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When you think about Mexican food, two things come to mind: tacos and burritos. In fact, burritos are not even Mexican and the cuisine goes far beyond tacos. Here’s a look at the full range of Mexican food.
Yes, tortillas are certainly used in most national dishes, but you’d be surprised how creative they can be with only one ingredient. Experimental travelers and conservative eaters will both discover ¡muy ricas! options and fall in love with la comida mexicana.
This is my absolute favorite dish in Mexico. It consists basically of totopos (pieces of corn tortilla, fried or toasted) covered in hot green or red salsa. In most cases, it is served with raw onions, shredded chicken, minced meat, eggs, cheese, sour cream, refried beans and more. Locals usually have it for breakfast as well as to cure strong hangovers.
This is actually a sauce that comes in many flavors and is often made with completely different ingredients depending on where you are in Mexico. When I first saw it, I was a bit shocked. It looked and tasted like I was eating chocolate with meat, which I personally don’t think is a perfect pairing. Mole is a sacred dish said to have been created in a convent more than 300 years ago when the chocolate accidentally fell into the mixture. It’s not everybody's cup of tea, but worth a try for sure.
Pozole, one of the oldest Mexican dishes dating back to the Aztecs, is only served on special occasions. The dish consists of a stew or soup whose main ingredient is hominy (ground maize). It can also be served with meat, shredded cabbage, chili, onion, garlic and other seasonings. In fact, the dish is believed to have had cannibalistic origins. However this all changed after the Spanish colonization when pork became pozole’s meat of choice.
Tamales are one of Mexico’s most famous foods dating back to as far as 8000 BC and consisting of corn dough that’s been steamed inside corn husks or banana leaves. Meat, vegetables and even sweet versions are common, so you can choose one that suits your fancy. In fact, 2 February is the Día de la candelaria when friends and families get together to feast on these delicious local delights.
Another dish made with tortillas, except this preparation is basically a rolled pancake with different fillings and a spicy sauce on top. Enfrijoladas, as you can imagine, have the same presentation but are covered with crushed beans and cheese. Yummm.
Nopales are really just plants. More precisely, cactus pads. Research shows there are over 114 known species of Nopal, which I find completely amazing. You can eat cactus raw or grilled, and boasts several nutritional benefits including being an excellent source of protein. It’s also used in medicines. In case you’re wondering, yes, the spikes and bristles will be removed prior to your consumption.
The best way to serve corn. You will find Esquites mostly at street stalls for a very low price and it’s traditionally a snack you have on your way to/from work. The word comes from Nahuatl (the old Aztec language) and means ‘toasted corn’. They usually have a little kick and are prepared with onions, cheese, chili powder and garnished with mayonnaise.
Warning: Chapulines are not for everyone. It’s okay if you’re not interested in eating grasshoppers. After being collected, the grasshoppers are cleaned and washed and finally toasted in a clay pan called a comal. They are usually seasoned with garlic, lime juice and salt. I’ve tried them and I can tell you they’re crunchy and not at all unappetizing... so long as you don’t think about what you’re eating.
9. Frutas con chili y sal
Fruit stands abound in Mexico, all serving an assortment of fruits and vegetables covered in chili powder and salt. At first, I thought it was unusual, but fell in love after my first bite. My favorite was certainly jicama, a kind a turnip, covered with salt, lemon juice and chili powder.
BEST. SNACK. EVER.
If your Spanish is not advanced, I will start by saying that gordita means ‘chubby’, so I’m sure you can imagine a gordita is not the healthiest food on earth. However, it’s pretty delicious. Some people say this Mexican pastry made from masa dough looks like a Colombian/Venezuelan arepa, and it’s usually filled with meat, cheese and other things.