Food & wine

José shares his authentic Mexican dishes


Guro Holmene

When Mexican chef José was little, he liked to watch his mother and grandmother in the kitchen. 

They chatted and cooked. José listened and learned. 

"They were strong women. They didn't expect anything to come by itself," says José. 

It was this strength, and a little culinary secret, that has accompanied José on his journey out into the world. 


After spending years in the U.S. and Norway, chef and restaurant owner José Standal Ambriz felt a sudden craving for authentic Mexican tacos. "Almost everyone in the world confuses Tex-Mex with Mexican cuisine. It's completely wrong, Tex-Mex is from Texas," says José.

"The guacamole should have some texture and a few lumps, you must not mash it, which is what many people do," says José Standal Ambriz, as he slices avocados in the kitchen.  

What’s in the dressing?  

"That's my grandmother's recipe. And it's secret, so I will never reveal it," he says with a laugh.  

His husband, Torgeir Ambriz Standal, says that although some of the employees at their restaurant, José's Taco and Quesedilla Bar, know very well what the ingredients should be, nobody manages to make the guacamole and salsa the way José does. He has been making the sauces ever since he was little, with the same love that his mother and grandmother put into them in their kitchen in Colima on Mexico's west coast.  

"There," he says, finishing off his work of art by placing a tortilla chip on top.  

The bowl is filled up completely, and there are distinct lumps of avocado, long with red onion, cilantro, and a light brown spice.  

Does the magic lay in the spice?  

imageFredrik Ahlsen / Maverix


Authentic guacamole doesn't contain fillers and unnecessary ingredients. José has been making the sauces ever since he was little, with the same love that his mother and grandmother put into them.

From Mexico to the United States 

José was born and raised in Colima, which is the capital of the state of the same name. The city is not far away from Mexico's most active volcano, the Colima Volcano. Colima is an important agricultural and industrial centre where corn, rice, melons, papayas, and bananas are major crops. Industry in the city includes salt refining and alcohol distillation. But José didn’t end up spending his teenage years close to Mexico’s Pacific coast. Like so many other Mexican families, they emigrated to the United States when he was 12:  

"My mum and grandmother have always stood on their own two feet. They have worked hard and achieved what they have wanted. They are strong women and I have always looked up to them," says José.  

"You know, they are the type of women with grit. If there's something they want, they push themselves hard to achieve it.” 

The American dream started at a diner in Los Angeles, where José and his mother worked together. This was also his first encounter with a restaurant kitchen. After a few years in the big city in California, José started working as a chef. At the same time, Torgeir, from Norway, was working as a server in L.A., and the two met at a nightclub.  

"It's a cliché to meet like that out on the town," they say, smiling. 

imageTanya Wallin

the same interest in food

José og Torgeir met at a nightclub. "It's a cliché to meet like that out on the town," they say, smiling.

Shared the same dream 

But this cliché turned into something far more than a meeting at a club. Both shared the same interest in food and the dream of starting a place of their own. They eventually headed to Norway, Torgeir's homeland, where they both took jobs in the restaurant business, and José continued his culinary training. They eventually realized their dream of having their own restaurant, but it was not at all clear what direction the menu would take.  

"Honestly, it sounds weird, but Mexican food wasn't my thing growing up," José says.  

This despite the fact that his role models, his mother and grandmother, made tortillas and marinated meat in the kitchen where he watched and listened as a child. But he had never been interested in preparing his family’s traditional food himself until he felt homesick as an adult. 

"I had been living in Norway for a few years and I started to miss my family terribly. And Mexican food too. In order for it to be authentic, I had to learn how to make it myself. I practiced and started learning all the dishes. Even though my mum always said when I was a kid ‘you take a little bit of this and a little bit of that’ - never any specific goals or quantities - it came automatically. All the recipes came to me when I was trying them out," says José, smiling broadly.  

"Then I invited some Mexican friends for dinner and cooked Mexican food. Do you know what happened? I got the best compliment I've ever received. One of my Mexican friends who was sitting at the table exclaimed ‘this reminds me of my mum's food!’," says José.  

He becomes clearly engaged and happy. 

"That really warmed my heart.”  

Now that he remembered the recipes, they developed a restaurant based on long family traditions: José's Taco & Quesedilla Bar in popular Markveien in the Grünerløkka neighbourhood of Oslo, Norway.  

The menu includes Mexican food such as gorditas – tortillas with a full-bodied cheese and your choice of meat, and quesarito – rolled quesadillas with your choice of meat and pico de gallo, all topped with sour cream.  

imageTanya Wallin

Mexican tacos

Authentic Mexican tacos involve corn tortillas, not flour.

Genuine Mexican tacos 

The real reason we've visited José and Torgeir's restaurant is because we are wondering: what is authentic Mexican food?  

What many people associate with Mexican food around the world is hard-shell tacos with spicy ground beef. But that is Tex-Mex, which is a composite of Texan and Mexican. The term dates back to the culinary culture from the time when Texas was still a part of Mexico and has also become widespread due to migration to the United States. Many make their own versions using their favourite ingredients. There is no right or wrong way, but how authentic is it? 

"Many people associate Tex-Mex, i.e., ground beef and hard taco shells with Mexican food, but that is not authentic," José points out.  

Mexico is a large country with long traditions for cultivating various cereals, many kinds of vegetables and exotic fruits, corn, sugar and coffee. And it is precisely the great variety and colourfulness that characterizes real Mexican cuisine. An authentic Mexican taco often contains such ingredients as chili, beans, lime, tomatoes, avocados, onions, coriander, and many kinds of herbs.  

The tortillas should be homemade from cornmeal. The meat should be boiled for several hours and be thoroughly marinated. The tacos can either contain any type of meat or be plant-based — they are just as authentic with beans as with meat. 

"If corn tortillas are made from scratch, you can make any tortilla and it will taste fantastic. Having a good corn tortilla that is the most important thing - and then you can fill the taco with eggs, scampi, pork, chicken, or vegetables. The sky is the limit," the chef points out, laughing again.  

And what about the guacamole? 

“Yes, it needs to be included. Made with my grandmother's recipe!” 

imageFredrik Ahlsen / Maverix

In Oslo, Norway

José and Torgeir developed a restaurant based on long family traditions.

Drinks for Mexican tacos 

An authentic Mexican meal also deserves drinks to accompany the long traditions. You have several options:  


Cocktail containing Cointreau, tequila, and lime juice.



Spirits that are produced around the city of Tequila, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. 



Mexican soda that has refreshing flavours including lime, mango, guava, and many others.


Mexican beer

Some famous brands are Negra Modelo, Corona, Dos Equis, Pacifico, and Bohemia.


Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus tea)

A drink common in Mexico, which is, so to speak, flavoured water. The drink is made from the red flower hibiscus. The leaves are dried, boiled in water, and mixed with sugar and ice cubes.


Facts Tex-Mex: 

Tex-Mex is a food tradition from Texas in the United States inspired by Mexican cuisine. The word is used for several forms of cultural expression in the region, including music, but is most commonly used for food. The abbreviation is said to have first been used for the Texas-Mexican railway between northern Mexico and Texas.  

Mexican food is one of the world's most widespread cuisines. Traditional Mexican cuisine was declared protected intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2010. 


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