Mexican dishes are famous all around the world. If you ask someone that have never actually been in Mexico, he will tell you everything about ‘Burritos’, ‘Chile con Carne’ and ‘Nachos with Cheese’. On the other side, if you are one of those lucky ones that actually know Mexico or at least a Mexican family, you might have come across some of the tastiest and actually healthiest food in the world.
Mexican food today is basically a fusion in between the Mesoamerican cooking tradition melted with European, especially Spanish due to the 16th-century invasion. The basic ingredients in most dishes are chilli peppers, corn and beans, basic staple of the traditional cuisine. With the arrival of the Europeans were introduced a huge number of other foods like domesticated animals meat, cheese, and a lot of other spices and seasoning. Because of the African slavery and the Manila-Acapulco trade route, in certain parts of the country you will also find a strong African and Asian influence. The result is the presence of many regional cuisines, based on the different ‘cultures’ and climates of this vast country.
I will tell you about 5 of the most deliciously crazy food that made me want to live in Mexico:
This plate comes all the way back from the Aztec tradition.
Mole is a mix of ingredients from all over the world (North America, Africa and Europe), it’s base however is indigenous. The Mexica (/’meshíka/) people spoke the Nahuatl language. They had a dish called mōlli (/ˈmoːlːi/), meaning sauce, or chīlmōlli (/t͡ʃiːlˈmoːlːi/) for chili sauce; it was a sauce that usually contained chili peppers ancho, pasilla, mulato and chipotle type. Throughout the colonisation era the original mole fused with other continents ingredients like nuts, peanuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, cilantro, seedless grapes, plantains, garlic, onion, cinnamon, black pepper, achiote, guaje, hoja santa, cumin, dried fruits and chocolate. The only thing that is still the same is the way it is used and its consistency.
It is made by roasting and grounding all the ingredients into a paste, and then mixing it with water or broth and cooking it until thickens up. It is never eaten alone, it is the poured in quantity over chicken, turkey or pork, and accompanied by rice and beans. You can also find it often in the preparation of Tamales or Enchiladas.
This is also an Aztec descendant favourite dish. From the Nahuatl word ‘pozole’ (/po’solːi/) which means “hominy“, this is a traditional pre-Columbian soup that, because of being its main ingredient corn, and being corn a sacred plant to the Mexica people and other inhabitants of America, was used only in special occasions.
It is made from the ‘hominy’ type of corn stewed with meat, chili peppers, and other seasoning and garnish such as cabbage, radish, salsa and lemons. Following the Spanish colonization few of the ingredients changed, but the basic mix remained.
3. GREEN or RED CHILAQUILES
Believe it or not, here is another plate directly from the Mexica people.
Chilaquiles (/tʃilaˈkiles/) derive from the Nahuatl word ‘chīlāquilitl’ (/t͡ʃiːlaːˈkilit͡ɬ/), formed by ‘chīl’ (chile pepper) and ‘aquīlli’ (to be immersed into something). This Mexican dish main ingredients are ‘totopos’ (corn tortilla fried strips / non-Mexicans call them ‘nachos’) simmered in green or red chilly sauce and usually accompanied by other ingredients such as refried beans, eggs, cheese, chicken strips, sour cream, onions, and of course more chile sauce.
This is commonly known as the Oaxacan version of a pizza.
The tlayuda (/tɬaˈʝuða/) is a type of large grilled corn tortilla covered with different ingredients. There are many variations in its fillings: refried beans, cabbage, lettuce, meat, grilled veggies, cheese, chilly sauce and guacamole. To be eaten, this large tortilla is then doubled up like a ‘quesadilla’ and spiced up with chilli sauce.
This dish have been traced back as early as 8000 to 5000BC in Mesoamerica. Olmeca and Tolteca civilisations, and later Aztec and Maya, used tamales as portable food. The origin of the word tamalli (/taˈmalːi/) is also Nahuatl.
Tamal is a corn based dough filled up and then steamed or boiled in a corn or banana leaf wrapper that is removed before eating. It can be sweet or salty. The main fillings are: meat, vegetables, chilli, fruit, sauces.
Tamales are one of Mexico’s favourite fast food still, generally eaten for breakfast or dinner, and often accompanied by hot ‘atole’ and rice pudding, or by other types of indigenous corn based drinks.