Intro to our experience of Mexican cuisine…
Type ‘Mexican food’ into Google images. What comes up in your search results is far from the native food eaten in Mexico, instead it is a ‘Tex-Mex’ version, making the Western world have a very skewed view of Mexican cuisine. Spending 2 months travelling around Mexico, eating out for most meals means and dining with locals means I feel we have gained a good understanding of what Mexicans actaully eat.
Contrary to popular belief, the chlli covered nachos & colourful fajita mix Mexican meal stereotype is far from real Mexican cuisine, I’m not sure I saw a single fajita or crispy large taco during our entire 2 month stay! What I really like about Mexican cuisine is that it is very much based on the produce grown in Mexico, centring around wheat, mango, avocado, lime and chicken; therefore little of what Mexicans eat is imported, in comparison to other parts of the world. Obviously we can bear in mind they are very fortunate with their hot climate that therefore allows for these great staples. To give you an idea of what we experienced of the Mexican diet I’ve picked out a few key ingredients to discuss 🙂
Too many tacos!
You may be surprised, fajitas are pretty much non existent in Mexico (apart from maybe Cancun’s restaraunts which cater for tourists rather than locals). Neither have we seen an enchilada or burrito quite like how they are served in the UK. Quesadillas are quite a big thing though and popularly sold from street vendors and burritos are often served for breakfast. This one below was stuffed with pork and pickles and covered in guacamole, far from the ‘Tortilla’/’Chipotle’ style burritos you can buy in London.
However the Mexican main carby staple is TACOS! This is a crucial part of the Mexican diet. Tacos are soft mini tortillas and Mexicans eat these as an accompaniment with pretty much every meal. e.g. a chicken, rice and beans meal would come with a pot of tacos which you scoop your meal into. We have eaten tacos with chorizo, vegetarian, chicken, pork, fish, eggs, beans, prawns….literally every type I could have imagined during our 2 months here. We have become accustomed to it and realise that Mexicans LOVE eating tacos maybe a little too much seeing the size of some bellies around here! Below are some breakfast tacos, as mentioned , they come with such an array of different toppings!
The great thing about this taco culture is that in every place we have visited there have been local taco stands where you stand and order (3 small ones is the norm) and you receive them (2 tortillas thick to hold the contents) filled with meat and rice and you then add guacamole, lime and spice they way you like them. This kind of meal costs you about £1 and is delishh. Locals seem to pretty much live at taco vans and it is a nice yet very informal social occassion many locas enjoy on a bi-daily basis!
Sweetcorn is served with lime, chilli flakes & cheese and served at pretty much every main square or market area we have visited. It is normal to walk down a steet and see several people munching big corn on the cobs, held up on a thick stick (a bit like a lolly!)
Cocunut wáter is a big thing in beach áreas of Mexico where so many coconut tres are growing. It is also incredibly cheap. The gents selling them (for about 60p) will serve you one up to drink and come over to smash it open 20 mins later so you can eat the flesh! I was taught how to crack open my own but failed miserably. The sweet season
This is used to flavour everything from ice cream to hand soap to coating prawns! Street corners typically sell mango covered in lime and chlli flakes which is supringingly delicious and extremely cheap! It is great in smoothies and only eaten seasonaly (March-August ish but varies depending on province).
I’d hop away from trying this one again…
A local encouraged us to try grasshoppers, a local delicacy which seems a bit wierd but can say they taste fine but that it probably because they are so deep fried and covered in chilli salt you can’t taste the actual insect! They are apparently full of protein and you only need to eat one large one per year to benefit from their unique properties.
Something you may not be surprised about is how spicy Mexican cuisine is, even breakfast! They add spicy sauce to every meal and snack: crisps are lathered in an orangey spicy goo, pieces of mango come glazed with chilli powder and it is standard procedure to drop a few pinches of chilli powder into each beer you drink. However, you quickly become more tolerant to spice through being here and eventually you ‘need’ to add spice to every meal to enjoy it!
A sub-lime addition to EVERYTHING!
Guacamole is lathered with it, 3 or 4 slices will be squeezed into each bottle of beer and most restaurant dishes come with a slice of lime on the side. The cost of them is so insignificant that many places don’t even charge you for buying one! Tortillas (what we call nachos) However, they are rarely coated with cheese, guacamole etc like we have them in England. Instead they are either eaten as a snack and covered with spicy sauce or you have them whilst waiting for your sauce, served with chilli dips that will blow your head off. I’ve made this fatal error too many times over the past few months.
The Mexican meal routine…
- Breakfast (at 9 ish) Eggs every day, either scrambled or fried and occasionally served with chopped up sausage and covered in chilli. You eat this with refried beans, maybe some sort of veg and tonnes of spicy salsa, and of course, a bunch of tacos that you scoop your contents into!
- Snack time (12ish) At midday we would see numerous workmen step into their local convenience store to buy crisps with spicy sauce (2/3 pouches of spice can be found in most packets you buy) and the array of crisps which supermarkets offer is crazy! They munch these along with some sort of fizzy orange juice. I have found it rare to see Mexican’s drink water and we found a horrifying that that 1/3 of Mexican deaths are attributed to too many fizzy drinks. Also their sky high diabetes problem and fact they have the most obese women in the world is probably somewhat due to this fizz!
- Mexican main meal: since they have eaten a big breakfast they tend to combine lunch/dinner and eat at about 4pm. This will be a massive meal, probably consisting of a few different types of meat, refried beans and a lot of tacos. Of course spicy sauce will cover whatever they eat! Below are some regional specialities that we tried (stuffed spicy chilli and a type of tostada covered in meat cheese, onions etc!
- Snack time: tortillas (what we call nachos) However, they are rarely coated with cheese, guacamole etc like we have them in England. Instead they are either eaten as a snack and covered with spicy sauce or you have them whilst waiting for your sauce, served with chilli dips that will blow your head off. I’ve made this fatal error too many times over the past few months.
Being travellers, our experiences would never be totally authentic and this is just a summary of what we observe! Overall I think Mexican food is super tasty and also love it that (like England and pretty much any developed country) you can get good food of pretty much any origin in all of the towns& cities that we visitied. Suprisingly we had great sushi, pizza, pasta, thai etc in Mexico too so on your travels here you are far from limited!