Our passports were about to expire and we were trying to make it to a wedding in Jakarta next month so an expectedly excruciating trip to the Department of Foreign Affairs was in order. The new, “streamlined” process required people to line up outside the mall location the night before to score earlier priorities. Thanks to my confused Oriental features and with the English language as my weapon of choice, we sauntered in after lunch and finished the entire application about three hours later along the Foreign Assistance Priority Lane. We had to celebrate this little triumph against the system, were already on the border to The Other Island and have been planning to check out this little Mexican street food affair. After all, a food tip from someone behind a joint that is unabashedly named Everything Yummy, and truly so, is one that is to be taken seriously.
Into the Marina Mall parking lot, across the SaveMore delivery bay and through a small walkway, we found ourselves in a backlot food court. Meximama stood the lone stall among those that seemed occupied not so long ago. Mexican was limited to the signage and the shop’s colorway in favor of utility and a street feel. Letting go of thematics to focus on kitchen functionality, service and the food, you have no costumed waitresses here nor the geoculturally misplaced songs in Spanish.
The pair in an order of Meximama’s Empanadas packed beef and pork filling with chunks of cheddar and oozing mozzarella. Potatoes here were kept only as respect to tradition and definitely not as an extender as in what seems to be a local standard. Additional flavor twists came by the dousing of crema and Salsa Rojo making these definitely not your office building Manang-Merienda’s sinuroys.
Meximama’s Achiote and Lime Chicken Quesadilla Negra came next. Grilled homemade flour tortilla wedges housed meaty chicken chunks steeped in the earthy Achiote flavor with a hint of lime all glued together by the molten cheese. A salsa on the side gives it a fresh punch.
That rather catchy song, Chupeta, started looping in my head when I ordered Meximama’s Chuletas. The phonetic association then went full blast in the fruity play of the Mango & Pineapple Salsa on the ever so slightly spicy Mexican marinated pork chops, deftly shaking a hip into the direction of the tangy vegetal taste of the Pickled Vegetables and grounded by the bed of Mexican rice.
I would have stopped at the rice dish but Mexican wouldn’t be complete without Tacos. Meximama’s Street Style Tacos came in varieties and we opted for Carnitas. Six-hour braised pork shred into succulent, meaty fibers ensuring maximum porcine flavor per square inch of tongue. Caramelized Onions, Salsa Rojo, Cheese and Pickled Vegetables add layers of flavors and textures on top of the pork all held in traditional Mexican Masa Jarina soft shell tacos. Calamansi is served alongside to brighten up each bite.
We were wanting some of Meximama’s Churros to cap off the meal but they were still preparing the mix as of that time of our visit. Through the small walkway, across the SaveMore delivery bay and into the parking lot, we were already planning our return.
My friend Rafael, who is Ecuadorian through and through, swung by The Island as part of his CNY holiday excursion. Billeting him at the Islands Stay Hotel across Marina Mall made it easy to refer him to Meximama. When we caught up for a Downtown Heritage Walking Tour that Sunday, effusions for Meximama in the most emphatic Latino accent quickly followed pleasantries. “Muy auténtico! Just like in Mexico! Everything so good! I ate so much.” An endorsement from one more culturally familiar with the cuisine had us wasting no time in scheduling our next bridge crossing. Surviving the Cebu-Mandaue Friday rush hour traffic, Latino music blaring from the regular mall Zumbathon nearby welcomed us to another Mexican feast.
We opened with Meximama’s Three-Cheese and Jalapeno Quesadillas. The bite from the Cheddar, milky chewiness of Mozarella and creamy mild flavor from Monterey Jack tame the heat from the pickled Jalapeno in this cheese overload. As with everything Mexican, salsa on the side was very appropriate.
Grilled Corn gets the Meximama treatment with Jalapeno Butter, Chilito, Crema and Salsa Roja in their Elotes. The familiar Pinoy flavor turns into a Mexican fiesta in the mouth with more flavors and textures on top of the gritty, kernel crunch on the cob.
Tacos Carnitas came into play once again with the succulent, stringy pulled pork consistently flavorful as the last time we had it.
Costillas De Cerdo were charbroiled baby back ribs slathered in Orange Barbecue Sauce. Citrusy-sweet with the definite smoky-spice flavor of barbecue, the sauce complimented the natural “sweetness” of the fall off the bone pork. Chilito added further zing all to be balanced by the earthy starchiness of Mexican Rice.
Wings are not my favorite chicken parts given the minimal meat distribution. Meximama’s Honey & Chili Wings thankfully cut into the breast at the axilla for heft. While most Chili Wings seem to take pride in mouth-numbing obscenity, the soulspeak goodness of this Buttermilk Fried Chicken is tossed in Aged Chili Sauce and Chilito for a slight hint of heat allowing the appreciation of the chicken itself.
The meal came to a close with a serving of Tres Leches Flan. This all egg-yolk flan with condensed milk is oven-steamed giving it a more dense custard quality. The caramel sauce was only ever so slightly browned for a less bitter lean on the burnt sugar flavor.
We couldn’t let the Churros pass again this time. Freshly fried Churros came dusted in Cinnamon Sugar with a Spiced Dark Chocolate Sauce, Con Chocolate, and Caramel Crème, Con Dulce De Leche. Delightfully dark chocolate flavor first inundates the mouth and followed by the zing of sweet Mexican Spice. The Dulce De Leche was of a more tolerable sweetness and consistency than the regular gel-like.
Through the small walkway, across the SaveMore delivery bay and into the parking lot, we were still thinking about the burrito line we just could no longer fit in. The 9PM Mandaue-Cebu traffic seemed no better than rush hours’ on the way back but supreme satiety of our palates and bellies made it worth the trip. Hasta pronto, Meximama. See you again, soon.