The first thing that comes to your mind when you hear ‘Mexico’ is probably the food. And yes, Mexico has definitely lived up to the reputation.
The Mexican food we have in New Zealand is generally a plate of nachos or tacos alongside a margarita. But let me tell you, this is barely scratching the surface. There are so many more dishes that are super popular here, and I cannot wait to come back home and cook some of them for my family and friends.
Firstly, you hardly ever see nachos here, except in the odd tourist restaurant. Mexicans laughed when I said that nachos are the most common Mexican dish in New Zealand! Tacos, however, are the heart of Mexican food. You can find them in every restaurant and are sold street-side in every town. However, as a vegetarian, I was disappointed to discover I cannot actually eat ‘tacos’. There is no such thing as tacos without meat, so if you want a ‘taco sin carne’, you order a quesadilla (essentially a ‘cheese taco’ which is equally delicious) instead, or something with frijoles (beans).
The base of any Mexican meal consists of a tortilla, meat and salsa. Many different dishes consist of these ingredients but cooked in a different way.
So far, the best Mexican food I have eaten was when I spent New Year’s with a Mexican family. We had the most delish tortillas with cheese from a state called Oaxaca and all the usual condiments to go with them (a variety of salsas (from mild to very spicy), coriander, avocado, onion, tomato/cucumber salsa). Eating Mexican food with a Mexican family…can’t get much better than that!
Also, there are a few other dishes which are really popular here which are worth a mention (which I had never heard of before coming to Mexico). Chilaquiles is a very common breakfast dish. Different families may have their own variations of chilaquiles, but it is most often corn tortilla chips cooked in a red salsa, served with refried beans, egg or meat.
Another is Elote, found in most markets and street side, which must be ordered ‘con todo’. This means you will receive a piece of freshly cooked corn smothered in mayonnaise, cheese, chilli, salt and lime (may not look or sound that good, but it tastes delicious!)
I cannot finish without mentioning tequila. I am living in the state of Jalisco, and about 1 hour north of Guadalajara is the town Tequila, the world’s home of the alcohol Tequila. ‘Blue Agave’ is the plant from which tequila is made and is native to this area. It is an extremely popular drink here, with many student events promoting a ‘Tequila open bar’ and the drink can be found at almost every social gathering (along with cerveza (beer) and Coca-Cola). I have not yet been to Tequila for a tour (about 60km from Guadalajara) but I am sure I will before I leave Guadalajara.
Food is a big part of Mexican culture and is always best eaten with friends and family. It is something they are really passionate about, and this comes across when you are enjoying a freshly made dish. Mexico sure is an adventure for the taste buds!