Mexican Cuisine: More than Tacos and Tequila

Mexican cuisine has long been one of the most popular international cuisines in the United States. Yet, the majority of restaurants, at least in the Midwest, offer little more than Tex-Mex-style fare. While I appreciate a burrito from time to time, I find myself craving authentic Mexican food more often.

Given its Mesoamerican roots, it is unsurprising that products like corn and beans are staples in the Mexican diet. When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived, they introduced dairy, pork, chicken and beef to the Mexican diet. Although Mexico as a whole is known for being a foodie destination, Oaxaca, Veracruz, and the Mexico City are known for being three of the best destinations to sample Mexico’s culinary fare.

Sadly, during my four month stint in Mexico, I never had the chance to travel to Veracruz nor Oaxaca. Regardless, I never found myself too far from tasting-looking treats.

What’s cookin’ in Mexico?

Cajeta – Cajeta is the Mexican version of dulce de leche. It is traditionally made with goat’s milk but some producers use cow’s milk instead. Although Mexicans aren’t as fanatic about cajeta as Argentine’s are with dulce de leche, they love it. Cajeta-flavored suckers and caramels are popular treats.

Chilaquiles – Traditionally eaten at breakfast time, chilaquiles is a staple in Mexican cuisine. Fried tortillas (or tortilla chips) are simmered in a salsa or mole and served with cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Chicken and eggs are also often added to the dish. It’s heavy but delectable!

Chorizo – Unlike its Argentine counterpart, Mexican chorizo is spicy. Seriously spicy. This juicy sausage is seasoned with vinegar and chili peppers, smoked, and served.

Chicharrón – Although I never had the “ganas” to try chicharrón, many Mexicans seem to enjoy snacking on these fried pork rinds.

Chocolate – Chocoholics will find no shortage of chocolate products in Mexico. Although Oaxaca is known as the ultimate chocolate lover’s destination, you can grab a mug of chocolate caliente (hot chocolate) at most restaurants. Mexican hot chocolate is traditionally spiked with cinnamon and vanilla, making it the perfect sweet and spicy treat. Warning: It’s addicting.

Elote – If you enjoy corn on the cob, you’ll probably enjoy elote. — Assuming that you don’t mind that it’s slathered in butter, salt, lemon juice, mayonnaise, sour cream, and cheese and sprinkled with chili powder. Although this street-food may sound a bit off-putting, it is worth trying at least once. The fusion of flavors works surprisingly well.

Gorditas – While the idea of eating a dish that translates to something like “little fatties” may deter some, it isn’t enough to stop me from enjoying one or two…or five once in a while. Gorditas are fried corn cakes stuffed with meat, cheese, and veggies.

Mole – Holy mole! I sure do love mole. These thick, deeply savory sauces are popular throughout the country. They are spooned over chilaquiles and slathered on meats. Mole poblano is my favorite.

Pozole – This Mexican stew is typically made with meat, chili peppers, and hominy (dried maize kernels) and is served throughout the country.

Tacos – While Mexican cuisine has so much more to offer us than tacos and tequila (hence the title), the quality of their tacos is undeniable. Tacos al pastor served on corn tortillas are my favorite.

Tamales– Although I am a self-diagnosed empanada addict, tamales hold an equally special place in my heart (and belly). Tamales are made of corn dough stuffed with an assortment of meats, cheeses, and veggies, wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk, and steamed. If you love tamales as much as I do, consider making them. They’re time consuming but totally worth it! Even better, throw a tamale party and have other people make them for you. Just make sure that you share.

Sopes – Mexicans undeniably love their fried corn dough. So do I. Sopes are open-faced corn cakes topped with beans, meat, veggies, cheese, and cream cheese.

Stomach growling? Feast your eyes on these blogs.

While the list of Mexican dishes could continue indefinitely, I’ll refrain. I do, however, encourage you to check out the blogs listed below. Maybe you’ll even feel inspired to attempt a recipe or two. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, you could always travel south of the border.

Mexico in my Kitchen – Delicious recipes that’ll bring a little bit of Mexican flavor to your kitchen.
Pati’s Mexican Table -Tie on that apron and check out this Mexican born chef’s blog. If you like what you see, check out her show on PBS.
The Mija Chronicles – This food writer’s blog is the ultimate guide to Mexican cuisine.

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One thought on “Mexican Cuisine: More than Tacos and Tequila

  1. Wow, I had no idea what a lovely selection existed in Mexican cuisine!! You are right, the restaurants here do not do justice to what’s out there. I think I need a trip to Vera Cruz

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