Mexican food is a unique cuisine in the continent of North America and it would not be an over exaggeration if it is said that spices and herbs would disappear from the continent if there wasn’t any Mexican food. Mexican cuisine can vary from a subtle and less spicy food to fire engine hot. Mexican food is known in the continent of North America to be using spices like chili, jalapenos and oregano. Mexican food can be quite spicy sometimes; though it has found universal acceptance throughout America, Canada and other parts of the world. Mexican fast food chains can be found in many parts of the world serving Mexican recipes like Tortilla Buffets.
Classification of Mexican Food
Mexico mainly consists of six regions - The Oaxacan, the mountainous regions of the West (Jalisco etc.), Central & South-East region, Yucatán and Pueblos or villages. All the regions greatly differ in their cuisines. For example in the Yucatán region people like the taste of sweet and sour dishes, where as in the Oaxaca region savory tamales and tlayudas are quite popular. The cuisine found in South-Eastern region is quite spicy and vegetables and chicken based dishes are preferred.
History and Cultural Influences on Mexican Food
Mexican culture, tradition and food habits vary as per the region and various colonial influences. Due to the local climate and geography and of course ethnic diversity the Mexican cuisine is very unique. The major influence on Mexican cuisine and culture has been the Spanish invasion. During the colonization the Spaniards introduced and mixed their own style of cooking with the locals. Over the years many of the restaurants in the border areas of U.S like Texas have started offering non-traditional Mexican food mixed with their own types and ways of cooking.
Commonly Used Ingredients and Cooking Methods in Preparing Mexican Food
Mexican food includes ingredients like avocado, pineapple, guava, and capote. The local ingredients of achiote and huitlacoche and mamey are also very popular with the local cuisine. Soursop, squash, fish and turkey are some of the other ingredients that are widely used in the local cuisine. Thanks to the Spanish invaders meats of cattle, chickens, goats, sheep and pigs were introduced in various parts of Mexico. It eventually became an essential part of daily meals. The staples of Mexican cuisine are typically corn and beans. Many corn based food are consumed in Mexico that include tamales, tortillas and gorditas. Mexican food is known for its spiciness which is enabled by the usage of chili powder and cinnamon. Cumin, cilantro, oregano and epazote are the other important spices used by the cuisine. Spiciness is also brought about in the Mexican recipes by the usage of chipotle which is actually jalepeno peppers in the smoked and dried form. It is not uncommon to find garlic and onions in Mexican food contrary to some beliefs. Next to corn, rice is the most common grain in Mexican cuisine.
Globally Popular Mexican Food
• Classic Guacamole – This is a dip made from ripe avocados. The fruit is mashed with a Mexican styled mortar and pestle arrangement called molcajete and flavored tangy and salty with the addition of lime juice and salt respectively. This Mexican dish may be enhanced with the addition of tomatoes and flavoring with garlic and other seasonings.
• Traditional Salsa – This is a class of Mexican accompaniment sauces, often tomato based, though not all of them include tomatoes. Salsa roja( red sauce), salsa verde(green sauce), salsa cruda ( raw sauce), salsa negra( black sauce), salsa taquera( taco sauce) are only a few of the vast range of salsa sauces, which are also an interesting feature of Central American Cuisine.
• Bunuelos – These are round or other shaped fried Mexican snacks made with anise dough with fillings which may be cheese or yams and a sweet topping. They are prepared during Christmas and regarded as essential food. The Bunuelos are a part of festive Chirstian, Muslim and Jewish cuisines.
• Chiles Relleno – This is a stuffed chili dish usually made with pablano chili, a mildly pungent variety of the spice. The stuffing is of cheese, which may be queso Oxaca, Picadillo meat, with canella spice seasoning. The filling is coated with egg batter and flour dough (called masa in Spanish) and fried. The relleno is served with sauces.
• Chicken Enchiladas – This is a Mexican tortilla with a spicy chicken filling. It is served with chili sauce. The sauce may also be poured on the enchilada before serving.
• Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding) – This is a dessert pudding specially made during Lent. The dish is made by soaking toasted French bread in a solution sweetened with piloncillio( Mexican brown sugar) and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. Cheese, raisins and walnuts are added to this dish to make it rich.
• Mexican Fried Bananas – These are delicious golden brown bananas fried in butter and sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon.
• Chicken Quesadillas – this is a Mexican tortilla (made of corn or wheat) with a chicken filling. Mexican quesadillas are generally filled with cheese which has given this item its name.
Traditional Mexican Food
Mexican food, traditionally includes tamales( a steamed roll made of a corn dough called masa and stuffed with cheese, meat or vegetables), Spanish rice, arroz con leche( a rice and corn dessert), and cajeta( a dessert made of thick caramelized milk).Tacos are also a traditional Mexican food. These are prepared with a wheat or maize tortilla, which is rolled or folded around a filling.
Special/ Festival Mexican Food
In Mexico most of the celebrations are incomplete without Tamales. "El Día de los Muertos", meaning Day of the Dead, is one of the most important holidays in Mexico. On this day major emphasis is given on food and recipes. The most important part of this traditional event is the bread of the dead, or "pan de muertos". The breads are mostly bought or baked by families. The bread tastes sweet and is considered to be very tasty.
Gourmet Mexican Food
Gourmet Mexican food includes mouth watering delicacies like:
Charred Habanero Salsa (this accompaniment sauce made of Habanero chili, the spiciest Mexican chili, is best served with seafood delicacies particularly those cooked with achiote. Grilled squid is one of the seafood dishes that go well with this salsas sauce), Duck and Pomegranate Tacos, Grilled Snapper with Charred Habanero Salsa, Mint Recado, Summer Tomato, Avocado and Chile Salad and Traditional Achiote Recado.
Mexican Food Trivia
As per various scientists there is a major connection between capsaicin and a component of tarantula venom. Capsaicin has an ingredient that makes chillies hot.