Photo: Ajna Jai / Contributor
The history of Cinco de Mayo is a David-and-Goliath story — it commemorates the triumph of an ingenious Mexican army over a formidable enemy, France, in the Battle of Pueblo on May 5, 1862. Four days later, Benito Juárez, Mexico’s then prime minister, declared Cinco de Mayo a national holiday. The French army eventually defeated Mexico to take control of the country, but it was a small but inspirational victory for Mexico and one that sent a powerful message to the rest of the world.
Cuisine-wise, the world can thank our neighbors to the south for foods including chilis, avocados and the delicious nopal. Essentially the pads or paddles from the Opuntia indica cactus plant and commonly called prickly pear, nopales grew wild in central arid and semi-arid regions of Mexico.
The pads — which have a tart flavor resembling green beans — can be eaten raw or cooked, added to egg scrambles, soups, stews and salads. They are loaded with dietary fiber and antioxidants and a mucilaginous texture, and the only tricky part about cooking them is trimming off their spines and thorns.
This summer, try grilling nopales on your backyard grill and topping them with this simple tomato masala. The jaggery adds a touch of sweetness to the masala, but feel free to leave it out.