Q Mex’s new Executive Chef Marcus Medina talks to us about Cal-Mex food, sourcing ingredients and what’s coming up at Q Mex.

Tell us a little bit about your background and training
Way back when, my brother and I opened a taqueria in our home town in California serving Cal-Mex style burritos. During that time I went to a tiny chef’s school in Mexico City and the owner (who I like to call “the Alice Waters of Mexico”) would send us out to all the regional Mexican restaurants. Mexico City is actually just like Beijing in that all the regional cuisines from around the country can be found in one place. After that, we decided to take Cal-Mex food to New York and opened up a series of restaurants there over around 20 years. I came Beijing two and a half years ago and met Stefan and Deniz from Lugas, and we went on to create DSC Concepts (who have taken over the management of Q Mex and Q Bar).

What was the inspiration behind the Q Mex menu?
I’m Mexican-American so I grew up with Mexican food at home. I really want to bring people good quality Mexican food at an affordable price, whether that be Cal-Mex, Tex-Mex or regional dishes. For example, our carnitas recipe comes from the most famous guy in the most famous town in Mexico for carnitas. 

Do you have to adapt dishes to meet Chinese tastes?
Not only are we dealing with Chinese tastes, we’re dealing with American tastes, European tastes, Middle Eastern tastes … this is something we always have to take into consideration when we create a menu.

On the other hand, I think Mexican food is extremely adaptable to the Chinese palate. Think about the use of chilies (which of course originally come from Mexico), and nuts and seeds such as sesame and peanuts. As I’ve traveled around China, I’ve come across many dishes that remind me of Mexican dishes. 

What’s really cool is we’re seeing a revolution in cuisine in China. It’s a privilege and an honor to be part of this historical period that’s just getting started. It moves so fast it's impossible to say where things will be in five years time.

Do you have any trouble sourcing authentic ingredients in Beijing?
It’s true that we just don’t get the ingredients we need. I always like to use the freshest ingredients; I don’t like working with canned products or pre-made sauces. We’re a moderately priced restaurant, so we can’t afford to bring in everything from Mexico. We have to work with what’s available here, for example, we make our own sour cream.

What is the one dish on the new Q Mex menu that people shouldn’t miss?
It really depends! For people who are looking for Tex Mex food we do some great hard shell tacos, using my Mom’s own recipe. I call them "dirty tacos" because it's impossible to stay clean while eating them! On the other hand, for a more “authentic” experience I’m really proud of our enchiladas – they’re exactly like you would get in Mexico.

Look for Q Mex to start opening for lunch over the next few weeks, followed by brunch and delivery in the coming months.

More stories by this author here.

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Photo: Q Mex

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