The Place In Taste Of The Border That Astonished Claudia Sandoval - Exclusive

Claudia Sandoval has spent her life going back and forth between Mexico and the United States, but even she was surprised by "Oh my God, everything" as she traveled border towns for Discovery+'s new series, "Tase of the Border." The former "Master Chef" champion and current "Master Chef: Latino" judge exclusively told Mashed that she went into the show thinking "that everywhere else on the border would be pretty much the same thing. You're going to have the same kind of foods and the same kind of diversity." 

Have you watched the four episodes already? Sandoval is the first to admit that she was wide of the mark. From Tijuana to San Diego, San Luis Río Colorado to Tucson, Nogales to Hatch, and Monterrey to McAllen, Sandoval will take you on a journey to uncover fresh spider crab, fig farms, frog legs, and barbecue

"The borders are ... full of incredible people," Sandoval gushed. "[They] are not only making a name for themselves but [also] for their communities, for their culture. And [they] are really changing the perspective of people [on the border] and [those regions are] blowing up and [those people are] creating this amazing food revolution, that few people are really ... privy to."

One region, in particular, fascinated the chef. 

The 'Taste of the Border' region changed Sandoval's 'whole perspective'

You might be surprised, said Claudia Sandoval, when "Taste of the Border" takes you to Mexicali, where you'll find "200+" Chinese Mexican restaurants — a culinary gem tied to a dark past. "There was a huge migration of Chinese people that had come to build the railroads in the United States," Sandoval explained in her exclusive interview with Mashed. "And then later, they had to move out because of the Chinese Exclusion Act." 

Mexicali's China Town is also a testament to another highly contested US policy. "We were eating at one of my favorite Chinese restaurants, [and I was told], 'Did you also know that there's underground tunnels in this China town?'" Sandoval recalled. "Because of prohibition in the United States, people used to come to Mexicali, and it was the Vegas before there was Vegas!"

Sandoval has known about Mexicali for some time. She was completely taken aback, however, when she traveled to New Mexico. "When I think of New Mexico, I pair it with Arizona, and [assume], 'Oh, it's all the desert,'" Sandoval revealed. "But New Mexico was mountainous and green everywhere and [there were] plantations everywhere ... It just changed my whole perspective about regions, about who [lives] where. Because there was also a very large indigenous population in Arizona and in New Mexico, which I had no idea about."

To explore New Mexico's food history and much more, follow Claudia Sandoval on "Taste of the Border." All episodes are now available on Discovery+.