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Lamb Barbacoa - Masla y Maiz


Norma Listman and Saqib Keval met in the kitchen tracing notes of ancestral recipes and community foodways. As chefs, they have committed themselves to creating unique dining experiences using food as a means to tell complex stories of food migration through beautifully curated meals. As Masala y Maiz, Norma and Saqib research the migration of ingredients, cooking techniques and political movements between Mexico, South Asia and East Africa. Their work is rooted in the exploration of mestizaje and the belief that restaurants are a powerful tool for activism and social change.

Norma grew up in a town famously known for its barbacoa, a long and slow preparation of lamb where the animal is wrapped in maguey leaves pencas and cooked for hours in earthen pits underground. Barbacoa is a Sunday morning tradition and meant to be shared amongst family and friends alongside piles of fresh tortillas, finely chopped onions and cilantro, salsas and sprigs of epazote, all of it chased down with a steaming hot cup of consome. The first time Norma took Saqib to eat barbacoa in her hometown he was transported to the nyama choma stands in coastal Kenya where his family is from. The barbacoa they serve at their restaurant Masala y Maiz quickly became a Sunday tradition. Over the course of 3 days, local lamb is marinated and cured in a richly spiced adobo that draws equally from Mexico as it does from North India. The meat is first wrapped in sprigs of avocado leaves, then in roasted banana leaves before finally being covered in pencas de maguey and cooked for hours at a low heat.

The printed edition of Feast: Spice contains a recipe for the lamb barbacoa regularly served at Masala y Maiz as well as a text by Norma and Saqib on the spices and flavours of the dish, which incorporates both Mexican and South Asian spices, touching on something of the complex histories of the movement spice throughout the global south pre and post colonization.

Norma Listman & Saqib Keval

Norma Listman and Saqib Keval are committed to using Masala y Maiz and their access as chefs to fight for the critical social justice issues of our time and work hard to be leaders in bettering the labour conditions and quality of life for those working in the food industry. In 2020, they partnered with their staff and farmers to open the worker-owned cooperative grocery store Super Cope, and are working on opening their new casual restaurant Mari Gold. They work together in all parts of the project and have made Masala y Maiz a beautifully personal reflection of themselves, their families, and their community. Norma and Saqib are based out of Mexico City but travel internationally giving lectures on food politics and food migrations, hosting cooking demonstrations and pop up dinners.