Mexican food is known for its intense and diverse range of flavours. Dishes eaten in a Mexican Diet are colourful and garnished with a variety of spices. Mexican cuisine also owes much of its heritage to the Spanish who combined aspects of their diet with the people of Tenochtitlan. (The Aztec capital now Mexico City). Nowadays, Mexican food is very popular throughout the world.
Meat was scarce before the introduction of the Spaniards, so Mexican natives used corn and beans as their main nutritional staple. Chiles and heavy spices were used to give dishes flavour in the Mexican diet.
Mexico’s seaside communities relied on the plentiful array of seafood as a source of meat for their dishes. The Spaniards quickly brought over garlic, onions, cheese, wheat, chicken and more. The native Mexicans then adapted these new ingredients into their national dishes. Pork and chicken are now the main meats in Mexican dishes, though seafood still has a large influence.
- Chillies – Mexican dishes are famous for their use of chillies, jalapeño, ancho and Serrano most commonly. Chillies are used to flavour everything from soups to salad and they are used fresh, whole, dried, smoked or powdered.
- Beans – Beans are another commonly used ingredient in Mexican food, mainly black and pinto beans. They are mostly used in soups and salad dishes.
- Fats – it is not very likely that you will find butter used in any Mexican dish. Lard is a more traditional base for cooking as it is seen to provide more flavour to meals.
- Vegetables – corn is the main vegetable used and has been a staple ingredient for centuries in Mexico. Ground corn is used to produce tortillas, masa and more. Fresh tomatoes are used raw in salsas, and are also used as toppings and fillings for taco’s and burritos. Tomatoes are not usually used to make a sauce. Most of the red sauces you find in Mexico are made from chillies. Cooked or canned tomatoes are also used as flavours for rice, salads and soups.
- Unusual Ingredients – Sometimes, unusual ingredients are used to layer flavours. A perfect example is traditional Mole. Over 30 different ingredients are used to make it including cocoa and peanuts or peanut butter. Cocoa is a great seasoning to bring out a rich flavour. Cactus is also commonly used as a base for many main Mexican dishes.
A typical Mexican meal will consist of an appetiser, a main meal and side dish and a desert.
Sample Mexican food:
- Appetiser – Shrimp Ceviche – a shrimp cocktail.
- Main – Enchiladas – a corn tortilla, rolled around a filling of choice, covered with a chilli pepper sauce.
- Side – Spanish rice – rice flavoured with chicken broth, tomatoes and garlic.
- Desert – Plantains Con Crema – plantains are a type of fruit, the longer they have to ripen the sweeter they get. Plantains Con Crema is baked until soft and then topped with cream and berries.
Other well known Mexican dishes include:
- Chilli Rellenos – this dish consists of deep-fried chillies and cheese, rellenos means fried.
- Flan – a rich custard desert.
- Jalapeno Corn Cakes – corn cakes wrapped in jalapenos, red peppers and other optional ingredients.
- Ensalada Mexicana Fresca – a refreshing salad made from lettuce, tomatoes beans and other garnishes and flavourings.
- Gazpacho – a cool soothing soup, made from vegetables that are either blended or diced.
- Fresh Salsa – a great filling or accompaniment to any dish.
- Grilled onions and peppers – a great side dish.
- Homemade tortillas – a type of thin, unleavened bread made from finely ground maize or wheat flour, traditionally filled with peppers, salsa or vegetables.
- Taco – a traditional Mexican dish composed of a maize or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling. The fact that a taco can be filled with practically any meat, fish, shellfish, vegetable, and cheese allows for great versatility and variety.