Bar Patron's Mexican fiesta: Prawn tacos, zucchini quesadilla and ceviche rojo recipes

Ceviche rojo with corn chips.
Ceviche rojo with corn chips. Photo: Supplied

Pamela Valdes met Neil Perry by chance after arriving in Sydney last year. The 28-year-old chef had learned to cook in her grandmother's kitchen in Xalapa in Mexico. She and her grandmother used to gorge on TV celebrity chef shows. At the age of 10, Valdes, watching a program about the Culinary Institute of America declared: "I want to be a chef." Her grandmother encouraged her to study at the Instituto Culinario de Xalapa and after graduating, Valdes began working at restaurant chain, El Raco den Perot. Valdes is now head chef at Bar Patron by Rockpool, which opens in Sydney this week. The food of her heritage stars on the menu, and in these fiery dishes.

Ceviche rojo

A classic ceviche that is rich with the bold flavours and fresh seafood traditionally associated with Mexico's Pacific Coast.

Bar Patron chef Pamela Valdes.
Bar Patron chef Pamela Valdes. Photo: Supplied


2-3 guajillo chillies

240g mildly flavoured white fish fillet (such as snapper, flathead or whiting), skin removed

juice of 2 limes

salt to taste

¼ red onion


1 jalapeno chilli, seeds removed

a handful of coriander leaves


3 to 4 slices avocado

4 to 5 coriander leaves, whole


1. Remove the stems and seeds from the guajillo chillies. Soak in hot water for 20 minutes, then puree the chillies and pass through a fine sieve, adding a little of the soaking water as needed.

2. Cut the fish into 1.5-centimetre dice. Place in a medium bowl and add the lime juice and just enough guajillo puree (about one tablespoon) to coat the fish. Season with a little salt and leave for one minute.

3. Thinly slice onion, finely dice the jalapeno, roughly chop the coriander leaves and add to the bowl with the fish. Mix gently to combine.

4. To serve, place the fish on a serving plate and garnish with sliced avocado and coriander leaves.

Serves 4 as part of a shared meal

Prawn tacos at Bar Patron, Sydney.

A pair of prawn and pineapple tacos. Photo: Supplied

Prawn tacos

Traditionally eaten in coastal areas of Mexico, these tortillas are loaded with spicy prawns and topped with fresh, sweet and spicy salsa. If you don't use all of the guajillo chilli paste for this recipe, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for one to two weeks. It can be used to flavour soups, pasta sauces and stews.


8 x 15cm fresh corn tortillas

480g king prawns (flesh only)

oil for grilling

1 lime, quartered, to serve

Guajillo chilli paste

50g guajillo chillies

3 tbsp vegetable oil

8 garlic cloves, crushed

salt to taste

Pineapple habanero salsa

140g pineapple

½ red onion

handful of coriander leaves and stems

1 fresh finely chopped habanero chilli, or to taste

juice of 1 lemon

25ml cider vinegar

salt to taste


1. To make the guajillo chilli paste, remove stems and seeds from the guajillo chillies. Add the oil to a frypan and bring to high heat. Add chillies and fry for one minute. Remove chillies from the pan and puree, using a little water to help create a paste. Add the crushed garlic and a pinch of salt and mix well.

2. To make the pineapple habanero salsa, dice the pineapple and onion and finely chop the coriander, placing them into a medium bowl. Add the juice and vinegar and chopped habanero to taste (add gradually until you achieve the level of heat you like) and mix thoroughly. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the prawns and enough guajillo chilli paste to coat them. Brush a flat grill pan (or frypan) with a little oil, and bring to high heat. Grill prawns on both sides, until pink and tender.

4. While prawns are cooking, warm tortillas under a grill. Place two warm tortillas on four small plates, divide the cooked prawns among the tortillas and top with some of the pineapple habanero salsa. Place a wedge of lime on the side of each plate. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Zucchini quesadilla at Bar Patron, Sydney.

Zucchini quesadilla with chile seco salsa. Photo: Supplied

Zucchini quesadilla

Known as Flor de Calabaza in Mexico, this traditional street food is enjoyed across the whole country.


8 x 15cm fresh corn tortillas

60g Oaxaca cheese

Zucchini filling

¼ brown onion

½ jalapeno chilli

200g zucchini

about 8 zucchini flowers, torn

salt, for seasoning

olive oil for frying

Chile seco salsa

250g chipotle chillies

50g garlic, chopped

20ml vegetable or rice bran oil

salt to taste


1. To make the zucchini filling, thinly slice onion and jalapeno. Heat a little oil in a frypan. Add onion and jalapeno and cook over medium heat until the onion softens and turns translucent.

2. Finely dice zucchini and add to the pan, cooking gently for 4-5 minutes, until tender. Add zucchini flowers and cook for a further minute. Season with salt. Set aside.

3. To make the chile seco salsa, remove chipotle stems (and seeds if you want a milder salsa) and toast in a frypan until aromatic. Process chillies and garlic in a blender, adding a little water if necessary, until smooth to help form a paste.

4. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add paste and cook until it is aromatic. Move the pan constantly to prevent the paste from burning. Season to taste with salt.

5. To assemble, place a little of the zucchini filling on one side of each fresh corn tortilla. Divide the Oaxaca cheese between the tortillas, sprinkling it over the zucchini filling. Fold over the other half of the tortilla, to form a half moon.

6. Place the quesadilla on a flat grill pan (or frypan) brushed with a little oil to prevent sticking. Cook on both sides until warmed through (about 1 minute each side). Serve immediately with some of the chile seco salsa on the side.

Serves 4


Chipotle chillies are smoke-dried jalapenos. They are available from Mexico City Food Products, Fireworks Foods, the Essential Ingredient, Casa Iberica Deli and Herbie's Spices.

Fresh corn tortillas are made with white or blue masa (corn) dough. They are available from Mexico City Food Products, Fireworks Foods and La Tortilleria.

Guajillo chillies are large, mild orange-red to black-brown dried chillies. They are available from Mexico City Food Products, Fireworks Foods, the Essential Ingredient, Casa Iberica Deli and Herbie's Spices.

Habaneros are very hot fresh chillies available from specialist greengrocers.

Oaxaca cheese is a white, semi-hard cheese. It's available in Latino grocers. If you can't find it, use mozzarella.