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New fusion cuisine flourishes in Baja California

TIJUANA, Mexico — Until recently, Baja California’s culinary contribution to the world amounted to the Caesar salad, a dish hardly associated with Mexican food. Beyond that, this long, thin peninsula was known more for its Chinese food and pizza thanks to the thousands of migrants from all over the world who began to settle the Mexican state south of California in the 19th century.

 New fusion cuisine flourishes in Baja California


New fusion cuisine flourishes in Baja California

Now a group of chefs wants to change that, working to create a unique cuisine largely based on fresh seafood caught in the seas flanking Baja and the produce from its fertile valley. The new culinary craze, known as Baja Med, is a fusion of Mexican food with influences from the Mediterranean and Asia.

The movement has resulted in dozens of restaurants that are helping to pull a new kind of tourist to the beleaguered border city – one who enjoys great food and art rather than a brothel and a cheap drunk. People attending conventions in San Diego think of crossing the border for dinner in Tijuana, said Javier Plascencia, the chef of Mision 19, whose quest to put his city on the culinary map was the subject of a New Yorker magazine profile earlier this year.

Baja Med mixes uniquely Mexican ingredients such as chicharron and cotija cheese with lemon grass and olive oil. Signature dishes include tempura fish tacos and deep sea shrimp served with fried marlin, baby farm tomatoes, scallions and a sauce made with local cheeses.

“What Baja Med proposes is for the ingredient to be the main actor in the kitchen,” said Miguel Angel Guerrero, chef of La Querencia, a Tijuana restaurant serving such dishes as beet carpaccio with blue cheese and mint vinaigrette. “Geographically, we are privileged because throughout the year we have a variety of products available. And yet, many generations have passed, and we still don’t have a regional cuisine.”

The port of Ensenada, 40 miles south of Tijuana, is one of the country’s largest for mussels, oysters, clams and shrimp, as well as a hotbed of blue tuna sea farming. Baja California is the fourth largest producing vegetables in Mexico, according to the state government. read more »