In Mexicali, Mexican and Chinese food meet in a distinct, delicious way

In Mexicali, Mexican and Chinese food meet in a distinct, delicious way

Dec 29, 2017

“It means ‘welcome’ in Chinese,” a man said to me in Spanish, looking up at me from a grey velvet loveseat. He pointed to the wooden sign I was looking at, with large, gold Chinese characters set against a red background.

I was in Mexicali, a city of 900,000 and the capital of the Mexican state of Baja California. It’s two hours east of Tijuana, the more populous part of the state. It isn’t near much of anything, save for a fleet of high-producing maquiladoras (manufacturing plants), a slew of commercial farms and the United States-Mexico border, which runs along the northern terminus of the city with Calexico on the other side.

It’s also the home of Mexico’s largest Chinese community, earning Mexicali the nickname “Little Canton” in China. As a result, the area is known for its Mexican-influenced Chinese cuisine, which has put Mexicali on the culinary map. Ask anyone who lives in or grew up in Mexicali what they do on Sundays, regardless of ethnic background, and the answer is likely that they and their families head to a Chinese restaurant, Javier Gutiérrez, a Mexicali native and the project coordinator for Baja California’s Secretary of Tourism, said in an interview.

Cafe Canton, a restaurant in the La Chinesca neighborhood of Mexicali

Cafe Canton, a restaurant in the La Chinesca neighborhood of Mexicali Jackie Bryant

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