Quick Guide to Mexican cooking
Mexican cuisine is incredibly versatile… in fact, what you know from the Mexican around the corner is nothing compared to the delicacies you can try in Mexico (maybe unless you are from the United States). This is simply due to the lack of availability of many ingredients. In the different regions of Mexico, the local cuisine is also very different. My very personal favorite is the Mayan cuisine in Yucatan. A small introduction to Mexican cuisine can be found here.
Mexican cuisine is characterized by the excellent blend of Native American and Spanish-colonial specialities and has mostly quite little to do with the offer from the Mexican at home around the corner.
Regionally, there are big differences in Mexican food, from the beef oriented cuisine in the north to the Mayan cuisine in Yucatan that cooks with lard. Usually there is abundant seasoning with coriander (cilantro) and fresh lime juice, and the wonderful Guacamole cream made from avocados with onion, coriander, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and chilies should not be missing either.
In addition to the well-known Mexican dishes based on tortilla, it is definitely worth trying the dishes based on the versatile Native American cuisine. While many things seem exotic at first glance, they promise the brave test-eater previously unknown culinary delights.
At breakfast, most Mexican hotels offer two different alternatives:
- The Plan Europeo, the classic European breakfast with coffee, tea (often only chamomile available), rolls and butter or jam.
- If you get the chance, don’t miss the Plan Americano – you will be offered fried eggs or scrambled eggs with ham, fried bacon, spicy chili sauces and delicious salsas, tropical fruits and with a bit of luck Agua Fresca!
If you do not want to take breakfast at your hotel, because of the time schedule or if you do not like it, just ask for a recommended restaurant to enjoy your breakfast. Everywhere in Mexico there are great locations that are visited by locals and will make sure you have a great start into your day.
The most important meal of the day in Mexico is lunch, the lunch break of a normal working day is rather long. Just the right time to try all the treats of Mexican cuisine! There may also be several courses – in Mexico there are delicious soups, and you should definitely not miss the yummy desserts. Afterwards you can use the hottest hours of the day for a cozy siesta.
If you’re just somewhere on the road and want to shorten your lunch break, you should definitely give Mexican street food culture a chance. Not only will you taste lots of delicacies from Mexican cuisine, you can also enjoy the exciting ambience of the country to the fullest and take great photos. Maybe you will have the opportunity to taste delicious nopales – my absolute favorite vegetable in Mexico. They come from the cactus from which you surely know the cactus figs. The nopales, however, are the shoots of the plants. Of course, they are freed from their dangerous spines with a special knife before enjoying them.
In the evening, in Mexico usually only a small snack is consumed – a few fruits, some tacos or something similar. In a hot, tropical country with abundant vegetation, fruits and many vegetables play an important role in the kitchen.
If you choose tacos, the famous “Tacos al Pastor” are definitely worth trying. The meat for this dish is slowly grilled on rotary skewers, similar to the oriental kebab. For Tacos al Pastor there is one rule: the later the evening, the more delicious the meat. The best places for this type of tacos are usually seen at the queue that forms in the evening on the street in front of the entrance.
Typical for Mexico are the Tortillas that belong to every meal. Especially as soft freshly baked cakes, tortillas are truly delicious and suit almost any food.
If you don’t like the slightly tart taste of the classic corn tortillas, you should ask for the delicious tortillas made of wheat flour (Tortillas de Harina). They are not always available, but much more often than expected. However, they usually are not served automatically, as Mexico is addicted to the corn tortilla.
Normally, with every food, in Mexico chilies or chili dressings are on the table, which come in many flavors from sweet to extremely hot.
The hottest chili is the Chile Habanero. It is rarely served and maybe available on request. It is used cut to very small pieces and usually is combined with meat dishes.
Far milder is the Chile Jalapeño, that is sliced and marinated. It is served together with the food in traditional restaurants.
Often you will find also a mixture of small chopped fresh chilies and onions in marinade or finished chili sauces in bottles on your table. The latter are available in every supermarket. Our favorite is the Salsa de Chile Chipotle that comes with a spicy taste and smoky aroma. In fact, a large stock of it always drives up the weight limit of our luggage on the flight home.
If you are lucky enough to be offered a homemade salsa from Chile Guajillo somewhere, you should not miss out this offer. I have spent more than two years in Mexico, and it happened to me once. I am still dreaming about it today.
As dessert, Mexicans mostly prefer Gelatinas. These are jellies made from fruit juices, that are often served in the colors of the Mexican flag. Gelatinas, however, are artificially colored and, in our view, cannot withstand the comparison with fresh sun-ripened tropical fruits as dessert. Also puddings (flan) are very popular, so lovers of sweets will definitely get on their bill.
If you prefer your dessert rather delicious and healthy, just stick to a plate of fruit with the juice of freshly expressed limes. This ensures the right dose of vitamins and is extremely tasty. The taste of the tropical fruits in Mexico is not comparable to the fruit in the local supermarket, as it is usually harvested immature for export in order to survive the transport unscathed. The sun-ripened fruits in the tropics are a different world. My personal favorite is the Papaya.
In Mexico, ice creams are made of water (Nieve) or milk (Helado). It’s really worth to try the exotic varieties, that can range from tropical fruits unknown to visitors from northern countries, to ice creams with flavors of vegetables or traditional dishes.
Seriously, I’ve also seen ice cream with flavors like chilaquiles (something like a Mexican lasagna with tortilla chips) or schnitzel. You may also be able to come across ice cream with the aroma of green salad or beetroot.Such an abundant offer however might be available only in specialized ice cream bars in large cities.
Unlike in Europe, Salmonella in chicken is a rather unknown topic in Mexico. On the other hand, people worry about drinking water and trichina in pork, which is therefore used with special caution. Particular care is often needed when it comes to the most delicious things. For example, the extremely tasty chicharrones from the rind of pork belly, seasoned with chili sauces or lime juice. As the Mexican version of party snacks, they are simply irresistible.
You just got hungry? Learn in this post about drinks in Mexico.
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