Mexican Food What Makes It So Unique?
Mexican Food is a unique blend of Spanish and indigenous Mexican cuisines. It’s loaded with unique ingredients, making it unlike any other food you’ll find around the world. In fact, traditional Mexican food has earned recognition by the UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage contribution to humanity.
Traditional Mexican cuisine is one of the main attractions captivating the hearts (and stomachs) of its people and its visitors.
What Makes Mexican Food So Great?
One of the main factors making Mexican food so irresistible is that it is a blend of different cultures. Its distinct blend of spices, seasonings, and vibrant colors create a beautiful presentation. Many of the traditional Mexican dishes still represent their deep, pre-hispanic origins, making them truly unique.
Mexican cuisine also represents diversity and pride by different geographic territories. Distinct ingredients and cooking styles are used among the different states across the country. Mountainous regions, coastal states, and desert regions all prepare their dishes differently due to the cultural diversity and ingredients available.
Corn Is Everywhere, And In Everything
From tortillas to tamales to enchiladas, to large kernels of Hominy; corn seems to be found in everything when it comes to Mexican Cuisine. You’d be amazing how the people of Mexico are able to process this seemingly bland ingredient; into some of the most delicious and beautiful food creations.
Tortillas are the most dominant form of corn you’ll find in Mexican food. They are the building blocks of Mexican staples like taquitos, tostadas, quesadillas, enchiladas, flautas and more! Tacos, however, are everywhere. They are available everywhere you look in central and south America; from restaurants to beaches to street food. They are eaten at every meal and are an absolute staple in Mexican food.
Mexican food presents some of the most delicious and unique flavors. Some of the most commonly used ingredients in Mexican cooking are garlic, onions, cilantro, oregano, cumin, and chilies. Believe it or not, over 100 different chili varieties are used in Mexican cooking. Cinnamon, cloves, and cocoa are also used in ways we typically do not see in North American or European dishes.
Epazote is a very unique, traditional Central American herb that has been used in Mexican Food since ancient times. Used in bean, fish, and corn dishes; it presents a strong, musky flavor that contributes highly to the exceptional flavors of Mexico.
The history, variability and unique spices are just a few of the things that make Mexican Food so irresistible. It’s best to experience this distinct cuisine in the heart of Mexico; for an authentic taste of traditional Mexico, complete reading
How to Make Your Mexican Food More Authentic
The following tips and tricks; will help you to efficiently concentrate your efforts on cooking flavorful Mexican food; that is both more authentically and easier to prepare.
1- Take Advantage of All the Cilantro
Always use fresh cilantro, which, fortunately, is easy to find nowadays in most supermarkets. Dried cilantro can often to be found in the spice section of the store, but just skip it altogether; it has very little (if any) flavor and is not worth dealing with.
When using cilantro, don’t painstakingly remove all the little individual cilantro leaves from their stems; it is tedious and unnecessary. Tender cilantro stems contain great flavor, and Mexican cooks almost always use the stems and leaves together! Lop off and discard the roots and any hard stems, then chop and use the rest. As with any fresh herb, chop the cilantro right before using it.
2- Use Lots of Freshly-Squeezed Lime Juice
With the way it brightens up so many flavors; lime juice could rightly be considered“nectar of the gods.” Mexicans squeeze lime (also known as key limes); over sweet and savory dishes galore; grilled meats, fruits, vegetable salads, soups, drinks and tacos of all kinds; even potato chips! Lime juice makes everything yummier; by balancing and bringing out flavors, so use it liberally.
There is one “catch,” though: make sure your lime juice is fresh-squeezed. The bottled stuff, while very convenient, just does not have the necessary flavor punch. Keep Mexican/key limes in your fridge as a staple (like you do celery, salt, or eggs); get yourself an efficient, easy-to-use manual lime juicer, and you are in business! (The super flavor booster business, that is).
3- Recycle Leftover Salsa, Sauce, or Mole
Authentic Mexican food is, in a big way, about sauces: salsas for eating with chips; bottled sauces for sprinkling on snacks, cooking sauces and moles for stewed dishes; table sauces for everyday condiments. If you end up with leftover sauce after a meal, don’t you dare throw it out! Even if the dish itself is all gone; that extra sauce will bring you joy once again when it is added to soup; spooned over rice or eggs, stirred into a humdrum stew; or used (by itself or mixed with other ingredients) as a dip or spread.
Store leftover sauce tightly covered in the refrigerator; as you find ways to take advantage of that entire flavor in the next few days; you’ll be so glad you kept it!
4- Boost Flavor with Dry Roasting
Many Mexican recipes include a step that involves roasting tomatoes, chilies, tomatillos, onions, cloves of garlic; or other ingredients on a Comal or in a skillet over low to medium heat. This is called dry roasting because it does not involve oil or any other fat. Though it is an additional step in food preparation, it’s well worth the effort; dry roasting adds a complexity of flavor that is unobtainable otherwise.
Toasting dried chilies need to be done with your full attention, as peppers can burn quickly. (Discard burned chiles, as they can make the dish bitter.) Tomatoes, tomatillos, and onions, though, can be dry roasted at the same time as you are doing other food prep; just be sure to turn them occasionally so that they can get browned or just slightly burned on all sides.
Other ingredients, such as nuts, seeds, and whole spices; are also sometimes toasted on a Comal or skillet, and doing so brings out their best flavors. The wonderful aromas that arise from this process are a real and natural mood booster, as well.
5- Let the Flavors Speak
A lot of commercial restaurant “Mexican” food is served smothered in melted cheese and/or sour cream. Though a modest amount of these ingredients can certainly add zing to a dish; too much just smothers the other flavors and turns an otherwise interesting dish into something practically tasteless. Go by the “less is more” philosophy when using these garnishes. Too much cream and melty cheese can very easily mute the very flavors we are hoping will sing!
A similar caveat applies to the spice cumin. Ground cumin is used often in Tex-Mex dishes, but inside Mexico itself; whole cumin seed is much more commonly employed. (It is also often toasted before being added to the dish; see the note above on dry roasting). Cumin has a strong flavor and can easily overpower any other ingredient; use it sparingly.
6- Don’t Fight the Piloncillo
Piloncillo, a sweetening agent created by pouring unrefined sugar cane juice into molds and drying it; is common throughout tropical Latin America, though it goes by other names outside of Mexico. Must more flavorful than white or brown sugar—and containing many more nutrients; piloncillo is a staple ingredient in many Mexican dishes.
The only problem is that piloncillo, whether in block or cone form, is dense and very hard. No, I mean really really hard, as in hitting-it-with-a-hammer-on-a-concrete-floor-will not-even-break-it-up hard. Believe me, people have tried.
To cook with this stuff, you need to be smarter than the piloncillo; that is to say, use your brain, not your brawn. Piloncillo dissolves relatively easily in hot water; which is why making the syrup with this substance; usually one of the first steps in a recipe calling for it. If for some reason, you really do need it dry; grating piloncillo is usually much easier than pounding it.
Do try to use genuine piloncillo when it is called for. If it is simply impossible to procure where you live; substitute dark brown sugar in any recipe calling for piloncillo. And add a teaspoon or so of molasses per pound of sugar; this won’t taste exactly like the real article, but you will have made a very acceptable approximation.
7- Make the Most of Home Cooked Beans
While using canned beans is very convenient (be sure to thoroughly rinse whole beans before using; to get the “canned” flavor off them), home-cooked ones are much more delicious.
Beans do take quite a while to cook, though, so it makes perfect sense to go big. Cook double or triple what you think you’ll need, and then freeze the leftovers. The next time you need homemade Mexican beans, you´ll have them on hand in no time!
And please, please don´t violate the Cardinal Rule of Cooked Beans: Never ever discard leftover bean broth! There are so many flavors in that liquid; that can be added to soups and stews; that it should actually be considered a crime to throw it out.
8- Avoid Tears While Chopping Onions
Mexican food uses a lot of onions, and most of them are sliced or chopped. Folklore and science have both contributed to our knowledge; of why we cry when cutting onions and both have put forth techniques for avoiding these tears. What works for some people doesn´t for others. Mix and match some of the following; to find your own effective method:
- Refrigerate the onions before cutting them.
- Use a very sharp knife in order to avoid crushing the onion pieces; (which releases the more irritating substance into the air).
- Cut your onions on the stove, under the running extractor fan.
- Try to cut your onions next to the sink. Have the faucet on; with the cold water running during the whole time you are slicing or chopping.
- Chop your onions next to a lighted candle. The fire will burn away many of the offending gases that cause tears.
9- Use Care When Working With Chiles
Chile peppers are not hot only the tongue, but also on the skin and mucous membranes. Though pepper piquancy can vary widely depending on the type of chile and growing conditions; it´s always best to err on the side of caution.
When cutting into fresh chiles; either wear plastic gloves or exercise extreme care; to minimize contact between your hands and the pepper´s inner flesh (including veins and seeds). Don´t touch your face, hair, or eyes. Wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water; to get as much capsaicin (the oil in peppers that causes their spiciness) off as possible. But continue to avoid touching your eyes or any other sensitive place; until you are sure that all the burning substance is gone.
When cooking with chiles, never lean your head over the pot; the vapor or fumes can burn your face and eyes. You will probably forget this tip—but hopefully only once.
Related: South American Specialties
Guacamole, Pico de Gallo or salsa and chips
At the top of the favorites list is Guacamole, Pico de Gallo or salsa and chips! These traditional appetizers are at the start of every meal! Fresh tomatoes, avocadoes, cilantro, and onions are present in many meals. Some of the most popular spices include cumin, coriander. Mexican cooking incorporates many fresh herbs and fresh vegetables. The hot, spicy flavors in Mexican specialties cuisine typically derived from the many types of fresh peppers; Jalapeno, Habanero, and ancho chili peppers are amongst the most favored.
The Mexican specialties style is very earthy, humble, and rich in flavors; because they use a wide range of ingredients from all over the country.
Mexico can be classified by region by their indigenous foods.
- The Northern region is well-known for meat and cheeses
- The North-Pacific coast grows fruit and vegetables
- The Bajio region offers rice, pork, and sausages
- The South-Pacific coast grows a large variety of chili pepper, chicken, and cheese
- The Southern region is known for corn and spices
- The Gulf region has corn and vanilla
Mexican Specialties – Enchiladas
a national favorite – corn or flour tortillas filled either beef, chicken, seafood, potato, beans; or other combinations, drowned in chili sauce and loaded down with cheeses! Slow-baked to perfection, allowing all the aromatic spices to permeate. Once done, a big dollop of sour cream and fresh cilantro, olives, green onions or other condiments top this feast!
Mexican Specialties – Carnitas
are so easy and very popular. This dish is the equivalent of “pulled pork”. Braised pork shredded onto a soft taco, topped with tomato, Pico de Gallo, avocados; cilantro and anything else you may desire. Typically, this meat prepared on a grill and slow-roasted to perfection. Some of the herbs used include, oregano, marjoram, bay leaves, garlic, pulled apart, and then oven-roasted until slightly crisp; then eaten alone or used as a filling for tacos, tamales, tortas, and burritos. A squeeze of lime and you are good to go!
Mexican Specialties – Tacos
For those who love their food to the crunch, tacos are an all-time favorite! They’re fun and easy to eat – and very colorful.
There are so many varieties of tacos to choose from: fish, carne asada, fajita, beef and bean, chicken mole; chipotle pork, chorizo, and potato, and the list goes on.
Mexican Specialties – Arroz con Pollo
This delectable dish will tantalize your taste buds. Tender chicken strips served on a bed of rice; prepared with mixed vegetables, corn, peas, carrots, green beans; need just a squeeze of lime for perfection. Fresh herbs, such as cilantro, green onions, etc. make this one of Mexico’s most favored dishes. This is one of the easiest dishes to prepare – from the oven to the table in 45 minutes!
Mexican Specialties – Paella
There are as many different types of paella as there are women who cook it. The basis is a mix of chicken, a variety of seafood; including mussels, shrimp, lobster, crab, octopus, and pork; cooked in with the rice and peas, carrots and green beans. Paella gets it wonderful yellow colored rice for saffron.
Mexican Specialties – Sweet Mexican Dishes
For desserts, Mexican cuisine is uniquely creative. Churros are a favorite.
Rice pudding ice pops, or paletas de Arroz con leche; are quite popular, as well as pineapple rice pops, tamarind-chili ice pops, and strawberry and cream ice pops.
Street vendors in Mexico sell what known as “street foods”: quesadillas, tacos, tamales; Other foods that a quite popular are sautéed sweet plantains, chicken or beef chimichangas; green chili spinach quiche, Mexican quinoa, flan, sopapillas, and Mexican brownies. The possibilities and combinations are endless for the creative chef. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
Mexican Food What Makes It So Unique – The Mexican Specialities
If you like it spicy or hot and spicy, Mexican specialties can offer you both! There is more to beautiful Mexico than the clear, blue seas and the exotic culture; the flavorful and unique Mexican cuisine is a top favorite all around the world. And there is so much more to discover than burritos, guacamole, and salsa. That is only the first course.
If you happen to visit Mexico, and as you make your way around; you will notice the uniqueness of their home-style cooking. Everything is completely natural and flavorful, rich in color and taste, along with spices that have a kick.
Throughout history, Mexican food has not changed very much. The Mayan Indians greatly influenced Mexican cooking. They were experts at living off the land; sustaining themselves with beans, corn, peppers, and fruits; as well as domesticating and raising chicken, turkey, duck, and later pork.