Since opening Dulwich Hill's Tamaleria & Mexican Deli, Rosa Cienfuegos has delighted Australians with her authentic Mexican food offerings and has even launched her very own cookbook.
When Rosa Cienfuegos’ mum tried to punish her then 13-year-old daughter by making her cook for the family, little did she know.
“I was like, ‘I prefer to cook, I don’t mind,’” says Cienfuegos. “I was a rebel.” As the young cook honed her skills at home in Mexico City, “I learnt not to be scared of the stove. You get familiar with herbs and what goes with what, flavour bases and smells.”
After studying to become a teacher, Cienfuegos immigrated to Australia in 2009, enchanted by the country on a visit to see her dad. “He has been here for 20 years,” she explains. “On the day I arrived I was like, ‘Okay, I’m not leaving.’”
Settling in Sydney’s inner-west, she was impressed by the variety of restaurants – “That’s something we don’t have in Mexico; we don’t have Asian food, we don’t have Indian food” – but noticed her native cuisine was absent. So in 2018, she opened Tamaleria & Mexican Deli in Dulwich Hill, serving up authentic street food. “What you cook at home in Mexico is 100 per cent different to what I’m doing now,” she says of the tacos and tamales her colourful diner is beloved for.
Cienfuegos is delighted that Mexican food is now so popular in Australia (her eatery sells a range of ingredients for home cooks) and she released her first cookbook, Comida Mexicana, in October.
She now calls Australia home but Cienfuegos says food helps her feel connected with her birthplace. “I love to play around, even with Australian things. I make a Vegemite quesadilla,” she says, laughing.