A Foodie's Guide to Authentic Mexican Cuisine
Mexican Cuisine is more than Burritos and Tacos
Mexican cuisine is so much more than just burritos and tacos – the cuisine of this magnificent country varies dramatically by region and is influenced by the local climate, geography, and of course the ethnic groups of each locality. I began my culinary journey in the Yucatan – a tropical region in the far south known for its fabulous beaches and ancient Mayan ruins. Tropical fruits and fresh seafood – with a dash of Mayan influence are the hallmarks of Yucatan cuisine.
Although said to originate from the central part of the country, pozole (pronounced po-so-le) is one of those ubiquitous Mexican dishes found throughout the country – and one that every visitor should try! The main ingredient is hominy, dried maize kernels that have been treated with alkali. The hominy is added to pork or chicken in a clear broth topped with diced onions, cilantro, avocado, shredded cabbage, radishes and of course, fresh lime juice – creating a thin but hearty stew. I also learned that in ancient times the Mayans would add human flesh from ritual sacrifice to pozole – fortunately I learned this after I had enjoyed my meal. For refreshment I tried a Jamaica juice which is made from hibiscus flower and has a tart cranberry taste with subtle tea flavours, it is loaded with vitamin C and sometimes lots of sugar as the locals like it extra sweet!
Is Oaxaca the Best Foodie Destination in Mexico?
The next stop on my journey was Oaxaca – widely considered to be the culinary capital of the country and was crowned “Best Foodie Destination in Mexico” by Food & Travel magazine in 2019. Top chefs from around the world flock to the charming cobblestone lanes and vibrant markets of Oaxaca to learn the secrets of the food here. The markets here are sensory joy-ride with the bustle, colour, and scents that drift from food stalls, restaurants and chocolatiers.
One market lane was dedicated almost entirely to mezcal (tequila’s arch rival) and you could sample it as you walked along - be sure and pace yourself! I tried a rather smoky 8 year-old mezcal that had enough kick to make a burro (donkey) weep! It was smoky, smooth but still burnt the whole way down my throat – not a drink for the faint of heart!
Another area of the market is dedicated to local chocolate which is often seasoned with spices or even chillies which gives an incredible depth of flavour. I highly recommend getting a hot chocolate to sip as you make your way around the stalls.
Oaxaca’s signature dish is negro mole
, the main ingredient of which is cacao
with a few dozen (sometimes secret) spices thrown in the mix and is generally served with chicken. The result is a heavy, rich sauce with a hint of smokiness that envelops the chicken. Who would have thought chicken and chocolate would be such a winning combination?! I would recommend sipping a mezcal or tequila with your mole – the burn cuts right through all the richness of the dish!
Special mention goes to Oaxaca queso
(cheese) which Mexicans from everywhere go nuts over, it’s a semi-hard cheese with a creamy, mild flavour - similar to mozzarella. Queso pops up just about everywhere and is ideal as a stuffing in quesadillas, enchiladas, poblano peppers or used as a garnish on top of soups, tostadas, tacos and beans.
The Ultimate, Must-Try Dish to Eat in Mexico
All of this talk of Mexican cuisine has certainly stirred up my appetite, so let’s wrap this discovery of delectable Mexcian flavours with my all-time favourite Mexican street food - tacos al pastor.
These delicious little tacos are based on lamb shawarma but made using spit-grilled pork. The recipe was imported by Lebanese immigrants and has become one of Mexico’s best loved tacos. Part of the experience is to watch the ‘taco master’ as he deftly slices the meat directly into your taco, and then slices the pineapple (an essential part of tacos al pastor!) so it lands just so. Finish off with your choice of sauce and fresh coriander (cilantro) and you are ready to chow down! Es muy rico!
Join Anna as she demonstrates the Guacamole recipe passed on to her by a friend in Mexico!
How to experience Foodie Heaven in Mexico
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