options for vegetarians and meat eaters, I contacted the husband-and-wife duo Kalesh Paul and Catalina to talk about why they decided to bring a taste of Mexico City to Hastings.
CREDIT: Samara Martin
Who are you and what is your story?
Kalesh Paul, the Chef: I was born in London but have travelled and lived in different countries which gave me the opportunity to work in different restaurants serving Japanese, French, Italian and international food. I think the best way to get to know a culture is to enjoy its street food. My constant trips to Mexico allowed me to discover the richness and variety of flavours that the country offers.
Catalina, the Designer: I’m from Mexico City and studied Fashion Design, working in different companies in my country as a designer. I like everything related to art and design, and I really enjoy doing crafts.
We met ten years ago and after five years traveling between the UK and Mexico, we decided it was time to get married. We got married in Mexico City and after a long visa process, I moved to the UK in 2018.
What inspired you to start El Changarro?
K: As we all know, since last year it has been difficult for everyone. Unfortunately, with the lockdown Catalina lost her job, and the restaurant I was working in as head chef had to close for a few months.
I always wanted to have my own restaurant, but although I really enjoy the food in a Michelin restaurant, it seems to me that the authenticity and simplicity of street food is what makes it magnificent, something simple but full of flavour and history.
During lockdown, we noticed that there weren’t many Mexican food options in Hastings and one of the things that Catalina missed most about her country is the food. We had the idea, but the most important thing was missing – how would we pay for this?
Catalina’s sister Lorena has a small business in Mexico, and without hesitating, she told us that she would be our partner. We bought a second-hand van on Facebook and after several months of hard work – painting, cleaning, changing floors, permits, certifications, records, searching for a place to put the van, etc, here is El Changarro!
CREDIT: Samara Martin
What are your favourite items on the menu?
C: Kalesh´s favourite is the El Changarro Taco. The flavour of the meat marinated in beer, chillies and garlic with the freshness of onion and coriander, seasoned with a hot spicy green homemade salsa is delicious.
For me, it’s the gorditas as I really like the combination of corn with potatoes and chorizo, and like Kalesh says, the flavour of onion and coriander with the salsa makes all of them delicious together.
What’s the most important thing you’d like readers to know about El Changarro?
K&C: We want people to know that this is authentic street food from Mexico City. Don’t expect to find burritos or chili con carne, as that’s Tex Mex or food from the north of the country near the US border.
We’re trying to keep the flavours and ingredients as authentic
as possible according to the ingredients that we can find in the UK. Every month we will have a special dish to gradually introduce people to the variety of flavours that one can find on the streets of Mexico.
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