Newlyweds bring hometown Mexican flavour north

Roxana Perez de Iga and Jorge Iga moved to the Yukon from Mexico 10 days after they got married. They're a long way from Saltillo, in the state of Coahuila, but they have brought little pieces of their former home with them.

Roxana Perez de Iga and Jorge Iga moved to the Yukon from Mexico 10 days after they got married.

They’re a long way from Saltillo, in the state of Coahuila, but they have brought little pieces of their former home with them.

And to them, that means mostly the food.

Perez and Iga have just opened a new restaurant, La Patrona, that serves food in the traditional Saltillo style, just like mom and grandma make.

“Aside from it being something we love, it’s also a piece of home,” said Perez of the new restaurant.

Black and white photos of the heroes of the Mexican revolution adorn the walls of the new location at 4th Ave and Steele St., next to Antoinette’s.

Sarapes, colourful woven cloths that are particular to the region of Mexico where they come from, hang near the entrance.

Perez pointed out that they are similar in style to the button blankets made by some of the Yukon’s First Nations.

And other elements of fusion between Saltillo and Whitehorse cultures are apparent, if you look close enough.

One wall is covered with shelves of tiny potted cacti. Perez said they remind them of their home state, which is in the desert.

“As soon as Jorge saw them in Canadian Tire, he was like, ‘I’ve got to have them.’”

She would like to eventually serve wild Yukon game meat in Mexican-style recipes, like maybe a bison chile relleno, or stuffed pepper, said Perez.

“That would be the most amazing thing for me.”

Perez and Iga came to the Yukon for a new adventure and a great opportunity. The first thing they noticed was the cold.

“It was winter and it was April!” said Perez.

They came under the Yukon Business Nominee Program. The newlyweds had close friends living in Whitehorse, and planned to start a food truck to sell traditional food in the style of their hometown.

After they have spent a couple years in the Yukon, the government will review what they have accomplished, and if all goes well they will then be eligible for Canadian citizenship.

“We started our lives here together, you know, as a family. So we would love to be here,” said Perez.

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In just half a year, they have already accomplished a lot.

By mid-June they had their distinct yellow food truck up and running, serving tacos and aguas frescas, or juice, to hungry lunchtime patrons.

They credit the new restaurant, which wasn’t part of the original plan, to the success of the food cart and the encouragement of Yukoners.

“Everyone has been so supportive and welcoming and just helpful in everything,” said Perez. “You feel the warmth and you feel them wanting you to succeed, and that’s just something we’re not used to. In Mexico, it’s so different.”

Those familiar with the La Patrona food truck will find similar offerings on the restaurant’s lunch menu.

Dinner offers something completely different, with more elaborate traditional dishes.

Despite the difficulties of finding the right ingredients, fresh, ripe and in season, Perez wanted to stay as true as possible to the recipes she knows from home.

She wants you to try them that way, too.

“I just do the dishes as they are,” said Perez. “I almost do no changes if someone asks. ‘Oh, I want my something without cilantro.’ I’ll go in and ask, ‘Is it because your allergic, or … ? Just try it, as it is. There’s a reason why it’s served this way.’”

Gluten-free and vegetarian options, on the other hand, are available.

While running the food cart this summer, Perez found that some customers were unwilling to experiment with new foods once they found something they really liked.

They would came back again and again, asking for fish tacos and cucumber lemon juice, for example, every time.

But Perez insisted that her customers broaden their experience of her home-style cooking.

“OK, today you’re having shrimp tacos and guava hibiscus water,” she would tell them.

“No, I want fish tacos,” they would often reply.

“No, you’re having this. And then next time you can have fish tacos again,” she told them.

Many times, they would come back saying they liked the shrimp even better than the fish, she said.

“I want people to have the experience of tasting food as we have it back home. Maybe it’s not what they’ve tried before in Mexico, but it’s our hometown food, and I kind of force them a little bit to just eat it, and if you don’t like it, it’s OK.”

She hopes more people will order the flan, a custard-style dessert topped with dulce de leche and walnuts. It’s her mom’s recipe and her husband’s favourite, she said.

La Patrona is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Starting next week, dinner will be served Monday through Saturday from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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