Mexican cuisine is renowned for its variety in both colors and tastes. During European colonization in the 16th century, Mexican cuisine was influenced by new ingredients, especially rice, wheat, pork, and beef, as well as food preparation procedures.
The basic food of Mexican cuisine is corn, which is mainly made from corn flour and from its traditional corn pancakes. These serve as a side dish to eat, either just to “bite” the food or wrap the food in it. In Mexican cuisine, vegetables, especially tomato, pepper, and chili peppers are important, from which cayenne pepper is also prepared after drying and crushing. In addition to chili peppers, there are other jalapeños and habañeros, varying degrees of hotness. All of them are added to dishes or sauces, and Mexican cuisine is characterized by a very spicy taste.
Beans are widespread in Mexico mainly black and red. They are also the basis of the popular chili con carne. Another essential component is lime. It is given almost everything – soup, meat in tacos or even beer. When you want to fit in, it’s easy, you just squeeze the lime into everything. Avocado is very widespread, from which one of the most widespread guacamole dishes (or appetizers) is prepared.
Mexican food is very spicy, except chili peppers are used coriander, oregano, garlic, cinnamon or vanilla.
Street food and restaurant
There are, of course, restaurants in Mexico, but there is plenty of food in the (mobile) stalls on the street, where they are prepared directly. Tacos with meat from the stand cost less than 1 USD per piece, burrito costs 2 USD. Eating only in stalls is therefore very cheap and certainly comparable, often better than in restaurants.
For example, stall food is elotes – boiled corn in a crucible (with mayonnaise, lime, chili) or directly corn on the cob smeared with cream and sprinkled with cheese (not as bad as it sounds).
By the way, serving at the stands usually takes place on plastic saucers, which are put into a plastic bag (which is then removed and the plate is washed).
Most dishes come with a few different sauces on top of the dishes. The most common is salsa verde (green sauce – green tomatoes, chili peppers), salsa roja (red sauce – tomatoes, garlic, coriander), pico de gallo (tomatoes, green chili peppers, onion, coriander, avocado, lemon juice). And of course guacamole (avocado, lime juice, salt). For us, the most unusual sauce is mole (or its spicy variant mole poblano), which is served to meat, but its main ingredient is chocolate and also nuts and spices (but we really did not like it).
Bread, tortillas, quesadillas
Corn or wheat tortillas are a part of almost every Mexican food, and when they are no longer a part of it, they are served as a snack.
Tortilla is commonly a corn pancake, wheat is called gringas (white Mexicans, foreigners). They will often ask you whether you want maize or wheat (harina). The most widespread and well-known dish is tacos – pancakes, where you get some meat and you can add vegetables, sauces, and drizzle with lime juice.
- Tacos al pastor are tacos with pork, which is grilled on a vertical stick together with pineapple, whose meat juice flows down (often served with pieces of that pineapple).
- Burrito is meat that is wrapped in a large tortilla with vegetables and sauces. Burritos, which are deep-fried, are called chimichanga.
- Quesadilla is a half-bent tortilla, usually filled with (minced or finely chopped) meat, vegetables and cheese (but may be with cheese only). It is baked and served usually cut into triangles with yoghurt salsa. Here again a little disappointment, I love quesadilla, but in the Czech Republic we do it quite differently. I had a Mexican one and a few times and it wasn’t much. Such a time when you try hard not to say “quesadilla in Mexico can not do at all”.
- Nachos – crunchy corn triangles tortilla, either just dipped in salsa or guacamole, but also baked with meat, cheese and vegetables make a normal meal. They often go into soup. A little similar food is chilaquiles, fried corn tortilla in red or green chilli sauce, to which almost anything (meat, chorizo, egg, cheese, beans, avocado, onion) is added.
- Enchiladas – meat, bean paste and vegetables stuffed tortillas in hot red chilli sauce.
Flautas – a corn tortilla wrapped with meat, then fried and served with salsa pico de gallo and yoghurt dip.
I have no problem eating rice in Asia for 3 months and then come home and have rice. But I was looking for an escape from Mexican dishes in less than week. Nothing wrong, they’re good, I love them. But it’s an eggplant for breakfast, a casserole for lunch, a casserole for guacamole, a casserole for dinner, all the time. The pancakes themselves are quite dry and tasteless (meat and salsa). In fact, just padding, unlike Indian naan, which I like to eat alone.
I’m not quite the soup type, but I like Mexican soups. They are rich, full of flesh, as the main course for me. And above all a perfect escape from the pancakes (even if you get them to the soup).
- Sopa de ajo – garlic soup served with toast. The base is broth with garlic, tomatoes, onions, eggs, cheese are added.
- Sopa de lima – lime soup, which is based on a strong broth, lime acidity is not significant.
- Birria de res – strong broth with shredded beef, rich enough as a main dish. My favorite one.
- Pozole – corn broth with pork and chicken and groats.
More Mexican dishes
Ceviche spread throughout South America – fresh fish and seafood marinated in lemon juice with spices. It is served as a cocktail.
- Huevos rancheros – typical Mexican breakfast, baked eggs with beans or bean paste, tortilla and spicy sauce.
- Fajitas – sliced meat (according to meat it is either chicken fajitas, beef fajitas), fried in a pan together with onions and peppers. It is served with rice, tortilla and salsa. I always knew this from the Czech Republic served on a hot pan, still hissing. In Mexico, I have seen it only once, otherwise on a plate.
- Cochinita pibil – pork roasted in citrus marinade in banana leaf, comes directly from Yucatan.
- Empanadas – fried sausages with meat, vegetables or cheese are widely used throughout South America but also in Spain. In Mexico, they are poured over sauces and yogurt dip.
- Chilli con carne – dish of stewed ground beef with beans and chili peppers, served with rice. But here was my greatest gastronomic disappointment from Mexico ever – we never found this food on Yucatan (and that I was looking hard enough). So far I have no idea what real Mexican chilli con carne is, I didn’t taste it.
Also popular are albondigas (meatballs) in the sauce, papa de rellena (stuffed potatoes – they tasted a lot) or papa gratinada – baked potatoes with cream, onion and chili. Pollo borracho (or drunk chicken) is a roasted chicken in alcohol (beer and wine). As a snack, a starter or just chicharron – pieces of pork skin fried as chips (to soak in salsa, of course).
In any case, an attempt to make my dependence can be attributed to marquesitas. It is such a well-baked pancake, tangled into a cone and filled most often with banana and nutella, but also anything else, such as cheese.
Often there are classic churros, deep-fried batter sticks for dipping into chocolate. And there is a lot of stalls explicitly with something I can’t name – huge fried anything covered with a pile of icing, covered with sugar or other sweets, those things that may be wow on Instagram, but you wouldn’t even want to eat it. However, Mexicans and Mexican children obviously love it (by the way, nice, slim Mexicans we did not meet much).
Mexico is famous for mezcal and tequila. More popular is polque, which is fermented juice from the roots of agave (fermented for about 5 hours), it may resemble a little bit of our stum.
Another popular and refreshing drink is michelada. The basic serving is a mixed beer with juice, soy and worcestre sauce, with chili and lime. It can have many variations, including tabasco and salt. As you may guess, this is pretty nasty, but you weren’t in Mexico unless you tasted michelada. At least once you have to.
The most common soft drinks include agua de jamaica (made from hibiscus, dark wine color) and agua de horchata (made from rice flour, looks like milk), which you can find almost everywhere. The least common is obviously ordinary water. Here is water (agua) more or less synonymous with soft drinks (cola, fanta, sprite), explaining that we really want only pure water we had almost always.