Mexican food is famous around the world for its incredible flavours and diversity – it’s full of attitude, freshness, and contrast.
Crunchy, soft, slow-cooked, flash-fried, pickled, and zesty – there’s a flavour and texture for everything and everyone.
And apart from total deliciousness, it also offers visitors to Mexico the opportunity to gain an incredible insight and cultural experience through its national dishes and ingredients. As a Mexican friend of mine said recently, ‘Mexican cuisine has managed to conquer the world.’ This is why, she believes, Mexican people put such a tremendous effort into maintaining the traditions of their ancient cuisine.
When done well, Mexican food can satisfy any craving and fulfil the desires of a discerning foodie.
One of the things I love most about Mexican food is that it’s influenced by ‘Las Regiones’ or as we know it better, it’s a regional cuisine, just like the food of Italy or Spain. The flavours and dishes vary between the regions and are influenced by climate, geography and ethnicity, giving you a great excuse to travel through Mexico’s different ‘provincias’ and experience what’s at the heart of authentic Mexican food.
A perfect example is south-eastern Mexico where they use more fish in their cooking and, due to it close proximity to the Caribbean, there are more obvious Caribbean influences. Whereas in the north you’ll find more dishes cooked with beef or goat – animals raised on the land.
There are many things Mexico is famous for, and no, I’m not just talking tequila and tacos!
When we think of Mexico we think about bright colours and bold flavours, possibly quite spicy, easy to prepare food, but real Mexican food holds a subtleness and depth of flavour that’s combined with freshness – it can actually be quite elaborate and complex.
Mexican cuisine has history, real history, in fact, ancient history. It’s one of the oldest known cuisines in the world, even older than some European cuisines, generally prepared by Mexican women with lot’s of love and care. And some traditional Mexican dishes can take days to prepare.
Most of the Mexican-style food commonly consumed in many countries around the world like Australia, New Zealand and the US are considered more Tex-Mex, not to be confused with traditional Mexican food.
For example, you’d be hard pressed to find a yellow tasty cheese grated over a taco in Mexico. If they did use cheese, it would be a fresh white variety like a panela.
Chilli, peppers, cilantro or coriander, lime, avocado, tomatoes, onions, corn, beans, oregano, spices, garlic, cinnamon, beef, and tortillas are heavily embedded in Mexican food.
A few of my favourites are:
Corn – corn is a daily staple in the Mexican diet and apart from being eaten fresh is also dried, treated and ground, and then used to make masa, the dough that’s rolled to produce tortillas and tamales and eaten with most meals in Mexico.
Cilantro or coriander – Coriander is the most common fresh herb used to add flavour and freshness to Mexican food.
Cocoa – Mexican chocolate is always of the dark variety and quite bitter, often combined with cloves and cinnamon to produce an aromatic, frothy hot chocolate drink.
Food with a Difference
Although not much beats a tasty taco, enchilada, or a hot plate of nachos, lend your taste buds to something a little more traditional.
There are some great recipes floating around for dishes like Tamales (little corn based pockets stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings, great for a snack on the go), Mole (a rich sauce smothered over meat), chilaquiles (a breakfast of quartered fried tortillas served with salsa, chicken, eggs, cheese and beans), and tostadas (the Mexican answer to a toasted sandwich! Tortillas filled with pretty much whatever you desire and toasted until crisp).
Tessa’s Traditional Mexican Guacamole
2 large or 3 medium avocadoes mashed
1 small finely chopped onion
The juice of a lime
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped then mashed
1 firm red tomato finely diced
Cilantro / Coriander half a bunch, roughly chopped
½ mild red chilli finely chopped
Squeeze the juice of the lime over the finely diced onions and set aside. The lime juice will slightly cook (ceviche) the onions and mellow the flavour a little.
Place the mashed avocado, garlic, tomato, chilli, and cilantro in a bowl, add the onions and combine with a spoon. Season with salt and adjust to your liking.
Apart from being included on the UNESO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List (a program instated by UNESCO to ensure the safeguard of intangible cultural heritages around the world), Mexican cuisine was also been honoured with a prestigious International Star Diamond award in 2012.
Day of the Dead Celebration
Celebrations are an important part of Mexican tradition and food is an integral part of any Mexican celebration or gathering. And it doesn’t come any bigger than the Day of the Dead. Loved ones gather to eat and drink the favourites of their family and friends who have passed and commemorate their life with food, parades and celebrations.