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It was around 4:30 p.m., and 34-year-old Christian Saldaña from Mexico, with his Hong Kong wife, was preparing for the evening at Bésame Mucho, his restaurant in Nanshan.
Bésame Mucho, Saldaña's restaurant in Nanshan. Courtesy of Christian Saldaña.
Saldaña came to China eight years ago as an exchange student to study at Beijing International Studies University for six months. “Later our school made an agreement with Chongqing Normal University, so I studied for my master’s degree in international business there with another scholarship,” he said.
Although not a chef by profession, Saldaña loves cooking, so he opened this restaurant around two months ago. “I want to show a gastronomic trip. Similar to China which has eight schools of cuisines, Mexico has many kinds of flavors as well. We have dishes from the north, the south and the east of Mexico, which are completely different,” explained Saldaña.
From the name of the restaurant to the food and the tequila drinks, Saldaña is trying to convey Mexican culture. “Bésame Mucho is the most famous Mexican song. It has gone through a transformatioin, from the traditional to the modern. Many people have made their own versions of the song, from mariachi to electronic music and rock ’n’ roll,” said Saldaña.
Saldaña said Mexican culture, with its 3,000 years of history, is very rich and old. "It’s more than sombreros and mariachis."
Customers will not find the expected “Mexican” food, such as burritos or fajitas, at Saldana’s restaurant. “We don’t have that because that’s mixed. It’s from Texas, not authentic Mexican food. And our customers are quite surprised by our flavor,” he said.
Mayan pork, for example, utilizes a specific recipe from a small town in Campeche. “The name of the small town is a Mayan word. I am from Veracruz, but I used to live in Campeche when I was around 14 years old. There I tried and fell in love with the Mayan cuisine.”
According to Saldaña, Tlayuda has an important sauce called mole, which is from the south of Mexico. “Any house can have their own mole recipe. It has 28 ingredients. And we do it here home-made. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to do. I want to show it to the people,” he said.
Aside from food, Saldaña is passionate about music and art, which explains why the modernly-decorated restaurant is equipped with a rarely-seen second-floor stage right above the open kitchen.
He organizes parties there from time to time, inviting musicians and the audience to perform and enjoy music. “I like to support the artists, such as photographers and musicians. I am a musician myself and I used to paint,” said Saldaña.