Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Welcome to Burritoville

Actually, no. Manchester is about as far from being a hotbed of quality burritos as it's possible to be, but we're making progress. At the hairdresser's the other day (a while ago, in fact – thanks for keeping us offline for seven days, BT) there was an upset in the usual information exchange. Normally, the lady who cuts my hair tells me how she's getting on with her new boobs (she's disappointed by her recent augmentation because they don't look fake enough) and I recommend restaurants she might like to take them out to. Everyone's happy.

This time, she had a suggestion for me: Pancho's Burritos. It's a little stall that has recently opened in the food bit of the Arndale market, our own North West nod towards the food-cart culture that's supplying the hungry of other cities with spicy street snacks galore. The hairdressers of the Northern Quarter prefer it to Barburrito, and I've got a lot of time for the lunch preferences of people who are on their feet all day.

Pancho, if it was he, made me a stormingly large foil-wrapped pork burrito stuffed with everything and a little bit of spicy sauce. I should have asked him to hold the iceberg lettuce – that cold, crisp, throat-grabbing watery greenness reminds me of bad packed-lunch sandwiches and misery – but otherwise it was a decent effort, hot and fresh, and far preferable to those Ditsch soft pretzels you see people clutching as they wander around the Arndale.

Perhaps even better than the pork juices dribbling down my arm is the other stuff Pancho's sells. They've got a brilliant selection of all things spicy, including alternative brands of smoked paprika (it transpires that La Chinata, pictured above, is not the only fruit), chipotles in adobo, tomatillos, green sauce, red sauce and loads of different dried chillies, plus corn tortillas and masa.

A few years ago, as a test for a Mexican cookbook I'd been sent, I struggled to get any of this stuff in Manchester, and the big spicy dinner we held was lacking as a result. I think I ended up buying bits and bobs in America and concealing them in my luggage, in case another Mexican cookbook landed on the doorstep. I will fear leaky bottles of hot sauce no longer. Pancho's is here.

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