Posted August 8, 2011 by Kay Walten in Food & Drink,Guest Bloggers,Mexican Culture
Take a holiday to Mexico and you’ll have the chance to tuck into a wide range of tasty cuisine that draws on a number of influences. Indeed, the food that you sample in the Latin American country today not only has Mayan and Aztec elements to it but has also been influenced by the Spanish and French settlers who arrived during colonial times. Some people don’t like trying any of the local food during their holiday, especially if it’s an all inclusive holiday, but whatever your palette, you’re bound to discover at least one dish that is to your tastes. So, why not read on to find out more about some of the country’s signature dishes?
One item you may already be familiar with back in the UK is guacamole. This tasty green dip is often eaten with tortilla chips or it can be used as a side dish to a main course. Originating from south-western Mexico, it is made by mashing up avocados, which are then mixed with onions, tomatoes, lemon juice and chilli peppers. You should find that guacamole is available in most restaurants and eateries throughout the country, although it is an especially popular dish to be served during Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations held on September 16th.
Another historic element of the country’s cuisine is mole, although you may find that it is also referred to as mole poblano. This rich sauce is an extremely popular element of Mexican cooking and as it contains around 20 different ingredients trying it will certainly make for a flavoursome experience! Among the many things that go into mole are mulatto chilli peppers and chocolate. You may also find that sesame seeds, peanuts, tomatoes and grapes are added to it depending on where you go. Usually quite dark in colour, it is typically served with turkey or chicken and is often prepared to celebrate birthdays and weddings. It is also served during Cinco de Mayo, a regional holiday in the eastern region of Puebla that celebrates the Mexican army’s victory against the French on May 5th 1862.
Alternatively, you may wish to try gorditas in order to get a true taste of authentic Mexican cuisine. Translating as ‘little fat one’ in English, these chunky tortilla wraps are slit on one side and are typically stuffed with meat and cheese, although other fillings can be used. Gorditas can be sampled throughout the country, although one place you may wish to try them is the aptly-named La Gordita Voraz in the northern city of Torreon.
One delicacy that is probably unlike anything else you have ever tried before is
Tamales, photo courtesy of hoalian.com
. These are the cooked eggs of the escamole ant, an insect located in the state of Hidalgo, and are perhaps best described as a Mexican kind of caviar. They are usually sauteed in onions and butter, before being placed in tortillas and having a consistency similar to cottage cheese are slightly nutty in taste. Typically only available in the most high-end Mexican restaurants, one eatery that serves the dish is Los Escamoles in Villa de Santiago, which is situated in the central state of Neuvo Leon.
tacos al pastor, photo courtesy of calid.wordpress
Another traditional dish you may want to try are enchiladas, which consist of stuffed wheat-flour pancakes that have spicy salsa spread over the top and can make for the perfect light lunch.
Chilaquiles, meanwhile, see corn tortillas cut into quarters and lightly fried until salsa is added before being allowed to simmer. Scrambled eggs and chicken can be added to the mixture which is then garnished with cheese and refried beans. Chilaquiles are typically eaten for breakfast, with the spicy dish said to be a perfect hangover cure. If you’ve worked up an appetite while exploring Mexico’s many sights, whether it’s Acapulco’s famous beaches or the stunning Mayan city of Chichen Itza, stop by an esquites stall. Street vendors throughout the country offer this hot snack, where corn is boiled before being fried alongside onions, chillies and salt and served with lime juice and mayonnaise.
Another historic dish is al pastor. While this meal was developed in central Mexico, it draws influences from European and Middle Eastern cuisine. Indeed, it is extremely similar to a kebab and its development is thought to have come about from Lebanese and Syrian immigrants arriving in Mexico in the 1920s and 30s who used a spit grill to cook meat, usually lamb or chicken. However, al pastor are made from pork with the meat thinly sliced off a spit, placed on tortillas and served with onions, coriander leaves and pineapple. A variant on al pastor are tacos arabes. This particular dish also features spit-cooked meat, but instead of being served on top of tortillas it is placed into a bread similar to pita known as pan araba. This recipe originates from the central state of Puebla, so a trip to the region’s capital city – also called Puebla – could be a great place to try tacos arabes.
Order tamales from the menu and you can be confident that you’ll be tasting an iconic Mexican dish. Dating back to pre-Columbian times, these consist of steamed packets of corn dough containing either a sweet or savoury filling that are then wrapped in either banana leaves or corn husks. The size of the tamal you eat, as well as the filling inside it, varies depending where in Mexico you are. If visiting Monterrey, you’re likely to find the tamales are quite small, with shredded meat and red chillies being popular ingredients. Head to Yucatan, however, and the tamales here tend to be quite large, typically containing chicken or pork and flavoured with achiote seasoning. The northern city of Culiacan tends to produce tamales that come with small, sweet brown beans, pineapple and corn, although on special occasions larger versions are made. Tucking into tamales can be a great way to satisfy your hunger if you’ve worked up an appetite visiting many of the region’s sights. Around 30 minutes outside of central Culiacan you’ll come across wonderful hot springs, while a visit to science museum the Centro de Ciencias de Sinaloa gives you the chance to see the fifth largest meteorite to have struck the earth.
With so much great cuisine for you to try, a holiday to Mexico is bound to be a feast for the senses!
Article provided by guest blogger Mark Shaw of travelsupermarket.com
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