About Mexican Food
The first time you glance at a real Mexican menu reveals a small truth – most of us haven’t a clue what is authentic Mexican food. Forget nachos, burritos, fajitas, chili con carne or hard-shell tacos – these are all ‘Tex Mex’ inventions, the fusion food created by Tejanos (Texans of Spanish and Mexican descent).
Instead, authentic Mexican food is about soft tacos, slow-roasted meats and complicated salsas with 30 ingredients as diverse as chocolate and chili.
Food is inextricably tied to Mexican festive culture and is one of the few cuisines in the world to receive UNESCO’s stamp of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
In many Mexican recipes, you’ll taste traces of Mayan and Aztec history, when corn tortillas and bean paste were common. With the rise of the Aztec empire in the mid-1300s came chili peppers, honey, salt and chocolate, and domesticated turkey and duck were also added to the menu. With Spanish settlers in the 1500s came new cooking techniques and livestock – like pigs, sheep and cows – plus ingredients such as garlic, dairy products, herbs, wheat and spices. Added to the mix are influences from the Caribbean, South America, France, Portugal and West African countries, meaning today’s authentic Mexican food is a fusion of flavors.
But one thing remains true about Mexico’s food reputation: tacos are ubiquitous, eaten everywhere, everyday, and in every form. “Tacos are a way of life,” as Enrique Olvera once said, head chef of one of the country’s best restaurants Pujol. Far from becoming repetitive, ‘tacos’ in Mexico include numerous versions of corn tortialls that are fried, crunchy, thin, thick, large, small… you name it.
Today you’ll find tacos sold in both scrubbed down ‘taquerias’ (taco restaurants), street carts and gourmet restaurants alike. Add a few botanas or antojitos, simply ‘snacks’ or ‘little cravings’, and you’ll find yourself in Mexican heaven. And that’s before you even get to the desserts.
While it would be impossible to list every version and variety of authentic Mexican foods – which change between regions, and even from town to town – here are just some of the most common Mexican foods to get you started on your Mexican tasting journey.