The legendary liquor known as Tequila is native to Mexico and has been produced there since the 1800’s near the town of Tequila, in the Western State of Jalisco. Strict legal requirements ensure that all Tequila contains at least 51% of the key ingredient, the nectar of the Blue Agave Cactus (the finer Tequilas will be made from 100% Blue Agave Cactus). Easy to get side tracked just thinking about it, as is the case after a few Margaritas on a coconut palm beach…
The food, however, is another story! Early in my travels through Mexico, I discovered that my perception of “Mexican food” was incredibly simple. Contrary to what some people think, Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex and New-Mex are not considered Mexican, but rather cuisines developed in neighboring Border States in the USA. Many dishes found on most “Mexican Restaurant” menus outside of Mexico would not be found in Mexico, at least not where Mexicans take their meals. Authentic Mexican cuisine is far from what many people believe it to be.
The Mexicans have an amazing selection of fresh produce that gives Mexican cuisine flavors unusual to the palate. Using ingredients ranging from Chocolate to Chile, and exercising lots of patience with slow cooking techniques, we can enjoy the rustic, hearty and delicious cuisine of Mexico. Soups and Salads; Chicken, Beef, Pork and Seafood; and Cheeses, Fruits, Herbs, Spices—all of these ingredients and more are used to create one of the world’s greatest cuisines.
From the complex Moles of the South to the fiery Chile Verde found in Sonora and the fresh Ceviche (a Lime and Chile marinated raw Fish) famous along the Caribbean Coast of the Yucatan, there is certainly no shortage of flavors and textures to be found in Mexican cuisine when one moves away from the pedestrian dishes so often found north of the border and around the world.
Mexico is a large country that includes the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, with a large land mass in-between. Such diversity of landscapes has given rise to incredible diversity among regional dishes. For example, Durango is popular for various meat dishes steamed under the ground, called Barbacoa, while Jalisco is famous for its Tequila and a popular sandwich covered in sauce. The people of Sinaloa are proud of their signature dish, Chiloria Pork in Chile Sauce. Some regions are known for dishes and others for their sauces, as in the case of Veracruz, the home of “Sauce Veracruz”, a tomato-based sauce with green olives and pimientos.
Likewise, Pueblo is the birth place of the legendary Mole, which is a sauce made from thirty ingredients, sometimes including Chocolate and Peanut Butter. The Chocolate producing State of Oaxaca has adopted Mole and raised it to a culinary art-form, often eaten with bananas and corn tortillas. The State of Tabasco tends to use more pre-Hispanic ingredients to make a traditional dish with fresh water fish and seafood, while the Yucatan and Baja peninsulas borrow from the Arabic, Asian and Spanish influences.
The Mexicans often use a variety of Cheeses in their food, some as toppings and other varieties to be cooked into the food. Many Mexican Cheeses, such as Queso Quesadillas, Asadaro, and Manchego, as well as Cheeses from Oaxaca and Chihuahua, do not separate when heated, and are therefore excellent for cooking. Other amazing Mexican Cheeses include Queso Blanco, Queso Fresco, Panelo and Requeson.
And then we have the Chiles. Jalapeno, Chipotle, Ancho, Poblano, Rocotillo, Habanero—the list goes on and on. Mexican cuisine would not be proper without a fair sampling of Chiles, and if you don’t like at least a little bit of the Chile’s bite, you’re probably better off staying with the Tex-Mex sort of menu!
In my opinion, Mexican meals are best taken “family style”, with a good many courses. Here is a sampling of some of my favourite dishes:
Selection of Chilled Fresh Salsas with Tortillas Chips
Fish & Squash Blossom Soup
Huachinango Yucateco (Yucatecan-style Whole Snapper)
Oaxacan Mole Negro de Puerco
Pinenut Flan with Fried Platanos
Corn Pudding with Chiles in Cream