TEANECK, N.J. — Victor Sanchez is cooking up the tastes of his homeland — Oaxaca, Mexico — at his new Sanchez Mexican Restaurant in Teaneck .
Tuesday, his wife, Paula Jimenez, made homemade tortillas using corn and water, like they do in the mother country.
In the meantime, Sanchez cooked up one skillet of cactus, another of chicken, before filling the tortillas and making them into taquitos.
“Chicken,” he said, distributing the white meat among the tacos. “Then onion, scallions, and cilantro.” He paused.
“If there’s no cilantro, it’s not a taquito.”
Sanchez garnished the plate with cactus, fresh salsa made with tomatoes and dried peppers, red radishes, and lemon.
Only after the plate was a mouthwatering color riot was he satisfied.
Usually, restaurants in the U.S. make Tex-Mex food, a combination of American and Mexican cuisine, and call it Mexican, Sanchez said.
“With that, everything uses a lot of flour,” he said. “Not here. For a burrito, we use flour. For all the rest, we use only corn tortillas we make ourselves.”
The menu at Sanchez Mexican Restaurant, nestled on Degraw Avenue, also includes Molcajete, a favorite south of the border. Sanchez heaps the ingredients in a sturdy clay bowl.
“We put chicken, steak, shrimp, cheese, sausage,” Sanchez explained.
The restaurant also offers a variety of breakfasts, plates, and quesadillas as well as tortas, a kind of Mexican sandwich that features a meat of choice covered with cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato, and avocado.
The whole thing, Sanchez explained, is pressed, panini style, and served crunchy on top and hot inside.
Eager for a better standard of living for himself and the family he would eventually have, Sanchez immigrated to Teaneck in 1997.
Immediately, he landed a job as a dishwasher and then worked his way up to cooking at a variety of restaurants.
For the past 12 years, he prepared kosher foods at Noah’s Ark on Cedar Lane before taking the leap and opening the new place in May.
“My wife was cooking a lot of places, too, in schools, for caterers,” said Sanchez, now 39. “We thought it was time to open our own business.”