Q&A: Julieta Ballesteros of China Latina, Part 1
Julieta Ballesteros is a huge advocate for fusion foods. It's not often you see the words "Szechuan Beef Wonton Tacos" strung together on the same line, but innovative dishes such as these are what Ballestros is promoting at her newest venture, China Latina.
The eatery opened up in October and serves Asian-meets-Latin American fare. With her business partner restaurateur Shaun Smith, Ballesteros has created fresh takes on classic Asian noodle dishes, including Poblano Lo Mein, with chicken crackling, chinese vegetables, mole poblano, and fried egg. The menu also features her signature burger -- a mix of beef and chorizo topped with wasabi aioli, kimchee, and a fried egg.
Ballesteros earned her toque hat at New York City's French Culinary Institute and got her big break as the executive chef of Mexicana Mama. She also in charge of Crema Restaurante -- a Mexican-French restaurant in Chelsea.
How did you come up with the concept of a Chinese and Latin fusion restaurant?
A lot of my inspiration was basically the marriage between the Chinese culture and the Latin culture. Both cultures have a lot of similarities in food, family and culture. Some of the ingredients are the same -- like chilies, for example.
What other ingredients do these two cultures share?
Ginger, vegetable root. Also in Mexico and China, there's coriander to cook with. There's also chives, pig feet -- all of this crazy stuff. From the East and West, it's like a marriage between the two cultures. We try to put them together and make them balanced.
China Latina Burger
There's a lot of quirky dishes on your menu. What would you recommend first time diners?
The Devil Corn Chow Fun. It's fried noodles with truffle oil and shrimp. That's very good. The China Poblana Lo Mein is great as well. It has mole with chicken crackling. That's one of my favorites. And our fried rice with has three chorizos: Mexican chorizo, Spanish chorizo, and Argentina chorizo. It's just really neat things with a Latin twist.
You were raised in Mexico so you obviously have a lot of background in Latin cuisine. What about the Chinese component? How did you do the research for that?
I tried to talk to a lot of Chinese people and some of them they taught me the essence of the flavor of Chinese food. I went to Chinatown and tried everything.
What are your favorite ingredients to work with?
I'm really into making fresh flavors. There are three things: chocolate, chilies, and nuts.