The history of Mexican cuisine begins in the pre-Columbian era, when the territory of modern Mexico was inhabited by the Aztec and Mayan tribes. Aborigines ate local plants and animals, their diet was specific and tied to the place of residence. With the advent of the Spaniards in America and the mixture of 2 cultures, the menu of local residents also changed. Europeans brought unfamiliar products, in turn, the Indians introduced the conquistadors to elements of exotic cooking for conquerors.
Mexican cuisine is a mixture of Mayan and Aztec Indian cuisines.
The mixture of 2 gastronomies has formed an original Mexican cuisine, in which traditional Indian dishes and European recipes successfully complement each other.
In 2010, the national dishes of Mexico were included by UNESCO in the list of world intangible heritage.
Specifics of national Mexican cuisine
To prepare most dishes, Mexicans use simple, hearty ingredients. Culinary experts note that a characteristic feature of local gastronomy is the small number of components that are part of the dishes, but chefs know “a thousand ways to combine them.”
Modern Mexicans reverently preserve their rich gastronomic heritage. Most dishes consist of the same components that were used before colonization. Of the products of plant origin, sweet potatoes, beans, tomatoes, lime, avocado, pumpkin are popular.
Corn is very fond of local cooks. Corn flour is used to bake cakes, straws, envelopes, and the flatbreads differ mainly in thickness, and the palette of flavors is provided by sauces and fillings.
A feature of Mexican cuisine is a large number of dishes with hot peppers. It is called “chili” here, meaning not the type of pepper, but its ability to give the dishes a burning taste. There are technologies for smoking and drying chili, after such processing, the seasoning is called chipotl.
A distinctive feature of Mexican cuisine are dishes with hot peppers.
Spicy components are included in the recipe of many dishes. They are added to soups, are considered an indispensable ingredient in second courses, hot drinks and desserts are served with them.
Mexican meat gastronomy looks more familiar to Europeans. Exotic dishes from opossum, monkey, tapir gave way to dishes from beef, lamb, pork. Popular sausages, smoked meats, lard. Milk is actively used in cooking, and without the products of Mexican cheese makers, modern local cuisine can no longer be imagined.
In remote regions of the country, the tradition of eating insects and their larvae has been preserved.
Residents of these areas still eat crickets, worms, ants. Such food is considered nourishing and healthy.
Most Mexican cooking dishes are prepared in large quantities of oil, contain fats and cholesterol. But even such a menu is not complete without dishes, the beneficial properties of which exceed the negative consequences of their use, and the taste qualities remain at the height.
From the point of view of a healthy diet, baked foods, such as enchilados or burritos, will be a good choice, provided that cheese is excluded from the list of ingredients. A good option would be gazpacho – a cold soup of tomatoes with peppers and cucumbers. It contains a lot of vitamin C, it does not contain fat and is low in calories. From a long list of seasonings, the best choice would be salsa, a sauce of peppers and tomatoes. It is low-calorie and contains a large amount of vitamins A and C.
Those who take care of their health can also recommend kevihe (seafood or fish in a citrus marinade with tomatoes), arrose con pollo (chicken with boiled rice), black bean soup, tacos with shrimps.
The main ways of cooking in Mexico
Most of the local dishes are fried, boiled and baked dishes, which include finely chopped or finely chopped ingredients. For cooking, Mexican cooks rarely leave large pieces of meat and do not cut vegetables and other products into cubes. Here it is customary to eat minced meat, pasta, puree, add flour to soups, and in the second courses – thick sauces.
Mexican cooks make fried, boiled and baked dishes.
Another feature of Mexican gastronomy is the widespread use of pepper and other seasonings. There are more than 80 varieties of pepper in Mexico, among them there are sweet and spicy. The champion in terms of frequency of use can be called hot habanero pepper. Because of it, in the mass consciousness, Mexican cooking is associated with spicy dishes.
On the territory of Mexico, a few centuries ago, steamed food was cooked. The Aztec steamer was a cauldron, at the bottom of which water was poured, and between the inner walls was strengthened a platform woven from branches and corn leaves. Food was laid out on it, a fire was lit under the cauldron, and the rising steam boiled the food.
What products are used most often
The specificity of Mexican cuisine implies a combination of different ingredients in one dish, which, in the opinion of a European, are not always compatible.
For baking bread in Mexico, flour from wheat and corn is used. There are almost no usual loaves and rolls here, the local bread is pancakes, pancakes and flatbreads in different variations. Tortilla, the most common flatbread, at the time of eating often performs the function of a cutlery. It collects sauces and gravies, its pieces are dipped in bowls with seasonings.
Authentic sweet pastries in Mexico include:
- Biscuit cake “Tres Leches” (“Three Milks”), for the preparation of which whipped cream, melted and condensed milk are used. It is suitable for coffee, jam, fruit, hot chocolate.
- Churros – sweet fried sausages from custard dough, having a star shape in cross-section. They are served in sugar and cinnamon.
Vegetarian dishes in Mexican gastronomy are few, vegetables are mainly used as ingredients for salads, side dishes, soups, serve as components of minced meat. The natural conditions of the country, 40% of the territory of which is occupied by deserts and mountains, do not contribute to the rapid development of crop production. However, farmers have learned to grow drought-resistant varieties of vegetables and cereals created by scientists.
Among the agricultural products supplied to markets and stores, tomatoes, corn, beans, garlic, onions, potatoes, cucumbers predominate.
The country fully provides itself with avocados, watermelons, chili peppers, oranges.
Mexicans are avid meat eaters. Pork, beef, lamb, poultry are included as ingredients in the recipe of many dishes. Cattle breeding in the country is poorly developed, the Mexican economy is not self-sufficient in terms of meat production, the missing volumes of products are purchased in the United States.
Meat is the basis of many dishes.
Spicy and spicy sauces
A rare Mexican dish does without the addition of sauces. Their main component is chili pepper. It is used to make salsa, guacamole, pico de gallo, ranchero, adobo, pipiana, chipotle. Most of these sauces have Native American names. They were invented in the pre-colonial period and confirm that the ancient cuisine of the Aztecs and Mayans was spicy and spicy.
National dishes in Mexico
To plunge into the bright Mexican culture, guests of the country are helped by original local dishes that can surprise even sophisticated gourmets.
Hearty burrito roll is a classic of Mexican cooking. For its preparation, minced meat, tomatoes, spicy guacamole sauce, cheese, fried beans, rice are used. The components are mixed, heated in a frying pan, after which the resulting hot mixture is wrapped in a thin tortilla. Serve burritos with sour cream, salads, salsa sauce. The dish is democratic, it can be found both in street kiosks and in the menu of expensive restaurants. For vegetarians, there is a variant of dishes with beans.
Burrito is a classic Mexican dish.
A popular representative of Mexican tacos cuisine is a tortilla made of wheat or corn flour, in which a variety of fillings are added: ground beef, chicken, vegetables, red beans, tomatoes, ham, cactus pulp. Hints of taste of the dish are given by cilantro, cheese, onions, guacamole and salsa sauces. They eat the dish traditionally with their hands, folding the tortilla in the likeness of a boat. Tacos are so loved by the locals that in Mexico there are special cafes called taqueria, in which they are the main offer on the menu.
Spicy guacamole seasoning is a green paste of avocado, onions, jalapeño peppers, chili, coriander, salt and lime juice. Different cooks prepare it in different ways, in most cases it is a homogeneous mass, but some craftsmen leave small cubes of avocado in it. Pasta has a sharp, rich taste and is combined with nachos, fajitos, quesadilla, burritos, fish and mushroom dishes.
Guacamole is a paste of avocado, onion and jalapeno peppers.
Quesadilla is a flatbread made of corn or wheat flour filled with plenty of cheese. To prepare it, the tortilla is folded in half, cheese is placed between the halves. Then the workpiece is deep-fried or grilled. As additional components can be chopped chicken, ground beef, chorizo sausages, mushrooms, potatoes, vegetables.
The difference between quesadilla and similar dishes is that the tortilla is folded in half, and not wrapped in it with a filling.
The name “enchilad” is translated as “seasoned with chili sauce”. This is a spicy dish based on fried or baked flatbread, in which the filler is traditionally wrapped in Mexican cuisine. Most often it is a chicken, but there are enchiladas with vegetables and eggs. To give a sharp taste, chili, mole, salsa sauces are used. Rolls with filling are fried in a frying pan or baked in the oven. The finished dish is poured with chili and cocoa sauce. One of the varieties of food is entomatad (seasoning is tomato sauce).
Enchilad is a dish based on a flatbread seasoned with chili sauce.
A rare non-sharp Mexican dish is called fajitos. It consists of beef, garlic, onions, paprika, soft wheat cake. Meat and bell peppers are cut into strips and fried in a frying pan with the addition of other ingredients in the process. Unlike most Mexican dishes, tortillas and fillers are served separately, and the person chooses what to wrap in a flatbread. The ingredients of the dish can sometimes be chicken, pork, seafood, sour cream, tomatoes, cheese.
If desired, the fajitos can become sharp, for this purpose salsa or guacamole are added to it.
Steamed tamale is a gift for lovers of dietary food. The dough is applied to corn leaves, on top of it put a filling of chicken fillet, beans, vegetables, cheese, potatoes, hot peppers. Next, the workpiece is rolled up and boiled in a special steam container. Instead of corn leaves, banana leaves are sometimes used, and the filler can be from sweet fruits.
Tamale is a dish of dietary food.
In addition to second courses, soups are widely represented in Mexican cuisine. The most favorite of them is bean with chili peppers. Beans are passed through a blender, so after cooking, a liquid fragrant puree is obtained, which, when served, is decorated with finely chopped greens and whole beans. Due to the hot pepper, the dish has a bright taste.
Chilakiles are triangular pieces of tortilla heated on a slow fire, which are called totopos. To give sharpness before warming up, salsa is added to them. In accordance with regional traditions, the dish can include gutted chicken, beef, cheese, scrambled eggs, onions, chorizo sausages, beans. To extinguish the excessive burning of the dish, it is sometimes eaten with sour cream. The dish is served for breakfast, it can also be bought as street food.
Chilaquiles is a traditional dish of Mexican cuisine.
Thick corn soup pozole is perfect for starting lunch. In most cases, it is boiled with pork or chicken, for vegetarians there is an option with beans. Corn grains are boiled until they burst, so the soup acquires the consistency of a liquid puree. The meat ingredient is not strongly boiled. Serve soup with nachos, lemon juice, cheese, avocado, oregano, radishes.
There are 3 types of pozole:
- white – only with corn and meat;
- red – with tomato paste and salsa sauce;
- green with guacamole.
Hot salsa sauce is an indispensable component of many Mexican cooking dishes. It is made from garlic, tomatoes, hot peppers, coriander, onions, olive oil. The color of the seasoning depends on the main ingredient: with tomatoes it turns out red, with tomatillo – green. Salsa is served fresh, its components retain their beneficial properties, refresh and help improve digestion.
Salsa is a mandatory component of many dishes.
Chili con carne
The easy-to-prepare chili con carne dish is the quintessence of the burning Mexican dishes. Only 2 components are used for it: meat and hot pepper. The rest of the ingredients are added depending on regional traditions and personal taste preferences. It can be paprika, tomatoes, onions, beans, fragrant herbs. Near the end of cooking, honey, cane sugar, and cocoa are placed in the dish to give piquancy. They offer chili con carne with rice, tortillas, nachos. Sometimes sour cream, herbs and grated cheese are served with the dish.
Festive Mexican dishes
Fun and noisy holidays in Central America are difficult to imagine without a plentiful treat. Cooks and housewives try to please guests and family members with dishes that are rarely served on other days.
The main holiday in Catholic Mexico is Christmas. It is celebrated for almost 3 weeks, according to tradition, mini-performances of Posadas are held at Christmas time. This is a reference to a segment of biblical history when Joseph and Mary were looking for a place to sleep during their journey to Bethlehem. Playing Posadas every evening, guests enter one of the houses, where children drink hot chocolate, and adults – punch from seasonal fruits. The meal is accompanied by music, singing, reading prayers.
Holidays can not be imagined without abundant treats.
In most families, the main dish of the Christmas table is turkey, stuffed with olives, nuts, corn, boiled eggs, oats. Some housewives pour the finished dish with hot sauces or chocolate. Another popular Christmas dish is a pig baked in the oven. The garnish for it is rice, beans, bell peppers.
Among the seafood dishes, Romeritos is in the lead by a wide margin. It consists of dried shrimp, potatoes, red, yellow and green peppers are added for coloring. Everything is cooked together in a spicy-sweet mole sauce.
Fish treats on the festive table are presented with bacalao. The dish is prepared from salted or dried cod, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, olives, capers, red paprika. Served with a lot of fruit, consumed with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
On Three Kings Day (January 6), Mexicans bake and eat sweet bread rosca de reyes, similar in appearance to a large doughnut. Inside they put a tiny figurine of a baby, symbolizing Jesus. The person who found it, according to tradition, will feed the tamale to guests in a year.
On the Day of the Dead in Mexico, you can try sweet sweets in the form of small skulls.
Traditional drinks of Mexico
The hot climate does not prevent Mexicans from loving not only cold, but also hot soft drinks.
To refresh themselves in the heat, locals drink aquas fresas – sweetened water with the addition of pulp or fruit juice. It is sold everywhere: on the street, in cafes, in restaurants, in markets.
A more difficult to prepare soft drink is called orchata. Rice grains are soaked overnight, then water, rice and sugar are beaten in a blender. For taste, milk and vanilla are added, to give aesthetics – decorate with cinnamon. Housewives can cook horchata with coconut, almonds, oats, strawberries.
The original invention of the Mexicans is tamarindo – a drink from the tamarind plant. Its fruits are cleaned, the pulp is placed in water and stirred until completely dissolved. After that, remove the bones and pour sugar to taste. Tamarind is a sour fruit, and the combination of sugar and its juice has an invigorating effect.
Of the hot soft drinks, the inhabitants of Mexico prefer coffee, cocoa and chocolate. They are often boiled with the addition of a large number of spices (cinnamon, vanilla, cloves).
The main component of many local alcoholic beverages is blue agave juice.
The most popular strong alcohol in Mexico is tequila.
There are 2 types of it:
- Natural, 100% consisting of agave juice. It can only be bottled in the territory of the region producing it.
- Mixto, when 49% of the volume is mixed sugars. For taste, flavors are added to it.
The belief that tequila should be consumed with salt is not shared by Mexicans. They drink it in its pure form from caballitos – special stacks with a thick bottom, which are strongly cooled before serving.
The second place in popularity is firmly held by mezcal. Its main ingredient is agave juice. For cooking, 4-5 types of this juice are used, in addition, the fruits of agave for mezcal are first lightly baked. Caterpillars are put in bottles for the entourage.
Winemaking in Mexico is poorly developed, its own production exists, but the inhabitants of the country prefer products from Italy and Chile.
Fans of authentic alcohol will like pulque , an ancient Indian drink made according to the recipe of the Aztecs. It is made from fermented agave juice. The finished bullet is a viscous, slightly turbid liquid. It can be bought only in Mexico, almost no drink is produced for export. In supermarkets, bottles of drink are on the shelves next to beer. It is better to snack on it with melon or papaya.
Connoisseurs of beer will find in Mexico its light varieties, which are brewed here from corn and tapioca. In the heat, they perfectly quench thirst and tone up. Drinking Mexican beer by sticking a slice of lime into the neck of a bottle is not necessary (once this method of drinking an amber drink was used for disinfection). Beer brands Corona Extra and Sol are exported abroad.