The Fusion of Ingredients: Sonora, a State with great gastronomic wealth
By: Neftalí Ponce Hernández, Chef and owner of A la Burguer con el Chef, Executive Chef at Vidanta Puerto Peñasco.
Today we address a small portion of the wide and rich gastronomy of a Municipality such as Puerto Peñasco, which shelters us and gives us incredible peace and tranquility.
Combined with its spectacular nature, whether at sea or in the desert, and a large number of available activities, such as hunting, gathering, agriculture, and farming to name a few, Puerto Peñasco is unique.
Puerto Peñasco combined its first-class seafood with the evangelization of Padre Kino as he passed through the State of Sonora, and adopted many of the techniques and ingredients that the Spanish brought with them, making them part of an already existing gastronomic culture.
Over the years, this culture began to fade and reside mostly among the ethnic groups that to this day remain throughout this beautiful state.
Nowadays, because of trends, a fashion or the need to “rescue” ingredients and recipes, this cuisine is coming back using Fire and Salt, the basic elements needed to generate the simplest dish or the most sophisticated plate using current techniques, ingredients, and trends, and highlighting and renaming each ingredient to make up a whole.
Thousand-year-old techniques that have been maintained and that today are more important and appreciated, are combined with ingredients from the sea throughout the length and breadth of our Upper Gulf of California.
This sea, with its richness of species, invites us to use ingredients correctly respect the seasons, and avoid overexploitation to satisfy the market. It’s important to respect endangered species and closed seasons, avoid illegal fishing or poaching, and buying handicrafts and firewood made from protected species. It’s also important to avoid generating waste and polluting public areas that lack responsible management.
With professional knowledge of techniques and resource optimization, we are able to create wonderful dishes that take advantage of the seasons and make the most of the resources put at our disposal by our producers, fishermen, and the community. We applaud all those who are be able to create and enhance our cuisine through the beautiful action of respecting the main ingredient and transform it to create unique dishes. We are grateful for the recipes that we have inherited throughout the history of this beautiful northern state where unique and top-quality elements and ingredients are combined and which we are proud to export and moreover, promote for local consumption.
And let’s not forget the journeys of characters like the Father Kino, whom we appreciate and value for bringing us ingredients from both livestock and agriculture in general, such as beef, wheat, grapes, and citrus, among many other no less important, and the Tohono O’odham ethnic group, who every year make their journey on the salt route to the beaches of Puerto Peñasco and have taught us the use of natural resources, in addition to their ceremonies and the sacrifices of the journey itself.
Some of the sea resources that are part of the reason that this beautiful port was founded include shrimp, crab, sea cucumber, farmed oysters, various fish and clam species including Venus Clam, Heavy Dorsina Clam, Mexican Chocolate Clam, as well as Mexican Geoduck, Pacific Oyster, and Pacific calico scallop.
The beautiful Sea of Cortez, named the Aquarium of the World by Jacques Cousteau, an explorer and researcher of its waters and biodiversity, highlights the variety that we have within our reach and invites us to use it responsibly and sustainably and to value and appreciate each product that our sea provides for our kitchens.
On the subject of agriculture, we need to know the seasons, the varieties of fruits and vegetables, and the techniques that have been applied by residents of other countries, and diversify our own cuisine with other ingredients such as beef, pork, and poultry among others.
Sonora produces the best export quality beef, pork, and poultry. It has the best asparagus, citrus, walnuts, table grapes, figs, peaches, and Brussels sprouts. We have hunting ranches and sustainable communities that show respect for wildlife through UMAs (Environmental Management Units) that provide the correct care to different species and allow an increase in their population.
Another pride of Sonora is the distillery of Bacanora and its derivatives. Bacanora has been distilled with an artisanal process tradition more than 300 years old. It’s a product with Denomination of Origin used in our kitchen and bars to make representative drinks of the region.
One more ingredient that fills me with pride is the “chiltepin” which is widely used and appreciated in various dishes. Today the best quality is still obtained in the wild. And speaking of endemic chilies, the California chili, either fresh or dried (dehydrated) and the red chili add color and a very characteristic Sonoran flavor to our dishes and give them a distinct touch and identity.
We leave you today with the names of some traditional dishes as well as some dishes of my own creation that we will be sharing throughout this season, each with its own characteristic flavor: Gallina Pinta, Menudo Sonorense, Caldo de Queso, Bistec Ranchero, Carne con Chile Colorado, Pozole de Trigo, Tortillas de Harina, Coricos, Coyotas, Empanadas de Calabaza, Melcocha, Mancuernas, Pan de Vieja, Biscochos, Ponte duros, Dulce de calabaza, Wacabaki, Caguamanta, Manta al disco, Pescado al disco, Carne asada (it sounds simple, but you must master the technique and process from scratch, including lighting the charcoal) and I could list many more! but I will leave you with the names of my own creations: Cream of Roasted Green Chili, Chiltepin Garlic Shrimp, Bacanora Beef Fillet, Chucatoso, Red Fruits with Bacanora and Chiltepín, La Pinta Shellfish Platter with Bacanora and Chiltepín Butter.