Mexican gastronomy: THE CULINARY ART OF MEXICO


If Mexico stands out for anything above the rest of the world is for food, famous throughout the whole planet. Along with Japanese and French cuisines, as well as the Mediterranean diet, Mexicans are the only ones to have this prestigious title of "Intangible Heritage of Humanity" (Unesco). This gastronomy is unique, almost ancestral, a product of the autochthonous culinary traditions that have persevered to this day. The roots of the native peoples are seen in that base of all (or almost all) dishes: corn. Other culinary elements originating in Mexico are different varieties of chile, the use of tomato (the secret item of the sauces), avocado, beans, nopales... And, of course, the traditional cooking techniques, such as inside a hole in the ground or in clay ovens. If you add to that what the Spaniards brought from outside - and others, like the French or the Arabs - we have flavors that explode on your palate with the cry of "no mames, this is delicious!". Thus, it is not surprising that in Mexico everything revolves around food, with a family restaurant and a taco stand on each corner 24/7. Not to mention the stores, markets and independent vendors that offer an immense range of products fresh from the field. The avocado is the king and the mango and the papaya princesses, among a host of vegetables and fruits with a flavor that is hardly found in Europe. So awards aside, for me Mexican food is the best in the world for the simple and plain reason that in this country you live for food, which I have not seen anywhere else.

Mexico is definitely synonymous with food

Street food is cheap and delicious and people love to eat out, so you will not have a problem finding something open at any time of the day. Even at 6 am some cooks would be preparing their tacos, huevos rancheros and other “antojitos” (name for appetizers) to please the early-rising souls who go to work / study. Just remember one thing: be careful with sauces. In Mexico there is this saying: “si no te enchilaste te la banaste!”. That is, if you did not have your tongue burning like hell, you have not come to Mexico. I just invented this saying but it could be true.

Some dishes are good for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so the three main meals could be identical: tacos to start the day right, continue and finish it! But there are other dishes more typical of the morning or evening. For example, eggs usually belong to breakfast. Although much of what we are going to see is made with corn dough or wheat flour and belongs to the street fast food category, these recipes can also be found in restaurants (even the fancy ones). And other gourmet dishes.

Like this tuna ceviche. Photo by Marisol Rueda

Also, believe it or not, not all Mexican street food is made with bread or corn dough: there are also popular soups and broths such as menudo, pozole and charro beans; stuffed chiles, meats, fish, salads... The number of dishes and recipes is practically infinite, so we cannot see all of them here. Not even living in Mexico you can try everything in one life. Open your menus on page 4.987 for the dessert section, which we are not going to see here (sorry, it’s too much)! Have a seat and enjoy!

Note. most of the videos are only in Spanish, sorry.

SALSAS = SAUCES

Many say that the secret is in the dough… While corn is partly to blame for the deliciousness of Mexican food, sauces should carry that award! What would Mexican food be without its sauces? In fact, we cannot even start talking about Mexican dishes without first making a summary of the main sauces, as they are part of practically the whole repertoire. There are many. Here we go with perhaps the most representative ones:

Salsa roja = Red sauce

It is made with red tomato and chili (serrano, de arbol... or others that you like) in the pan, after which they are liquefied together with chopped onions and garlic, salt, pepper and cilantro. Easy and goes well with everything! See how this girl prepares it:

Salsa verde = Green sauce

It is made of ground green tomato with onion, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño or serrano pepper, salt and pepper. You need to roast these ingredients first, then grind them in a molcajete (or liquefy them), then cook them in a pot and last but not least season the sauce. Perfect for tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, chilaquiles or chicharrón in green sauce, among others.

Chipotle sauces

The chipotle is a type of chile, quite spicy and from the family of jalapeños, which is left to mature until dry. Different types of sauce can be elaborated to accompany consecrated dishes such as chipotle chicken or tlalpeño broth, but we also use it to flavor tacos or nachos. There are different ways to make it, even with yogurt, but basically you have to boil red and green tomatoes along with these dried chilis (serrano, arbol and chipotle). Then it is liquefied all together with onion and garlic, a teaspoon of vinegar and salt. And it’s done! Here you have the recipe:

Mole poblano

A delight! Originally it consisted of a sauce based on chili peppers and spices, thickened with corn dough or tortilla (also boiled) covering pieces of turkey, although nowadays it is common with chicken, other meats and appetizers, being one of the most popular dishes, especially in Puebla and Oaxaca. The ingredients are many and vary in proportion, highlighting: bitter chocolate, chilis (ancho, mulato, pasilla, chipotle…), tomatoes, almonds, banana, nuts, raisins, sesame, cloves, cinnamon, parsley, pepper, onion, garlic and tortillas. It is essential to toast and remove the seeds from the chiles, then soak them in salted water the previous night before preparing the mole. There are different varieties. The best known are red, green and black ones. Discover all the things you need to make black mole:

Chamoy

The chamoy is a national favorite because it brings together everything that the Mexican palate likes: sweet, acid and spicy. This sauce is made with dehydrated fruit, chili, corn, salt, sugar, vinegar and water. It can also be found in powder, to be part of sweets such as chamoy ice cream or classic apples covered with chamoy. It is even used to make refreshing chamoy mojitos.

Guacamole

We all know this amazing sauce, which has transcended borders in all directions. It is based on avocado, tomato and chopped onion, garlic (secret element!), lemon or lime, cilantro, salt and olive oil. All this is mashed in a mortar. It is spectacular to accompany many dishes, in addition to the classic nachos with guacamole.

Foto by Marisol Rueda

ANTOJITOS (APPETIZERS) BASED ON CORN OR WHEAT DOUGH: TACOS AND FAMILY

"THE SECRET IS IN THE DOUGH... BUT ABOVE ALL IN THE SAUCE!"

Tacos

Taquitos al pastor. Foto by Patricia Smith

With all of you, the most representative dish of Mexican food! Tacos are prepared in different ways in each state (what the fuck, in every town in Mexico!). The tortilla can be made of corn or wheat flour (also cactus and others!), more or less large, with cheese or without cheese, with some vegetables or others... They can even be made of double tortilla. But usually, a standard taco consists of a corn tortilla (except in the northwest, where wheat is preferred) covering some food and amazing sauces (tomato and chillies as main ingredients), accompanied by extra ingredients such as lemon, coriander and chopped onion in different bowls. The combination creates a unique and unexpected flavor. These tacos made in Mexico have nothing to do with those you are used to in your country. They are way better. On top of that there are more tacos than one can try in a lifetime, but let's look at some of the most common:

Tacos al pastor

Piece of pork marinated with achiote, chili ancho, orange, vinegar, pepper and other chili peppers, which is inserted into an iron rod turning until it is cooked. Like a kebab! In fact, the recipe is a modification of a Lebanese dish that was invented in the city of Puebla. In the upper part of the pork, a piece of pineapple is inserted, which with the heat releases a juice that gives a spectacular flavor to the meat. You can do it yourself at home, like in this video:

Tacos de suadero

This type of taco is prepared with two fried tortillas and on top we add a portion of "suadero". That is, the meat and fat located between the thighs and the skin of the cow, which have a very different flavor. It goes well with cilantro, onion, lemon, salt and either red or green sauce. This type of taco is the most popular along with the pastor.

Tacos of gut, head, brains, tongue…

It is exactly how it sounds, tacos made with these parts of the cow, and as always with sauces, lemon, salt and cilantro. Very popular in Mexican nightlife.

Tacos de bistec = Steak tacos

Beef with onions and various sauces. Very popular, especially in the north, as in Monterrey.

Taken from kiwilimon.com

Tacos de barbacoa = Barbecue tacos

It has nothing to do with the barbecue sauce we are familiar with. The barbecue is cooked in its own juice at low heat for hours. If you find a taqueria with a earth oven, you are the luckiest person on Earth! The most common recipe is with lamb or goat meat, but you can also find rabbit, beef, chicken and even fish. Then the meat is minced and all you have to do is “build” your taco with lemon, onion, cilantro, salsita... and eat it! It is usually accompanied by the broth of the sheep or cow, which contains rice and chickpeas. If are traveling around Hidalgo have these tacos, as it is their star dish. Look at the recipe:

Tacos de carnitas

Prepared with pork cooked in its own lard in a saucepan... Letting it season with a touch of orange for hours..

Tacos de birria

It is made with goat meat, which is marinated with a special sauce and baked in a clay oven for hours. Typical of Jalisco.

Tacos de picadillo

Ground beef stew with potatoes and carrots cut into cubes, onions and tomatoes. You can also add corn kernels and peas.

Tacos de arrachera

The arrachera is the name that is given in Mexico to a particular cut of beef that comes from the diaphragm of the animal. It is a very fibrous and innervated meat and when it is raw it is very hard, so different culinary processes have been elaborated to make it more edible and tasty. Very popular in Nuevo León.

Taken from cocina-casera.com

Tacos de carne asada = Roast beef tacos

As the name suggests, they are tacos with roast beef. They are usually consumed in restaurants specialized in roast beef.

Tacos de cochinita

Prepared by bathing the pork with an achiote, orange, garlic, chili and vinegar sauce, leaving it to marinate for at least one hour. The traditional way is to cook it under the ground, but it can also be done in a regular oven, allowing it to cook until the meat is very soft. We will see this dish later, in the Yucatan food section.

Tacos of fish or shrimp

Very popular in Baja California and Baja California Sur, as well as along the entire Pacific coast, in the Caribbean zone and in the Gulf of Mexico (different species of fish obviously). The fish (or shrimp) goes well with “pico de gallo” (a mix of tomate, onion and pepper), green sauce, cream-based dressing, mayonnaise and chopped cabbage... And with whatever you want!

Other tacos

Crushed meat, Arabic tacos, potatoes (or mashed potatoes, very common in Chihuahua), pumpkin flower, Jamaica flower…

OTHER CORN APPETIZERS

Quesadillas

Corn tortillas folded in half and stuffed with cheese and occasionally other ingredients such as meat, mushrooms, rajas de chile, Jamaica flower, etc. Simple and delicious.

Michoacan blue corn quesadillas

Tacos dorados (Golden tacos) and flautas (flutes)

Both recipes consist of a corn tortilla rolled with some type of filling, usually based on chicken or beef (but also others like potatoes or Jamaica flowers), and fried in oil, so that the tortilla is crispy. They are covered with cream, cheese, lettuce, avocado... Two differences: the golden taquitos are small and original from Sinaloa, while the flutes are longer and come from Guerrero. However both recipes have expanded a lot and can be found practically all over the country, using different ingredients for the filling in each place. Take a look on this video to prepare scrumptious golden tacos of papa:

Gorditas or memelas

One of the favorites of many Mexicans. They are handmade tortillas in the shape of a disk that, before been cooked, are filled with some ingredient (pork rinds, fresh cheese, beans, potatoes ...). Subsequently they are fried in lard or directly without oil in the pan. The way to prepare them and the ingredients change from region to region. For example, these gorditas of potatoes, beans and meat, made by Tarahumara in the Barrancas del Cobre, Chihuahua:

Taken by Óscar Castellanos

Sopes or picadas

Fried thick corn tortilla (either with lard or vegetable oil) on which different ingredients are added y layers, in this order: refried beans, lettuce and chopped onion, cream, shredded fresh cheese, green, red, mole or chipotle sauce, and shredded chicken or beef meat (or pork). To give you an idea, they are a kind of mini pizzas with various ingredients and sauces. They are popular in various parts of Mexico, especially in Veracruz (here known as picadas) and the Yucatan Peninsula. One of my favorites!

Beans sopes. Taken from quericavida.com

Tlayudas

Tortillas of a much larger size, with a leathery consistency, which, when cooked, acquire a toasted consistency. It is prepared with a base of butter and chicharron remains, refried beans, fresh cheese, quesillo, and cabbage, which are roasted in charcoal and is usually accompanied by a piece of meat from the region (tasajo, cecina enchilada, chorizo, udder , gut), also roasted with charcoal. It is one of the most representative antojitos in the state of Oaxaca.

Tostadas = Toasts

In Mexico, a tostada is a crunchy corn tortilla. This is achieved by drying the tortillas in the pan or in the sun, although it can also be achieved by frying them. Currently this dish in Mexico is considered fast food due to its easy way to eat, its sale in open places, and sometimes for its production in oil. They are very popular because they are delicious and everyone can prepare it to their liking. They are served with other ingredients depending on the place or style, such as: seafood, fish, beans, guacamole, chicken, ham, lettuce, tomato, cheese, cream, and sauce. The greatest one I tried was a tuna fish in Playa del Carmen. Look at this innovative vegetarian recipe with jicama:

Enchiladas & family

Although this recipe varies significantly from region to region, the constant is fried tortillas (lightly), stuffed with a main ingredient and dipped in sauce (normally a hot sauce!). The optional ingredients are those that are added on top of such substantial preparation, such as onions, sprinkled cheese, cream, lettuce or cilantro. Among the most common enchiladas are:

Enchiladas verdes/Green enchiladas. Prepared with a sauce based on cooked green tomatoes (and chili, of course).

Enchiladas rojas/Red enchiladas. The base of its sauce can be the tomato or dried chili peppers (guajillo chili) that give it the red color.

Enchiladas michoacanas. From Michoacan. They are filled with tomato, onion in vinegar and oregano, and covered with cabbage, a tomato sauce and Cotija cheese. They are accompanied by chicken and potatoes cut into cubes fried in the mole.

Enchiladas mineras. From Guanajuato and the Bajío region. Stuffed with cheese and covered/surrounded by carrot and potato, jalapeño pepper, cheese and guajillo chile sauce. Delicious!

It is not the best preparation because I could not resist trying them before taking the picture​!

Enchiladas potosinas. From San Luis Potosí. Made with small tortillas, stuffed with ricotta or mashed beans and spicy, resulting in red and golden spicy quesadillas. They are accompanied with guacamole, refried beans, cueritos and chopped onions.

Enchiladas suizas/Swiss enchiladas. Prepared with a green sauce based on a cream of milk and covered with cheese gratin, instead of the most common fresh cheese in other types of enchiladas (that’s why they got that name). In some restaurants they are usually prepared with non-spicy red sauce, using tomato in their preparation, as in this video:

Enchiladas de mole: enmoladas. Covered with mole and occasionally seasoned with sesame. Wonderful!

Enchiladas de frijol: enfrijoladas. Covered with mashed beans.

But as I just said there are many types, almost endless if you happen to vary ingredients and create new ones. For example, these vegetarian enchiladas with Jamaica flower:

Tamales

No country in the world has the diversity of tamales that Mexico has (at least more than 500 varieties). There are sweet and salty tamales, spicy and soft. However, from north to south and from east to west the preparation consists (almost always) of masses of corn stuffed with meat and sauce, wrapped in corn or banana leaves (or others such as maguey or avocado) and steamed, either in a pot… or underground (traditional method). Among the most popular are: pork or chicken with sauce or mole, rajas de chile poblano and cheese, and beans. Other variants that deserve a space here are the tamal from Chiapas, with ingredients such as plums, almonds and local herbs, wrapped in banana leaves; the zacahuil from the Huasteca Potosina (and Hidalguense), known as the king of the tamales, due to its large size: up to 1.5 meters long and 60 kilograms. You can feed a whole nation! The corundas of Michoacán, with a triangular shape, made of corn dough and butter and are served in a fried tomato sauce with slices of chilaca and pork. Cream and fresh cheese are added. And the Veracruz tamal, which unlike the rest is prepared in a casserole. It is stuffed with chicken breast and poblano chili in a pasilla chili and tomato sauce.

Tamales oaxaqueños. Photo by Stephany Esquivel Hernández

WHEAT APPETIZERS

Gringas, campechanas and mulitas

Varieties of tacos made of wheat, different sizes, more or less fried, folded or not, with different fillings and sauces. The gringas are very popular and its definition could be a wheat (sometimes corn) flour tortilla filled with the most diverse meat, cheese, cilantro, onion and sauce.

Burritos

A very famous dish around the world that has its origins in the northern states of Sonora, Chihuahua and Durango. They are wheat flour tortillas stuffed with some meat stew or bean and cheese. The varieties are many, for example roast beef, shredded meat with potatoes and chili, beans, stuffed peppers, potatoes with chorizo, chicharrón in green sauce, chili with cheese… Super popular in northern Mexico and the States. There are also the monstrous burritos percherones from Sonora: a giant burrito filled with roast beef, chicken or any kind of meat or stew. Come and see if you can eat one by yourself!

Taken from mexicodesconocido.com.mx

Tortas

Let's say it's a kind of sandwich with a special bread brought by the Europeans (usually one called telera, but it can also be with bolillo or birote), which can be filled with different ingredients: refried beans, cheese, chicken, pork, egg, avocado, onions, jalapeños, etc. They are usually seasoned with mayonnaise, cream, tomato, mustard... and any type of chili peppers or combination of them. There are homemade tortas, made with cold meats, sausages and stews, and more elaborate commercial tortas with milanesa, beef, pork, chicken, cheese, sausage, chorizo, seafood, bacon... Special mention to the torta ahogada (drowned or dipped) from Jalisco, a delight that we will see later in the Jalisco gastronomy.

Pambazos

A traditional Mexican flour bread filled with delicious foods and sauces. Very typical of the center of the country, although there are variations. Thus, in Puebla the bread is filled with sweet mole poblano or with refried beans and fresh cheese, or fried beans and longaniza, while in Mexico City it is stuffed with potatoes and chorizo, dipped in guajillo chile marinade and fried.

OTHER ANTOJITOS AND POPULAR DISHES

Chilaquiles for breakfast. Photo by Marisol Rueda

Nachos

Fried pieces of corn tortilla (also known as totopos or tortilla chips) covered with a special cheese called "cheese for nachos" and other additional ingredients: guacamole (or other sauces), jalapeños, tomatoes, beans, coriander and even some meat. Everyone loves them and they are very easy to elaborate, hence they have spread so much around the world.

Chilaquiles

Let's say he is the ugly cousin of the nachos because he is not so well known outside of Mexico. But the truth is that this dish also made with tortilla chips or totopos is even more popular in Mexico, being the favorite breakfast of many. The totopos are bathed in green or red chile sauce at the last moment so that they reach the table with a certain firmness and it is easier to pierce them with a fork. The foods that can accompany them are diverse: beans, corn, cheese, cream, onion, avocado, eggs, epazote, shredded chicken, beef, jerky, chorizo... The favorite of many (and I include myself) is the chilaquiles with beans and cheese. Simple and surprising sensation of flavors to start the day with energy. Here you have a recipe for chilaquiles with habanero sauce:

Elote = Corncob

Fresh corn served on the cob or in grains. On the cob it is roasted or boiled and covered with mayonnaise, chili powder, Cotija cheese, lemon juice, salt and hot sauce. The cut grains are served in small unicel or plastic cups and are called esquites; they usually have the same ingredients as corn on the cob and are eaten with a spoon.​

Photo by Thalia de la Cruz

Nopalitos asados

There are many ways of eating this tasty cactus... For example with pork and red chili, vegetarians…

Nopal Salad

And also as a star element in a salad. I do not think you can try this salad out of Mexico, so take the opportunity in Aztec lands! This cactus is cleaned (you’d better do it, nobody wants to swallow a thorn!), cut into cubes and washed. The nopales are boiled either with water or with the water that releases the own cactus, about 4-5 minutes or until they are soft. Onion and coriander branches gives them flavor. Then let it sit for 10 minutes in the colander. In the meantime you can start cutting the other ingredients: red tomatoes, onion, cilantro. Everything is mixed in a bowl along with lemon juice, a little olive oil, salt and pepper. You can also add fresh cheese, Cotija or goat, avocado, radishes or serrano pepper (one that can be eaten raw). Watch the recipe:

Huevos al gusto = Eggs any style

They have a huge variety of eggs in Mexico, very popular at breakfast: huevos rancheros, divorced, oaxaqueña, with ham, with nopales, motuleños eggs, chips with eggs... They are always served with their tortillas and sauces, so you can make your own egg taquitos. Delicious.

Motuleños eggs at their origin: Motul

Chiles rellenos = Stuffed peppers

Whole pieces of chile that are roasted in a pan in order to peel and remove the seeds easily. Then they are filled with food, usually meat. In most recipes they are coated with a layer of beaten egg and fried. They are usually served with a tomato and onion sauce seasoned with oregano. It is customary to accompany them with white or Mexican rice (cooked with tomato puree, which gives it a red color). Traditionally too hot chili varieties are not used. The most used peppers to fill are the fresh chiles, although there are also others like the huachinango chile, the red peppers... There are many varieties of stuffing for the chiles, being the most popular mashed potatoes with tuna, melting cheeses and ground beef stews. Chiles en nogada are a particular variety of “chiles rellenos”, marinated in a fresh walnut sauce, hence the name of nogada (nogal = walnut tree). We will see this dish in more detail in the Puebla food section.

Rajas de chile poblano

Also called rajas with cheese. The rajas make reference to poblano pepper cut into strips (rajas). Another dish born in Puebla, but you can find it in many places in Mexico. It is made by grilling the ingredients in this order: onion, garlic, and sliced chili peppers. It is seasoned to taste, add an acid cream, a cup of corn and cook for two or three minutes. Then add the cheese, stir, and wait for it to melt on low heat. It is very common to add chicken too. A recipe in this video for you to get encouraged to try it at home:

Chapulines = Crickets

Fried crickets seasoned in lemon and chili. Very typical of Oaxaca, but also in Puebla and other neighboring states it is popular. Seeing in the markets those giant baskets full of small hexapods leaves no one indifferent. By the way, another insect that is eaten in Mexico is the Nucú or Chicatana, a large and winged ant that is found during the rainy season. It is cooked roasted and only the abdomen is eaten with lemon and chili. Traditional of Chiapas.

Spicy snacks... And fruits!

The first ones consist of the typical potato chips, and others that are all over the world, but Mexicans usually eat them with hot sauces. A lot of salsa! What the hell are popcorns without spicy sauces? Fresh fruits and vegetables can also be considered street food. The plastic cups or sachets with fruit are very popular and vary according to the season. It usually contains one or more of the following fruits: watermelon, papaya, mango, orange, jicama and cucumber. They are cut into thin strips or cubes, seasoned with salt, lemon juice and chili powder. A variant could be the Gaspacho Moreliano, a very popular snack in Michoacán. Sometimes you can find more elaborate and suggestive fruit preparations like these pineapples, very popular in Cholula.

Delicious pineapples from Cholula, Puebla

SOUPS AND “SPOON DISHES”

My friends Patri and Maria eating pozole

Pozole

It is in my top five of favorite dishes! A broth made of corn grains, to which is added, depending on the region, chicken or pork meat as a secondary ingredient. The particularity of this dish is that the corn grains used are of a particular variety of large grain called cacahuacintle, and that such grains are precooked in a light solution of water with calcium hydroxide known as nixtamalization (the same process used for the elaboration of the tortilla). This causes that the grains of corn lose the fibrous husk that covers them. Then, the solution is removed and the grains are washed, to proceed with a second cooking for several hours, until the corn kernels burst, acquiring the shape of flowers. After the "explosion" the other meat elements are added so that the stew acquires the taste of pork or beef. There is a wide variety of types of pozole throughout the Mexican territory, being probably the most famous the white pozole and the green one from Guerrero, as well as the red one of other states like Sonora, Sinaloa or Jalisco. In all cases, it is presented at the table along with various ingredients so that each diner serves what he/she wants: lettuce, onion, cabbage, cream, oregano, lemon juice, slices of radish, avocado, fresh cheese, pork rinds, sauce or powder of chile... In addition to the classic corn tostadas with half cream.

Delicious pozole that I tried in Playa del Carmen

Tortilla soup or Aztec soup

A truly delight! It is also made with corn, but with fried tortillas, red tomato, onion, garlic, pasilla chili, panela cheese, sour cream, chicken broth, olive oil, salt, pepper and water (and additional spices if you want). Here the recipe for everyone to do it:

Menudo or pancita

Soup made with the guts and/or legs of the cow, similar to the Spanish “callos”. They are cooked together with onion, garlic, and laurel (or other herbs) for about two or three hours. On the other hand there is a chilli sauce made of mirasol or guajillo pepper, garlic, cumin and oregano, which is added later. And that’s it!

Frijoles charros = Beans

Nationwide dish, popular everywhere and consumed in many regions of the country. It is prepared with beans stewed with onion, garlic, chili, bacon, sausage. Other common ingredients are tomatoes, cilantro, ham, salsa, pork and chorizo. It can be served as a main dish or as a side dish for roasted meats, arracheras, tacos al pastor... You can learn how to make them with this video:

Frijoles puercos = Beans (again)

Another dish of beans! Although not as extended as the charros. These are very typical of the northern states: Sinaloa and Sonora above all. They are refried beans with chorizo, lard, chile and chihuahua or monterrey cheese.

Shrimp and seafood cocktail

There are many varieties depending on the state: Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche... But basically it is a cocktail with shrimp or prawns, oysters, octopus, and vegetables such as tomato, chili, pepper, onion, avocado, cilantro (and other spices such as oregano ), submerged in a concoction of sauces: ketchup, hot sauces, lemon and orange juice, olive oil…

Cocktail I tried in Campeche

MEATS

Carne asada = Roast meats

Mexicans consume a lot of meat. Special mention to the northern states: Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Sonora and Baja California, where the quality and quantity of meat consumed is much higher than the rest of the country. It is very common in these states to gather and prepare grilled meats, always with their tortillas to make tacos! Meanwhile a few beers to enjoy. But this carnivorous hobby goes beyond the palate. The promotion of friendship, family unity and joy, is the star ingredient... Thus, roasted meats are the main dish in the celebration of all kinds of special moments and parties: family reunions, birthdays, Christmas and New Year, among others.

Enjoying a barbecue with friends!

We could define this "dish" as a base of varied cuts of meat (usually beef) on the grill. The roasted meat is accompanied by a very large variety of elements, such as chilacas (variety of green chile generally without spicy flavor) stuffed with cheese, corn, sausage, beans "rancheros", and of course corn tortillas or flour wheat.

Cabrito = Goat

The Monterrey dish par excellence. It must be a suckling no more than 40 days old. Although it is consumed in other parts of Mexico, where it has more tradition is in Monterrey. There are different ways to prepare it, such as baked or in sauce. A typical way to prepare it is to roast it on vertical stakes. Whether you do it in the oven or roast, you need a cooking time of about two hours. It can be seasoned previously with salt, as well as garlic and oregano. The most common garnishes are rosemary fries, grilled vegetables, or tomatoes. To accompany the meat, the quintessential Mexican sauce: chile and a little lemon.

Bistec encebollado = Steak with onions

This dish is eaten in several countries in Latin America, including Mexico. It is basically a grilled beef filet with a lot of onions. The meat is prepared with the beef broth and beer, and the onions are sautéed only a few minutes so that they are crispy.

Photo by Stephany Esquivel Hernández

Asado de puerco = Roast pork

This meat is prepared with red chile or guajillo, as well as garlic, bay leaf, onion and lard. One of the favorites for the “nuevoleonenses”.

Milanesa = Breaded meat

Veal (or chicken) meat breaded with bread and egg, usually accompanied with rice, french fries and salad.

Taken from recetas-mexicanas.com.mx

DRINKS

Mexico also has an important cultural heritage in its beverages. Not counting Coca-Cola, which is the snag of this beautiful panorama of liquids. It is surprising how much it is rooted in the culture, almost always accompanying the tacos (even for breakfast!). Another thing that catches a lot of attention is that most food establishments do not sell alcohol. Two reasons: 1) licenses are very expensive; 2) many Mexicans find it weird to drink wine or beer while eating. So you will find it hard to have a beer in most taquerias!

Aguas frescas = Fresh waters

Instead they usually drink the popular aguas frescas with a regular meal (the healthy competition of Coca-Cola). These drinks consist of fruits (watermelon, mango, orange, lemon, coconut, tamarind...), along with water and sugar. But there are also other very popular as the horchata one (made with rice), or the Jamaica one (made of the flower Hibiscus or Jamaica flower). Look how it's done:

Beers

Mexican beer is good. Some of the most popular brands are: Tecate, Indio, Modelo... Being the Coronita a brand less consumed in Mexico, which is surprising given its international fame. There are very good craft beers too. By the way, if you go out partying you can order a liter of beer in bottle. But the most characteristic of Mexican beer are its mythical variants. Micheladas are prepared by mixing beer, lemon juice, and salt. And if sauces are mixed it has other names. For example beer with clamato (tomate and clam juice) receives the name of “ojo rojo” (red eye).

Ojo rojo: beer with clamato. Photo by Marisol Rueda

Tequila and Mezcal

Definitely two of the most well-known elements of Mexican gastronomy (especially tequila), both with designation of origin, and considered two of the key architects to have received Mexico the Intangible Heritage Gastronomy award. Both alcoholic beverages are made from the fermentation and distillation of agave, a plant that only grows in Mexican territory. But there are some important differences. 1) While tequila is obtained only from the Weber tequilana agave (blue agave), mezcal can come from different varieties of agave (the most used is the agave angustifolia). 2) The mezcal is produced purely without anything chemical using 100% agave and handmade by artisans, while tequila can have other type of substances, with a minimum of 51% of agave. In addition, its production, in many cases, has become industrialized. 3) The denomination of origin of tequila covers 110,000 km2 of the country, and only 5 states of the Mexican republic can produce tequila. Mezcal has more than 500,000 km2 of DO (the largest appellation of origin in the world) and up to 9 states can produce mezcal. Of course, the origin and almost the entire production has a name: Oaxaca. Finally, an anecdote: some bottles of mezcal come with a worm, the maguey worm, something you will never see in a tequila bottle.

Mezcal shot. Photo by Marisol Rueda

Pulque

Fermented beverage made from agave or maguey mead, especially pulque maguey (Agave salmiana) and Agave atrovirens species. Besides being a popular drink from the center of the country for its refreshing flavor, its history is full of mysticism, present in many legends and stories of Mexico. There is a “strong” pulque and others "sweetened" with fruits and syrups (pineapple, strawberry, lemon, orange), seeds (walnut, hazelnut, pine nut) or grains and legumes (oats, toasted corn, celery, alfalfa, parsley). Pulque is consumed in pulquerías, very frequent in urban areas. In the gastronomic aspect, there are Mexican dishes that present pulque as an ingredient to create a different seasoning in the dishes. It is the indispensable element of the traditional salsa borracha (drunk sauce), and is part of the recipes of various types of meats and broths, such as pulque chicken.

Margarita

Cocktail composed of tequila, triple seco and lime or lemon juice. It is often served with salt on the edge of the glass. Very popular outside Mexico too. Look how easy it is to prepare it at home!

Atole

Prehispanic drink. Where you can find more prehispanic drikns is in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, probably those that best conserve their roots. Here we are going to see three of the most popular, but there are more. The atole in its original form is a sweet cooking of corn in water (it can also be in milk), in such proportions that at the end of the cooking it has a moderate viscosity, and it is served as hot as possible. It is very common the drink to be flavored with aromatic spices (cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, anise, orange blossom, orange leaves) and other flavorings (chocolate, juice or sweet fruit pulp), to increase its taste. It is sweetened with sugar or honey. So you can find it now many variants. Here a traditional recipe:

Tejate

Known as "the drink of gods", this traditional drink from Oaxaca has been prepared for centuries with toasted corn flour, fermented cocoa beans, mamey seeds and cocoa flower. These ingredients are ground into a paste, which is then mixed with cold water. When it is ready, the cocoa flower rises to the top of the container. The drink is served cold and can be served just like that or with a bit of sugar syrup to sweeten it. It is still very popular among the Mixtec and Zapotec indigenous peoples, especially in rural areas, although it is also popular among people living in Oaxaca and the surrounding regions. Recipe here:

Tascalate

Similar to tejate, this drink is prepared with corn, cocoa, achiote, sugar and cinnamon. Traditional of Chiapas. It is prepared by roasting and grinding corn tortillas until they turn into powder, then mixed with the roasted cocoa powder and with the rest of the ingredients. The product is an orange powder that is mixed with water or milk (sugar can be added). It is served cold.

Coffee

Mexico is the leading producer of organic coffee in the world and one of the main producers of "gourmet" coffee. Pot coffee is one of the most common ways to prepare coffee in Mexico. Highlights the quality of the coffees of some regions of Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas.

Chocolate

Mexico has the best cocoa beans in the world, and they are used to make a spectacular hot chocolate, 100 x 100 natural, good for all audiences! The one from Oaxaca is probably the best of all. Watch this small report:

SOME ESPECIALLY TASTY STATES!

It could be said that in Mexico there is a struggle to see which state cooks best... Everything will depend, in the first place, on what state each one is from, but let that go! The second reason is in function of what you like more. If you are a carnivore you will surely choose one of the northerners; if you like fish and seafood more, you will choose one from the coast; If you prefer something more rooted in the traditional (like me), you will probably choose the south (and center). My favorite is Oaxaca, but I fell in love with food from all the places I stepped on. Although all states deserve a separate mention, this post is getting very long and we are only going to talk about a few. Nobody gets angry please!

Esquites de tuétano (marrow esquites). Photo by Marisol Rueda

OAXACA

Considered one of the best culinary in all of Mexico, conserving the ancient traditions of the territory, tt is extensive and varied. We would need to make an entire post for her, but we are not in a gastronomy blog! Although we have already seen some of the dishes, we will mention them again and describe the "new ones". Those that we have already seen: moles (the black mole is the most characteristic of the state); tlayudas, giant tortillas stuffed with tasty ingredients: jerky, sausage, chorizo, chapulines, tasajo (to taste a typical Oaxacan meat); memelas or sopes; Oaxaca cheese (usually comes in different dishes such as tlayudas or memelas); tamales of all colors and flavors; grilled chapulines with chilito; Oaxaca chocolate (as a dessert, or at any time); atole and tejate; mescal.

Tasajo

Beef cut typical of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, similar to pork jerky. It can be from the head, rib, back, among other parts of the cow's body. In the Historical Center of Oaxaca City it is popular to eat this tasajo with tlayudas and radishes, as well as with "chiles de agua" and onions. It can also be eaten with chapulines, Oaxaca cheese and any other dish from Oaxaca.

Guías soup

Broth prepared with corn, pumpkin flower, guias, zucchini and chochoyotes. Watch this video to do it at home:

VERACRUZ

Welcome to this state bathed by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico! Fish and seafood lovers will find heaven in Veracruz. The best plan (for me, and I'm not picky!): order a fish in a “palapa” on the beachfront and make your own tacos with sauces, onions, cilantro... Yummy

Enjoying some scrumptious fish tacos with rice and salad in this palapa of Casitas, Veracruz

But we also have the usual corn-based dishes for the nostalgic: tacos, quesadillas, gorditas... And tasty memelas, picaditas, zacahuiles (most typical of La Huasteca) and tamales. We are going to see some essentials of this extensive cuisine.

Arroz a la tumbada = “Knocked down” rice

This dish is representative of the municipality of Alvarado. This rice is prepared by mixing onions, seafood and other seasonings. Then it is "knocked down" in the fire and served quickly to prevent it from drying out. Video for you to do it at home:

Stuffed jaibas (crabs)

Stew prepared with crab shells stuffed with minced crab meat cooked with tomato, onion, chili, olives, capers and raisins. Once stuffed, they are gratinated with cheese and breadcrumbs. It is prepared a lot in the north and the Sotavento of Veracruz (also in the state of Tamaulipas). A classic of the cuisine of the Gulf of Mexico.

Vuelve a la vida = Come back to life (shrimp and seafood cocktail)

Perfect for the partygoers in Veracruz, as the legend says this cocktail of shrimp and seafood is an infallible antidote for hangovers. Hence the name! We have already talked about this recipe above, simply remember that it is a combination of "fruits of the sea", vegetables and sauces. Don’t miss the recipe:

YUCATAN PENINSULA

The cuisine of this corner of Mexico was developed very far from what was happening in the center of the country, with an influence of the Mayan cuisine very remarkable. This fusion between the Mayan and the Spanish has made the Yucatan Peninsula to offer the most exotic and varied menu, being perhaps the state of Yucatan the one that has achieved the most fame. But Campeche and Quintana Roo are not far behind, enjoying an exquisite cuisine as well. Let’s see the most representative dishes:

Cochinita pibil

The most famous dish in Yucatan! This shredded pork, marinated in a sauce that has everything... The most important: achiote, garlic, sour orange and chili (habanero, but can be made with others such as chipotle), cooked wrapped in banana leaves inside a hole in the earth. At least traditionally (pib in Maya means "underground"). You can eat it in different ways, like in tacos or tortas. Add lemon juice, onions, cilantro and the sauces you like most! I’m sure you will dare to cook this dish after seeing how “easy” it is:

Papadzul

Dish with clear indigenous influences. It is a relatively simple dish consisting of corn tortillas stuffed with boiled egg (in the manner of tacos) and bathed in a green sauce of pumpkin seeds and tomato sauce with habanero pepper. It can be garnished with purple onion and chopped habanero chili. It is a common stew in the states of Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo, but outside the peninsula are relatively little known.

Poc-chuc

Pork cured meat with purple onion over bean broth.

Tzic de venado (deer)

Venison or beef with sour orange juice.

Lime soup

It is actually a variant of tortilla soup. In short, it is a chicken consomme with lime juice and pieces of fried tortilla, but you can see this recipe for more details:

Salbutes

Small tortas stuffed with tomato, cabbage, onion and meat.

Panuchos

Small corn tortillas made by hand, with a hole through which a beans stew is inserted. Then they are fried in oil or lard and decorated with lettuce leaves, turkey, or chicken, tomato and onion previously seasoned with salt and sour orange, avocado, carrot and “recado colorado” (a pipián seed, chili and achiote dough). They could do with an extra amount of hot habanero pepper sauce.

PUEBLA

Another state that enjoys delicious and varied dishes. It gathers Aztec and other prehispanic influences, Spanish, French and Arabic. Many claim it is the best. Some of the recipes that we are going to see have already been described above, but it does not hurt to remember them. These are the most characteristic recipes of Puebla:

Chalupas

Small corn tortillas, dipped in sauce, seasoned with strands of cooked beef, chopped onions and fried in plenty of butter. Recipe in the following video:

Cemitas

Very popular street and restaurant dish consisting of a round curved golden and crispy bread, garnished with sesame seeds, stuffed with a base of quesillo, avocado, onion, papalo or cilantro, plus a main ingredient. To choose between: pork leg in vinegar, pork or beef milanesa, shredded chicken or stuffed chiles.

Pambazos

White bread dipped in a chipotle sauce, and filled with the same sauce plus ground pork. Usually decorated with avocado.

Delicious pambazos poblanos

Mole poblano

Semi-thick sauce made with a variety of ingredients, such as different species of chili (pasilla, chipotle, ancho, mulato, etc), cilantro, tomatoes, green tomatoes, garlic, chicken stock, spices (cloves, anise, cinnamon ), nuts (pumpkin seed, peanuts, almonds), sesame, raisins, chocolate tablet, bread, toasted corn tortillas, butter, oil, salt... and usually accompanied with chicken.

Chiles en nogada

It has been called the "poblano dish par excellence". It is prepared with chile poblano stuffed with a stew of picadillo, vegetables, and fruits, including acitrón. Then it is covered with walnut sauce (nogada), parsley and pomegranate. The colors of poblano pepper, cream and pomegranate symbolize those of the Mexican flag, and internationally, it is considered one of the finest and most representative dishes of Mexican haute cuisine. Here the recipe friends:

Rajas con queso

Or rajas poblanas. Described above, in the section of other popular dishes and appetizers.

Taco árabe

A very popular taco in the state of Puebla, which is actually a Mexicanized variant of the Arab shawarmas. It was the latter who started selling them in Puebla. Traditionally they are served in pita bread, but nowadays they are also served in flour or corn tortillas. They are made of pork seasoned with onion, oregano and thyme, and as always lemon and chili sauce on the table.

JALISCO

Another classic cuisine in Mexico. Their products and ways of cooking are reflected in delicious dishes. These are just some examples:

Torta ahogada = Drowned sandwich

The most representative dish of Jalisco and Guadalajara (although it has reached many other regions of the country). The traditional drowned tortas received that name because they were submerged in chile sauce until bubbles came out. Currently few prefer such preparation, as it is too spicy. They are made with a characteristic bread of the region known as "birote salado", whose consistency is much denser than normal bread, and therefore more crunchy and less permeable, allowing it to be submerged in different sauces without losing its consistency. This birote is stuffed with Jalisco style carnitas and dipped in spicy sauce made of Yahualica tree chili. Then, classic condiments are added such as vinegar, cumin and garlic, among others, and tomato sauce. Currently there are many varieties of tortas ahogadas.

Taken from kiwilimon.com

Birria

Dish based on sheep meat (although in some regions it is prepared with goat meat and in some parts of the north, with beef), prepared in a sauce of many spices and chilis cooked in the oven (traditionally underground). The spices included in the sauce are bay leaf, pepper, thyme, garlic, oregano, ginger, sesame, marjoram, tomato, onion, and guajillo chili is added. The meat is served in a deep plate, bathed in the same sauce from its cooking and can be enriched with chopped onion, red chili pepper sauce and lemon. It is served with corn tortillas and refried beans so you can make your own taquitos.

Carne en su jugo = Meat in its juice

A very good traditional spoon dish from this state. For some years his fame has spread to other states, influencing the cuisine of states such as Aguascalientes and Guanajuato and even reaching beyond the borders of the country. It consists of a stew of beef roasted in its own juice, beans and pieces of fried bacon. It is accompanied with onion and cilantro and is usually served in a clay dish. Served with corn tortillas, beans from the pot, stewed onions, lemon, radish. Take a look at the recipe:

Tequila

This could not miss the party. We have already described it above. If you have the opportunity visit the town of Tequila and some agave plantation.

This plant is responsible for many Mexicans get drunk every weekend!

And that has been all friends. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed with photos and advice: Stephany, Thalia, Marisol (and her boyfriend!), Aydalith, Patri, Maria, Oscar, Anita, Gerardo, Eder, Miryam, Pepe, Andrea. If you are still looking for Mexican dishes, I suggest you visit one of these Youtube channels:

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