Mexican food is wide and varied. Yes, it is one of the most colorful and vibrant cuisines in the world, and it’s made of much more than tacos. Tacos are famous, too, of course.
To appreciate Mexican food, one must first understand Mexico is a vast country divided into 32 independent states, each with a deep-rooted local gastronomy. Mexican food is hard to describe; where to start?!
And although not even Mexican people have tried all the tasty food made around the country, some Mexican dishes are more significant than others. Here is the most popular Mexican food.
1. The Tortilla, where it all begins.
If you want to understand Mexican food, you must first get to know the tortilla intimately. Tortillas are made with corn dough, and they’re the country’s staple food. Tortillas are to Mexicans what bread is for people in other parts of the world.
A tortilla is a side dish, an eating utensil, a plate and even a snack. Did someone say nachos? If there’s something all Mexican tables have in common, that’s tortillas. It comes without saying when it comes to tortillas, the fresher, the better!
Tacos are the best-known Mexican food, but also the most miss understood. Everything can become a taco. People top tortillas with scrambled eggs in the morning for a hearty breakfast, but they can top them with grilled meat, shredded chicken and even just veggies.
Tacos are whatever you want them to be, and they can be served soft or rolled tightly and deep-fried for a crispy bite. And here’s a tip, add cheese to any taco and fold it instead of rolling it, and you got yourself a quesadilla! From slow-cooked pulled pork tacos to cactus leaf tacos, there’s a taco for every palate.
3. Enchiladas, the fancier version of tacos.
In a way, enchiladas are fancy tacos. You top tortillas with your favorite stuffing, often shredded chicken, and you place them in a deep dish. Then you must only bathe them in a homemade sauce, sliced onions and grated cheese.
Enchiladas get their name from the sauce used. If you use bean sauce, you get enfrijoladas (frijol means bean), and if you top them with the famous mole sauce, you get enmoladas. Then you have the more common red enchiladas topped with a tomato-based sauce and the green enchiladas made with green tomato sauce. Isn’t that easy to remember?
4. Barbecues, an authentic act of love.
Mexican people like their meat cooked low and slow, so there are many types of barbecues in the country. These are often street-food specialties reserved only for the weekends, as slow-cooking a whole pig, sheep or goat takes many hours — they’re cooked overnight in a pit oven!
That’s how you get the famous barbacoa and the fantastic carnitas. You can surely imagine the meat is fork-tender and literally melts in your mouth. How to eat Mexican barbecued meat? Over a tortilla, of course.
This is the type of dish you can’t make at home unless you dig a hole in your backyard and stuff it with embers and meat, so you must go out to find these specialties.
5. Soups and stews, simply comforting.
Every country has its signature soups, and Mexico is no different. There are too many unique soups to mention, but if you were to pick a few, start with the tortilla soup, a seasoned chicken broth top with crispy tortilla strips and sour cream. What a beauty!
The lime soup is a specialty down south, and it’s bright and tangy. You can also look for the famous pozole — this chicken or pork broth is boiled with large corn grains, and it’s topped with shredded meat, lettuce, radishes, sour cream, lime juice, diced onions and chopped cilantro. This soup goes back to the Aztecs!
6. Salsas! Spice up your life.
Finally, no meal in Mexico is complete with at least one bowl of salsa on the table. These spicy concoctions are often based on red or green tomatoes and contain one or several hot peppers (there are over 60 different hot peppers in Mexico).
Salsas are always handmade and fresh, and they get their flavor from hot peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, lime juice and cilantro. Finely chopped, blended or muddled with a mortar and pestle, there are many types of salsas, and not all of them are all that spicy.
There’s Much More Mexican Food
This is just a drop in the bucket, but you get the idea, Mexican food is incredibly varied. The good news is that the country’s cuisine is immensely popular, and you don’t have to travel far to find an authentic Mexican restaurant near you.
And don’t forget, Mexican food is more than satisfying your cravings; it’s about spending time around the table with your friends and family. Mexican food just tastes better when shared with your loved ones! Now, let’s get ourselves a meaty taco!