I used to think that was kind of funny, considering the abundance of Mexican food in my hometown of Phoenix, wondering how different could “tex-mex” be from “mex-mex.”
Then I moved to Mexico City, and I got it. I really got it.
It’s All About the Food
Food is front and center here, from the upscale restaurants with crowds lining up to fill the outdoor-facing tables to the street vendors, busily carving meat from a large vertical spit.
There are tortillas being lovingly pounded and shaped, chicken cooking in large vats of oil, and enticing loaves of bread and assorted pastries at the numerous panaderias; the air is filled with smells that lure the locals and visitors alike at every corner.
(Okay, it’s confession time. I don’t eat meat or chicken but I do eat fish and other seafood. While Mexicans may look a little befuddled when I tell them this, I’ve not gone hungry one single day here–trust me. But most of my appreciation of the food comes from my husband who gallops off each day in search of his beloved tacos al pastor.)
A Few Favorites
Here are but a few of the Mexican favorites:
Tacos al pastor. These consist of seasoned, roast pork served on small corn tortillas. You can typically add your own extras, like salsa and onions and you can find them at the multitude of taquerias throughout the city.
Chicharrónes. While these are simply pork rinds, there is nothing simple about them. They are larger than life, fried to perfection, typically served with nopales, or prickly pear cactus.
Frutas en Tacha. I had no choice but to include these because (while we are confessing) this is my latest addiction. Typically found in the prolific street markets or tianguis, these are fruits like figs, pumpkin, or sweet potatoes preserved in Mexican cane sugar, otherwise known as piloncillo syrup.
Barbacoa. Barbacoa, which translates to “barbecue,” refers to beef, lamb, or other meat that has been slowly cooked with seasonings. The meat is typically shredded and used as a filling in tacos, burritos, etc., or as a topping for corn tortillas.
Elotes. An elote typically refers to grilled corn on the cob. But that is only the beginning. They are usually served with your choice of salt, lime, mayonnaise, chili powder, or con todo (the works). Calorie count? Nope, not going there.
Gorditas. The fact that “gordita” means “chubby” in Spanish should give you some indication of what you’re in for.
A gordita is essentially a pastry made with masa (corn flour) and stuffed with cheese, meat, vegetables, or other fillings.
And then there are “the other” foods–like chapulines (grasshoppers), escamoles (ant larvae) or chinicuiles (red caterpillars).
But these protein-filled snacks truly deserve their own column.
Are you a Mexican food lover? If so, what are your favorites?
by: Eileen Brill-Wagner