1 Apr 2019

Some Like It Hot: Andres Pimental's Quesadillas

From Nine To Noon, 11:36 am on 1 April 2019

Mexican chef Andres Pimentel’s hole-in-the wall lunch-time cafe has graced Custom House Quay for eight years.

Specialising in quesadillas, burritos and tacos, he works alongside his wife and one of his sons – it’s a Mexi-Kiwi family business, he says.

“One of the best things that has happened to me is that I’m working with my family.

“We usually get there Mexican time, 10.30am, and we close at 2.30pm Mexican time -sometimes two – it depends on how busy it is.”

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Photo: Andres Pimental

Mexican QBT is a takeaway, so Wellingtonians can come and buy their lunch and take it back to the office or lounge around in the sun if the weather’s nice.

This is true Mexican style food, something a lot of Kiwis may not have experienced before.

If you think of tacos and think of a hard shell, straight out of the packet, you’re in for a surprise.

“Oh no, I’m a real Mexican, that’s a gringo thing, they’re soft like a Mexican, very nice, amazing.”

Key to Mexican food is the chili, and Andres sources his from either up North or from Mexico.

“When I opened here, I used to buy about half a kilo of chillies like once a month and people started to try it. Right now I’m buying a kilo of chillies every week.

“They’re crazy, they’re just like the Mexicans and if they want to eat real Mexican food, made by a real Mexican, come to see me.”

His passion for food is evident.

“In Mexico we have a lot of chilies, we have chilies that are not spicy, they are just to give flavour -the guajillo, pasdilla for example. But we have chili pequin, chili chipotle which everybody now thinks is coming alive. Chili chipotle is basically from the south-east of Veracruz, one of the amazing tastes – smoky, sweet, beautiful favour. The jalapeño, it goes red with the plant and then we harvest, and then we dry it and then we produce the chipotle sauce.”

If you’ve got chillies in the garden and you have no idea how to use them Andres recommends making salsa.

“One thing that you should not really do for a chili, for me as a Mexican, we don’t put sugar in it. Basically, we don’t put sugar in anything, if you want to make it a little bit sweeter, put a little bit of fruit.”

Fruits like mango, tamarind, apple and orange are all able to be used in salsa, he says.

“In Mexico we grew up as kids with lollies. Every single lolly in Mexico has chili, lemon and salt, that’s the way we grew up.”

Andres spent the first six years of his life in Veracruz but grew up two hours south, where every day his mum would take him and his siblings to the markets.

“In Mexico at that time we didn’t have the fridge and there was no supermarket whatsoever so every day we had to go and buy. While we were in the market we taste the fruits, we taste everything that is in there. My mum: ‘do you want to taste this, do you want to bite that’.

“Growing up in the kitchen next to my mother and sisters, my brother was in the navy, we grew up in there, in the kitchen with the family and I was looking [at] everything, how they do tasting, how they grind the chillies, liquidise the salsas.”

When he left home he started to miss the food but had become a hairdresser, “I’m a fantastic hairdresser”.

It was cooking for his children and wanting to pass on the traditional Mexican flavours that led him to opening his cafe here.

“Every Sunday I say to my wife if I can sell my food, we’re going to make a lot of money.”

One day they had extra money and his wife said “go ahead, open your dream”.

What’s the difference between been a quesadilla, a burrito and a taco?

Quesadilla:  It’s a variety of Mexican food that’s easy for Andres to serve fast.

“It’s a flour tortilla, we melt the cheese. If you want chicken, beef or veggie. We put a beautiful salsa -mild like a Kiwi, medium like normal, or hot like a Mexican. I put lettuce in it and I fold it over and give it to the people to enjoy.”

Taco: Similar but smaller, you get two pieces for one.

“I get the corn tortilla, which I make, we make it in there and I am the only one that makes the corn tortilla and the flavour is amazing. We put a little bit less cheese in the chicken, beef or veggie with the different sauces.

Burrito: “I fold it over, I grab it, cut it in half and the same thing, the sauces, guacamole, sour cream and salad.”