If you're visiting Mexico, look out for these traditional dishes to get a real taste of the country's cuisine. Here's our pick of the top 10 must-try meals Katja Gaskell is a freelance travel writer living in Mexico City. She has co-authored numerous travel guidebooks for Lonely Planet, scoured boutique hotels for Mr & Mrs Smith and is the co-founder of globetotting.com, a family travel website. Are you a fan of Mexican cuisine?
Traditional Mexican Food With all the fast food imitations, people outside of Mexico may forget what real traditional Mexican food is! But the reality is, Mexico has a rich culinary tradition - much of it coming out of hundreds or even thousands of years of history.
Our interest here is connecting what was eaten in the Prehispanic world of the Aztec empire and what is eaten daily in Mexico even now. Traditional Mexican Food: The basics You can get a good overview of . Many of the staples of the Aztec diet are still familiar in Mexico today - maize (corn), beans, avocados, squash, chilies, and tomatoes. The tomatoes used today are a different variety than were eaten before the arrival of the Europeans. The nopal cactus was and is used for food, in many dishes.
We all know that chili peppers play a big part in Mexican food. These and salt were so important to the peoples of central Mexico that special religious fasts involved avoiding them. Many of the meats eaten today were an addition from the Spanish. Today, much traditional Mexican food is prepared the same way, but with different meats. Common in the days of the empire were turkey and dogs. At times hunters would also provide deer, rabbit, duck, and other birds.
From the sea came axolotl, a type of salamander, and acocil, a crayfish. Acocil tacos are still eaten in Mexican restaurants. From the world of bugs, grasshoppers and the maguey worm are two creatures that were probably eaten by the Aztec peoples and are still eaten today. Recipies for acocil tacos and other authentic Prehispanic food can be found in (Prehispanic Mexican Kitchen) by Heriberto Garcia Rivas. To drink The alcoholic beverage octli or pulque was and is made from the maguey plant.
This was an important plant in the days of the Aztecs, but it's use is rarer today because of conservation concerns. The Aztecs made corn drinks, and today in Mexico we drink atole which has the same ingredient. Chocolate was, of course, introduced to Europe by Mexico. A bitter drink known as xocolatl was popular among the upper class, and the Spanish introduced sugar which led to the sweet chocolate atole and spiced hot chocolate popular today.
Preparing the food The Mexican staple, the tortilla, is still prepared much the same way as it was traditionally. Maize, and lime, cooked on a stone slab. Tamales, a type of corn cake sometimes accompanied by tomato, also survived. But the favourite dishes evolved as new foods were introduced from Spain...
European additions Some key additions to traditional Mexican food were chicken, beef and pork, cheese, garlic and onions, and rice. These are mixed in with the typical Aztec cuisine.
For example, the cheese quesadilla (cheese + tortilla), chapulines (grasshoppers + garlic and lemon juice). Some cooking styles changed too - for example, the above ground oven was introduced in more recent Mexican history. For more, check out by Karen Hursh Graber. To bring real traditional Mexican food to your own kitchen, one of my favourite cookbooks is an ebook - by Kent Swanson and Veronica Iglesias de Swanson.
References: The Cambridge World History of Food by Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Conee Ornelas, eds.; America's First Cuisines by Sophie D. Coe; The Aztecs, 2nd Edition by Michael Ernest Smith; The Aztecs by Richard F. Townsend; by Nelson Foster; Florentine Codex – created under supervision of Bernardino de Sahagun in the 16th-century; The Mexican Kitchen by Karen Grabe
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Prevailing wisdom says that Mexican restaurants in NYC can’t compare to the stuff they’re serving out West. Consider this list of the city’s -, burrito- and -slinging establishments to be our convincing retort.
From trumped-up South of the Border imports to homegrown joints, these are the best Mexican restaurants NYC has to offer. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the Enrique Olvera’s elegant high-gear small plates—pristine, pricey and market-fresh—more than fills that gap in New York dining. It steamrolls right over it. Tacos make a solitary appearance on the menu, in an atypically generous portion of duck carnitas.
But Olvera’s single-corn tortillas pop up frequently, from a complimentary starter of crackly blue-corn tortillas with chile-kicked pumpkin-seed butter to dense, crispy tostadas dabbed with bone-marrow salsa and creamy tongues of uni. Alex Stupak, the ambitious pastry chef (New York’s wd~50, Chicago’s Alinea) turned taco ambassador opened a midtown flagship, Empellón, the fourth, largest and most upscale of his restaurants under the Empellón name.
The move uptown alone is a notable change for the largely downtown-focused restaurateur (Empellón’s siblings all reside in the East and West Villages), and the usual clientele of denim-jacketed michelada seekers has been swiftly replaced by Brooks Brothers regulars and blog-savvy tourists.
The owners of Bar Henry branch out to Queens with this 40-seat Mexican eatery, specializing in the regional cuisine of Cintalapa, Chiapas. Brothers Cosme and Luis Aguilar, the chef and GM respectively, pay homage to their late mother with traditional plates, including some based on her recipes, such as chicken mole and cochinito chiapaneco (guajillo-marinated baby pork ribs).
The white-painted spot features a garden and works from Queens artists. Small, from-scratch corn tortillas puff up on the grill like blowfish at this West Coaster–approved Chelsea Market taco counter, easing down before they’re piled with superbly juicy adobada pork: The red-chili-marinated pig is trimmed shawarma-style from a glistening spit, its natural sweetness jacked up with shards of pineapple and a squirt of lime.
Mexican eateries are ubiquitous in Corona, but unlike most, this sunny family-run tortilleria painstakingly grinds corn into fresh masa for many of its dishes. This means that the tamales are delicate and fluffy, and profoundly corny tortillas envelop fillings such as fried skate in the first-rate fish tacos.
Chef Ivan Garcia (Mercadito) explores his Mexico City roots at this eatery, named for the neighborhood where he grew up. The food echoes the multiregional snacks you might find on the capital city’s streets: A trio of tamales presents versions from Oaxaqueño (chicken and mole), Chiapaneco (pork, fruit and nuts) and Veracruzano (tilapia with guajillo salsa). Other preparations come straight from the chef’s family, including a secret-recipe ceviche.
This low-lit East Village cantina from Ofrenda amigos Jorge Guzman and Mario Hernandez busts out of the tortilla-wrapped norm, spotlighting tribal delicacies like grasshoppers, worms and, yes, the namesake ant. Hailing from the Dominican Republic and Cuernavaca, Mexico, respectively, the pair sources those creepy crawlers and the modern Mayan decor straight from their home states.
Not sure what to cook? We’ve pulled together our most popular recipes, our latest additions and our editor’s picks, so there’s sure to be something tempting for you to try. • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Mexico has long been among the world’s most popular holiday destinations, attracting sun seekers and food lovers alike.
If you’re lucky enough to be planning a trip, make sure you sample the best tastes and flavours the country has to offer with our roundup of the top 10 dishes to try while you’re there. Discover even more foodie getaways, top 10 guides and in our travel hub. Plus, check out our . Don’t leave Mexico without trying… 1.
Chilaquiles This popular traditional breakfast dish features lightly fried corn tortillas cut into quarters and topped with green or red salsa (the red is slightly spicier). Scrambled or fried eggs and pulled chicken are usually added on top, as well as cheese and cream. Chilaquiles are often served with a healthy dose of frijoles (refried beans). Try making your own...
2. Pozole According to anthropologists, this pre-Hispanic soup was once used as part of ritual sacrifices. These days chicken, pork and vegetarian pozole versions are readily available in more everyday surroundings.
Made from hominy corn with plenty of herbs and spices, the dish is traditionally stewed for hours, often overnight. Once it's ready to serve, lettuce, radish, onion, lime and chilli are sprinkled on top. 3. Tacos al pastor This historic dish is one of the most popular varieties of tacos, with origins dating back to the 1920s and 30s and the arrival of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants to Mexico.
To create tacos al pastor (meaning ‘in the style of the shepherd’), thin strips of pork are sliced off a spit, placed on a corn tortilla and served with onions, coriander leaves and pineapple. 4. Tostadas What should you do with stale tortillas? Why, fry them of course! Literally meaning toasted, tostadas are a simple but delicious dish involving corn tortillas fried in boiling oil until they become crunchy and golden. These are then served alone or piled high with any number of garnishes.
Popular toppings include frijoles (refried beans), cheese, cooked meat, seafood and ceviche. Try making your own... 5. Chiles en nogada Boasting the three colours of the Mexican flag, chiles en nogada is one of Mexico’s most patriotic dishes. Poblano chillies filled with picadillo (a mixture of chopped meat, fruits and spices) represent the green on the flag, the walnut-based cream sauce is the white and pomegranate seeds are the red.
Originating from Puebla, history relates that the dish was first served to Don Agustin de Iturbide, liberator and subsequent Emperor of Mexico.
6. Elote You’ll find someone selling elote, the Mexican name for corn on the cob, on nearly every city street corner in Mexico. The corn is traditionally boiled and served either on a stick (to be eaten like an ice cream) or in cups, the kernels having been cut off the cob. Salt, chilli powder, lime, butter, cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream are then added in abundance.
Try making your own... 7. Enchiladas Enchiladas date back to Mayan times, when people in the Valley of Mexico would eat corn tortillas wrapped around small fish. These days both corn and flour tortillas are used and are filled with meat, cheese, seafood, beans, vegetables or all of the above. The stuffed tortillas are then covered in a chilli sauce, making for a perfect Mexican breakfast.
Try making your own... 8. Mole Three states claim to be the original home of mole (pronounced ‘mol-eh’), a rich sauce popular in Mexican cooking. There are myriad types of mole but all contain around 20 or so ingredients, including one or more varieties of chilli peppers, and all require constant stirring over a long period of time.
Perhaps the best-known mole is mole poblano, a rusty red sauce typically served over turkey or chicken. Try making your own... 9. Guacamole Guacamole is undoubtedly one of Mexico’s most popular dishes, but few people know that this traditional sauce dates back to the time of the Aztecs. Made from mashed-up avocadoes, onions, tomatoes, lemon juice and chilli peppers (and sometimes a clove or two of garlic), guacamole is often eaten with tortilla chips or used as a side dish.
Try making your own... Watch our video guide on how to make the perfect guacamole: 10. Tamales Tamales were first developed for the Aztec, Mayan and Inca tribes who needed nourishing food on the go to take into battle.
Pockets of corn dough are stuffed with either a sweet or savoury filling, wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks, then steamed. Fillings vary from meats and cheeses to fruits, vegetables, chillies and mole. Remember to discard the wrapping before eating! Try making your own... Katja Gaskell is a freelance travel writer living in Mexico City. She has co-authored numerous travel guidebooks for Lonely Planet, scoured boutique hotels for Mr & Mrs Smith and is the co-founder of globetotting.com, a family travel website.
Are you a fan of ? Do you agree with our selection or have we missed your favourite? Share your must-try dishes below… Hi Very good selection considering that it is hard to choose given the regional difference in Mexican food.
I would kindly suggest to change the pictures for Elote (in MX we usually eat white or blue-purple corn) and the Enchiladas. Current images remind the TexMex food (NOT to be confused with Mexican) On the other hand, regarding the video, we usually smash very well the avocados with a folk, add the lime juice and later we add the onion, cilantro/coriander, chili -quite often green chili- and tomatoes, a must, by the way, not mentioned on the video.
Salt is most of the times added. Enjoy ! If you are going to feature Mexican food at least show Mexican food pictures. Firstly no one in Mexico eats yellow corn, our elotes are white never yellow, secondly your enchilada looks like some weird tex mex cheese covered burrito but nothing like the rolled (not folded) corn (not flour) tortilla, covered in salsa (not cheese) an enchilada is supposed to be, and then there is your guacamole picture including some grilled pitas which I am sure make great kebabs but terrible tacos.
I live in Mexico and have to say that this list is a sad one without Cochinita Pibil, a bright orange, citrusy pork dish, served with a salsa of pickled onions and jalapenos. This is a classic Yucatan dish whose original recipe includes cooking a whole pig underground for at least 6 hours. It is by far my favorite food in Mexico City and beyond. Pages • 1 • •
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