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g Mexican Food Site

BellaOnline's Mexican Food Editor

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Culture and History

The history of Mexican food - a melting pot of pre- and post- hispanic influences, ingredients and cooking methods

A pot of beans star
No Mexican kitchen is ever without its bubbling earthenware cazuela of frijoles – beans are an integral part of everyday life and food. They are utterly earthy, true Mexican food for the soul, wholesome, soothing, satisfying.

An Insectivore in Oaxaca star
Oaxaca´s famed gastronomy is complex and varied, and the cooking and eating of insects dates back to pre-hispanic times: grasshoppers, caterpillars and ants´ eggs are some of the local specialities.

Antojitos, the street food of Mexico star
The actual meaning of the word “antojitos” is sudden cravings or hankerings, but it is used to describe delicious Mexican snacks, based on corn tortillas, which are enjoyed in Mexico throughout the day; they are typical of Mexican street and market food, and a real gastronomic adventure and treat.

Autumn gold and squash blossoms star
The markets of Mexico are splashed with gold and the time of year has arrived when every stall is decorated with armfuls of flamboyant courgette/zucchini and pumpkin flowers, a truly seasonal treat.

Avocado in Tomatillo Sauce Recipe star
This very typical Mexican salad partners the liveliness of ripe tomatillos with rich, smooth avocado, chillies and fragrant coriander, all characteristic Mexican ingredients – and accompanied by totopos or tortilla chips with which to scoop it up, it is a vibrant taste of Mexico.

Avocado, pear of the Indies star
The Aztecs’ ahuacatl has become the avocado but the name bestowed upon it by the Spanish conquistadores was both more romantic and more evocative: pera de las Indias, pear of the Indies, illustrating its shape and what must have seemed, in the sixteenth century, an exotic and outlandish provenance

Breakfast in Mexico - Bricklayer´s eggs star
Huevos del albañil are a typical, traditional breakfast throughout the country, although a popular variation is to toss some stale tortillas into the sauce to make green “chilaquiles” which serve as a bed for the eggs.

Breakfast in Mexico - Huevos Rancheros star
The “eggs from the ranch” are to be found in every nook and cranny of Mexico – every cook churns them out regularly for breakfast (and only for breakfast), and of all the egg dishes in the repertoire of traditional Mexican cuisine, they are a classic, perhaps the best known and most widely eaten.

Breakfast in Mexico – Huevos Motuleños Recipe star
The “Eggs from Motul” always strike me as a strange dish, featuring some very disparate ingredients – but the end result, although it does look rather messy, is rich and savoury, breakfast or brunch at its best.

Cajeta - sweet, sickly and hopelessly calorific star
Cajeta is a delectable, fabulously calorific, caramelised goat´s milk concoction, as Mexican as you can get, and while it may not benefit the waistline, its intensely deep, comforting sweetness is undoubtedly soothing to the soul!

Celebrate 5 de Mayo with a fajitas fiesta star
5 de Mayo, 5 May, is a date dear to Mexican hearts and a cause for celebrations, fiestas and general jollity, especially in Puebla, where a memorable battle was once fought. No specific dishes are served on 5 de Mayo but fajitas are real fiesta food and an appropriate way to mark the occasion.

Ceviche Recipe star
Raw fish marinated in citrus juice is a traditional way of preparing seafood, found all along the coast of Mexico, and Latin America generally. The sharp, acid fluid effectively “cooks” the flesh without ruining the soft, delicate texture.

Chilaquile Casserole Recipe star
In this very Mexican casserole, stale tortillas are folded into a rich, smoky tomato sauce studded with feta cheese, topped with cheddar and baked until crusty. Rich, savoury and utterly satisfying.

Chilli - Dynamite in the Kitchen star
The flavour of the Mesoamerican chilli - spicy, piquant, stimulating, decidedly warm if not downright fiery – reminded Columbus of pepper, a spice more valuable than gold in Europe, which led him to christen it “pepper of the Indies”.

Christmas in Mexico - Bread of the Kings star
Christmas in Mexico begins on 16 December with the traditional parties called “las posadas”, and ends with Epiphany or El Día de los Reyes, the Day of the Kings, which is celebrated with a sweet yeasted bread known as Rosca de Reyes or Bread of the Kings.

Christmas in Mexico - Champurrado star
The crescendo of the Christmas revelry, including the very Mexican and traditional “posadas” or Christmas parties, has reached its climax and Christmas Day has finally arrived. The day gets off to a very pre-Hispanic start with a mug of steaming champurrado, traditionally accompanied by tamales.

Christmas in Mexico - Posadas and Piñatas star
The run-up to Christmas in Mexico is one long series of parties – in fact a very specific type of party which takes place over the nine days prior to Christmas, and goes by the name of “posada". It involves much singing and a piñata filled with fruit, nuts, chocolate and delicious "polvorones".

Christmas in Mexico - Rum punch star
Christmas in Mexico means posadas, piñatas and a sweet, fruity punch known as “Ponche Navideño” or Christmas punch, which is served to posada guests in Mexican homes, as well as on the street corners, where it scents the night air with its sweet, plummy steam.

Christmas in Mexico – Buñuelos Recipe star
The Mexican "posada" season is tremendous fun, raucous and jolly, and the street cooks and vendors do a roaring trade. Mugs of hot chocolate are downed and “buñuelos”, a fabulously crisp sweet fritter, are one of the most popular treats during the Christmas festivities.

Cookbook Review - Zarela´s Veracruz star
Zarela Martínez, chef, restaurateur and food writer, is highly skilled at bringing to life the spirit and magic of her native land. She writes about Mexico itself and its people with love, passion and boundless enthusiasm – and herein, for me, lie the great appeal and power of her cookery books.

Easter in Mexico - Cherry Turnovers Recipe star
With the end of Lent, Mexicans throw themselves into the Easter festivities and pleasures. Little pastry turnovers filled with fruit are popular during La Pascua and the market cooks bake them to crisp perfection before piling them up in large earthenware plates, ready to tempt any passers-by.

Easter in Mexico - Torrejas Recipe star
The sweet, sickly and very moreish Torrejas are a great favourite during the Easter season in Mexico and are served in one form or another all over Latin America, as well as in their country of origin, Spain. They are reminiscent of Pain Perdu, French Toast or Eggy Bread.

Egg and Chorizo Sandwich Recipe star
Tortas are the quintessential Mexican street food, big-hearted sandwiches packed with any number of savoury fillings and bursting with flavour.

Eggs in Mestiza Sauce Recipe star
The traditional name is impossible to describe or interpret. Translated word for word, it means eggs in the rags and tatters of a woman born of a Spaniard and an indigenous Mexican – which of course means nothing at all!

Green Pozole Recipe star
Pozole is a popular fiesta food, served at celebrations, but national holidays also provide an excellent excuse, particularly 5 de Mayo or 5th May, a date which commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862 when a small, poorly equipped, hopelessly outnumbered Mexican army routed the French invaders.

Huitlacoche Quesadillas Recipe star
With the onset of the long rainy season, Mexican cooks start looking forward to the appearance of the so-called truffle of Mexico. It is smooth and velvety to the touch, soft and spongy, dark to silver grey in colour and creepy beyond description.

Huitlacoche, the truffle of Mexico star
Rainy seasons bring fungi, and the summer and early autumn markets in Mexico, particularly in the mountains, are full of wild mushrooms, from ceps, morels, pieds de mouton, bright orange trompetitas and chanterelles, to the incredibly sinister-looking huitlacoche, known as the truffle of Mexico.

Independence Day in Mexico star
General Agustín de Iturbide, having signed the treaty of Córdoba which finally gave Mexico its freedom, made his triumphant way from Veracruz to Mexico City. His passage through Puebla resulted in the creation of one of Mexican gastronomy’s most famous concoctions, Chiles en Nogada

Jícama, the Mexican turnip star
Brown, bulbous and rather hirsute, Pachyrrhizus Erosus has little to offer in the way of glamour, but it is an important member of the Mexican larder, both ancient and modern.

Lenten cooking in Mexico - Bacalao star
Bacalao is virtually synonymous with Lent and features in Lenten dishes throughout the Christian world. It plays an important role in Mexico’s “cocina cuaresmeña”, and while badly prepared bacalao is a true penance, it can be a very delicious vehicle for many indigenous Mexican ingredients.

Lenten cooking in Mexico - Broad bean soup star
Sopa de habas, or broad bean soup, makes a regular appearance in Mexican homes and restaurants during the Lenten or “La Cuaresma” season, and yet cannot be considered an ancestral or indigenous dish, as broad beans originated not in the Americas but in North Africa as well as Southeast Asia.

Lenten cooking in Mexico - Calabacitas Entomatadas star
Lent in Mexico sees the appearance of “La Cocina Cuaresmeña” or Lenten cuisine, with its focus firmly on fish and vegetables. “Calabacitas entomatadas” is a very simple but highly popular Lenten dish which combines three of the "milpa’s" time-honoured inhabitants: squash, tomatoes and chillies.

Lenten cooking in Mexico - Chilpachole star
Chilpachole is a spicy stew or thick soup traditionally made with prawns or crab, eaten often during Lent or La Cuaresma. Although it is very typical of the cooking of Veracruz, it is served all along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and ranges from utter simple to downright luxurious.

Lenten Cooking in Mexico - Lentil Soup Recipe star
Lentils are a more recent and post-Hispanic addition to the Mexican larder but they have made themselves very much at home and team up regularly with more native ingredients, particularly during Lent, La Cuaresma, in the spring and the Días de los Muertos, Days of the Dead, in November.

Lenten Cooking in Mexico - Salt Cod Recipe star
Salt cod…. It does not sound appetising, nor does it look particularly attractive. But throughout the Christian world, it makes a regular appearance during Lent, and while it has a dubious reputation – hard, stringy, chewy, briny, horribly saline – when treated well it is utterly delicious.

Lenten cooking in Mexico - Tortitas de camarón star
Lent may bring to mind pictures of fasting, penitence, abstinence and “giving up” a food which you particularly enjoy, but it is also an opportunity to explore the wealth of vegetable and fish dishes which make up “la cocina cuaresmeña” or Lenten cooking of Mexico.

Mexican Antojitos - Chilaquiles star
According to an old Mexican wives’ tale, chilaquiles are an excellent cure for a hangover, but excess consumption of tequila aside, chilaquiles are the most comforting of foods, satisfying, rib-sticking, deeply flavoured and very good for the soul.

Mexican Antojitos - Enchiladas star
As the name suggests, enchiladas pack a punch! The verb “enchilar” means to add chilli to something, and in its very simplest form, the enchilada is nothing more than a tortilla with a fiery sauce - but in most cases, the tortilla is rolled or folded around a filling and topped with the sauce.

Mexican Antojitos - Gorditas star
Gorditas: little plump ones.... The name alone evokes gastronomic comfort and joy and the endless delight of Mexican antojitos. There are many ways to prepare a gordita but its main characteristic is that it balloons and puffs up as it cooks, producing a wonderfully crisp crust.

Mexican Antojitos - Papadzules star
Papadzules are one of the specialities of the southern state of Yucatán, typically served at breakfast in the markets and on the streets. The word translates as “food of the lords”, a grand name indeed, but it is in fact a very simple dish with a subtle complexity of the flavours and textures.

Mexican Antojitos - Quesadillas star
Quesadillas, the Mexican version of a toasted cheese sandwich, are a crisp, crusty, golden envelope made from a corn tortilla, filled with rich, savoury cheese which is all gooey, melting and oozing out around the edges.

Mexican antojitos - Tacos star
Tacos are perhaps the best known Mexican dish outside the country, and the simplest to prepare. The easiest way to describe them is as a corn tortilla wrapped around a filling – but this does not even begin to illustrate their diversity and exuberance, let alone their potential for complexity.

Mexican antojitos - Tostadas star
Tostadas are rather like an open sandwich: a crisp, crunchy tortilla topped with anything from refried beans to smoked tuna and halibut, shredded pork and chicken to scrambled eggs with chorizo - as with most Mexican antojitos, the topping is up to the cook, and what is in season and available.

Mexican Antojitos - Yucatecan Codzitos Recipe star
To “codz” is to roll and the Yucatecan codzitos are to all intents and purposes what the rest of Mexico calls a taco, or more specifically a taco dorado, golden taco, one which has been fried until it is deeply coloured and wonderfully crunchy.

Mexican Meatballs Recipe star
Meatballs are a global favourite, and recipes for them abound. There are of course countless ways of making them, some very regional like the one below, some virtually international. Certain additions however do seem to be very Mexican, which contribute to their specific texture and flavours.

Mexican Rice with Chicken Recipe star
The rice came from the Far East, sailing across the Pacific aboard the Manila Galleons, while chickens arrived in Mexico from Europe, courtesy of the great Spanish Fleet. To these were added Mexican tomatoes and chillies, and today Arroz con Pollo is to be found throughout the country’s kitchens.

Mexican Salpicón of Beef Recipe star
A salad, a filling for tacos, quesadillas, poblano chillies or even empanadas, a topping for tostadas and a stuffing for large fish – the Mexican “salpicón” is versatile and multi-faceted, fresh, light, tangy and boldly flavoured.

Mexico's Regional Gastronomy star
The roots of Mexico’s cuisine reach deep down into its ancient cultures and indigenous ingredients, and Mexican cookery in the 21st century is the result not only of the geography of the country itself but also of its rich and turbulent history, both pre- and post-Hispanic.

Mexico´s Regional Gastronomies - Veracruz star
The “Jarochos” of Veracruz are as colourful as their cuisine and their turbulent history. Their territory is long, thin and faintly curved, rather like a green chilli; there are volcanoes, rainforests, steamy coastal plains, differing climates, tropical fruit plantations and smoke-dried chillies.

Mexico´s Regional Gastronomies - Yucatán star
The Yucatán´s early isolation noticeably influenced its culture and of course its food. It was not until the 20th century that real communication by rail and road was established with the Mexican capital, and the strongest commercial and cultural connections were created along sea routes.

Mixiotes, a Mexican "en papillote" star
The name mixiote is derived from the Aztec Náhuatl language: metl, meaning maguey, and xiotl, skin of the arm, and applies both to the “envelope” and the dish itself. It is simple and very pre-Hispanic, consisting of meat slathered in a spicy sauce and wrapped in the afore-mentioned xiotl.

New Year in Mexico - Churros and hot chocolate star
A darkened room and a bottle of mineral water may be the best, if not the most rousing, cure for the first hangover of the year, but a cup of hot chocolate and a freshly cooked churro are an infinitely more appealing antidote to the excesses of New Year´s Eve.

New Year in Mexico - Pozole Recipe star
The Aztecs’ ceremonial “potzolli” still plays an important role in the Mexican diet of the 21st century, and on New Year’s Eve, it will be protecting countless tummies from the effects of all the raucous celebrations and the inevitable - and abundant - consumption of alcohol!

New Year in Mexico - Shrimp Broth star
“La cruda” is such an evocative name. It literally means raw, but in Mexico it is used to describe a bad hangover, from which many Mexicans will be suffering on New Year’s Day.

Of calabacitas, courgettes and zucchini star
The Squash family, Cucurbita, is Mexican, whatever you may choose to call its various members, and the earliest traces, dating as far back as 7000BC, have been found in Oaxaca and Tamaulipas. However, the modern courgette or zucchini is thought to have originated in Italy in the 19th century.

Oxtail in Oaxacan Coloradito Recipe star
Oaxaca’s Mole Coloradito is a splendid partner to braised oxtail – a rich, bold and spicy combination.

Pea Pudding Recipe star
Mexican budines are totally post-Hispanic and have little to do with the country’s historical gastronomy. They are however very popular and make a regular appearance in provincial restaurants as part of the comida corrida, either as a vegetable course all on their own or to accompany meat and fish.

Peanut Brittle Recipe from Veracruz star
The Aztecs called the peanut tlalcacahuatl or cacao of the earth as it grows underground, and in the state of Veracruz, it makes an appearance in a variety of guises, Palanquetas de Cacahuate, or peanut brittle, among them.

Plantain Crisps Recipe star
Un tostón = fifty centavos. I do not believe that the tostón of my childhood still exists, but it was a lovely coin, with an Aztec head on one side and the Mexican eagle and snake on the reverse. My only experience of a tostón nowadays is not gastronomic, as the name of a Mexican Caribbean snack.

Poblano Chillies with Cream Recipe star
One of the poblano chilli’s best mates in my kitchen is dairy produce, particularly cream which somehow manages to enhance its flavour, its aroma, its warmth and its texture all at the same time. Rajas con Crema makes a rich, mellow, utterly satisfying main dish or vegetable accompaniment.

Potatoes with Poblano Chillies and Chorizo Recipe star
A Mexican recipe which combines very Mesoamerican potatoes and chillies with very post-Hispanic chorizo into a deeply savoury and robust side dish to accompany a mole perhaps, or a herb and spice roasted chicken, grilled fish or fried eggs.

Prawns in Garlic Sauce Recipe star
There are versions of mojo throughout Latin America, and in Mexico, Mojo de Ajo or simply Garlic Sauce is very garlicky indeed, bright with lime juice and rich with butter. All along the coast, both Pacific and Gulf, it is a regular and oh so delicious partner to fresh prawns and shrimp.

Recado Rojo Marinade Recipe star
The Recado Rojo of the Yucatán is a cornerstone of the regional cuisine, rich with bright red annatto seeds as well as spices, herbs, fresh garlic and the very typical sour oranges and blistering chillies. Mixed with olive oil, it makes a sparkling, palate tingling marinade.

Safeguarding Mexico's Historical Cuisine star
The Conservatorio de la Cultura Gastronómica Mexicana has set itself a challenging task: "the preservation, rescue, safeguarding and promotion of usages, customs, products, cultural practices and knowledge which make up the common core which defines traditional Mexican cuisine".

Salsas, the sauces of Mexico star
The word salsa simply means sauce in Spanish and although it has somehow become synonymous with a blood red, sour mess which comes out of a jar, it is light years away from a real Mexican salsa, which is a boisterous, exuberant combination of diced raw vegetables and/or fruit, chillies and herbs.

Squash blossoms star
Pumpkins and squashes are very much in evidence in Mexican markets and vegetable dishes throughout the summer and autumn, but the golden blossoms are their crowning glory for a brief and very colourful season when stalls and green grocers are festooned with their bright yellow and orange petals.

Sweet Mexico - Apricot Paletas Recipe star
When I was a child, paleteros or iced lolly vendors roamed the streets, pushing a little insulated container cart which was packed with ice and delectable, wonderfully fresh paletas. They were made daily, probably by a member of the paletero´s family, from natural, unadulterated ingredients.

Sweet Mexico - Mexican Rice Pudding Recipe star
The sweet course in Mexico is known as “postre” or pudding and is normally a very unknown quantity as desserts are not the stars of the Mexican gastronomic firmament. Sometimes however a Mexican version of a British nursery favourite will make an appearance: arroz con leche or rice with milk.

Sweet Mexico - Piloncillo star
“Little pylon” or piloncillo is rich and dark, with a deep, seductive, almost chocolatey aroma of caramel which is utterly addictive. Inhale for longer and you pick up a faint smokiness as well as a floral syrupiness - it might also remind you of white sand beaches and brawny Caribbean rum!

Sweet Mexico - Poor Gentlemen Recipe star
The dashingly named Poor Gentlemen of Yucatán are close relatives of Eggy Bread, French Toast and Torrejas, and however they found their way into the gastronomy, their legacy is an excellent way to use up old bread and the overall sweetness, far from being off-putting, is downright addictive.

Sweet Mexico - The Day of the Dead star
For the past week, the market stalls in Taxco have been decorated with brightly coloured tissue paper cut-outs of pumpkins and skeletons and some very seasonal goods have made their annual appearance.

The Chilli Pepper Man star
From their sunny homeland of Mexico to the sweltering heat of Kerala or the sandy beaches of Thailand, chillies are associated with warm climates and exotic dishes flavoured with coconut and cumin, coriander and cinnamon: aromatic curries and stir-fries, mellow “tagines” and gutsy “moles”.

The Chillies of Mexico star
Capsicum Annuum was first cultivated in Mexico around 7000BC and is the ancestor both of all modern Mexican chillies, and of the vast majority of chillies found today outside the Americas: all the hot cuisines of the world owe their fire and fragrance to the original Mexican chilli.

The chillies of Mexico - El Chipotle star
The smooth and glossy jalapeño chilli loses much of its looks when it is transformed into one of Mexico’s most popular and widely used dried chillies, the chipotle, but its flavour, far from deteriorating, thrives on this transformation.

The Chillies of Mexico - El Habanero star
El Habanero is a Yucatán lad who emigrated to Mexico from South America, probably Brazil or Peru, via Cuba, where it may have acquired its name, “from Havana”. It is the hottest chilli in the region itself and in fact in the country, as well as the most widely used in the Peninsula. Mexican Food Site Isabel Hood BellaOnline´s Mexican Food Editor Culture and History The history of Mexican food - a melting pot of pre- and post- hispanic influences, ingredients

The chillies of Mexico - El Jalapeño star
The jalapeño chilli, plump, smooth and glossy, has a lively rather than fiery ardour, and while it notches up a creditable 7/10 on the heat scale, it is often relatively mild, warm without too much punch - but be warned, it can sometimes be very hot indeed and catch you unawares.

The Chillies of Mexico - El Mulato star
Broad-shouldered, long, dark and handsome, El Mulato is sultry and wizened, tasting of ripe fruit and chocolate, with a whisper of smoke and a dash of sweetness which are barely tempered by its gente warmth.

The chillies of Mexico - El Pasilla star
Pasilla translates as “little raisin”, which is an obvious indicator of its flavour: faintly sweet and reminiscent of dried fruit, even of sun-dried tomatoes, quite earthy, even woodsy or herby, with a hint of sharpness and acidity in the background, and a lush, full aftertaste.

The chillies of Mexico - El Poblano star
El Poblano, as its name implies, is a native of the state of Puebla but it makes an appearance in virtually all the regional cuisines of the country. It is a handsome chilli, mild-mannered, well fleshed, broad-shouldered, with a smooth shiny skin and a rich dark green to near black colour.

The chillies of Mexico - El Serrano star
The bullet-shaped serrano chilli, small, slender and dark green, reminds me of a delightful Mexican song, which goes: “soy como el chile verde, picante pero sabroso”, “I am like the green chilli, hot but tasty”.

The Chillies of Mexico - Pickled Jalapeños star
Jalapeño chillies make a regular appearance at the Mexican table as a condiment or relish, in the form of pickled chillies or “jalapeños en escabeche”. These sparky, tart pickles make their way into a great variety of dishes and their uses and popularity are endless.

The Day of the Dead - Candied Pumpkin Recipe star
1st and 2nd November are known as “Los Días de los Muertos” or the Days of the Dead which are an important pre-Conquest celebration in Mexico, and surprisingly enough, cheerful and festive occasions when Mexican families honour their deceased relatives.

The Day of the Dead in Mexico star
In late October, every sweet shop and street stall in Mexico City decks itself out in garlands of deep yellow marigolds, colourful tissue paper cut-outs of pumpkins and skeletons, and best of all, beautifully crafted sugar skulls with big toothy grins, shining eyes and names on their foreheads.

The drinks of Mexico - Atole star
The atoles are a large family of ancient drinks, with countless variations, some of them totally pre-Hispanic, others slowly developed since the 16th century by the addition of some of the many foreign ingredients which found their way into the indigenous larder after the Spanish conquest.

The Drinks of Mexico - Barley Water Recipe star
In the steamy, tropical climate of the Yucatán Peninsula, a chilled agua fresca or fresh water like the typical and regional Agua de Cebada or barley water is heaven in a glass.

The drinks of Mexico - Café de Olla recipe star
The “olla” is made of clay, rough on the outside and glazed on the outside, pot-bellied and homely. It sits on every market, street and restaurant stove across the country and is used for making one of Mexico’s favourite breakfast drinks: “café de olla”, coffee from the pot.

The Drinks of Mexico - Fruit Cooler Recipes star
On a hot day, Mexico’s aguas frescas or fresh waters are a taste of heaven. They are not as dense and rich as an actual juice, as water is often added to give the required lightness and breezy zest and there are countless varieties on offer.

The drinks of Mexico - Horchata star
In Mexico, grains and nuts are used to concoct horchata, one of the most popular aguas frescas, fresh waters, which are sold in huge glass jars at market stands, in ice-packed barrows on the streets, and in restaurants. One of its greatest talents is its ability to calm a chilli blasted palate!

The drinks of Mexico - Jamaican water star
“Agua fresca”, fresh water, is the name given to a variety of cold drinks in Mexico. Not the type which comes out of a bottle or carton and is more usually known as a “refresco” or refresher, but the kind which is lovingly made by hand from natural ingredients.

The drinks of Mexico - Tamarind water star
Tamarindus Indica, a tree native to tropical Africa, can grow to one hundred feet or more, with a massive trunk and a wide canopy of leaves. Its fruit is a pod full of sour pulp, which is used in Mexico to make a popular fresh water or agua fresca, known as tamarind water, agua de tamarindo.

The herbs of Mexico - Coriander star
The very Mexican herb, coriander or cilantro, is a newcomer to the cuisine and yet it is such an essential ingredient – wherever you wander in a Mexican market, you will see great big bunches of coriander with the roots still attached, and green-flecked salsas fragrant with its pungent aroma.

The herbs of Mexico - Mexican oregano star
If you believe that one oregano is much like another, you are mistaken! The oregano which most of us use in our cooking, whether fresh or dried, is Origanum Vulgare, native to the Mediterranean and part of the mint family. Mexican oregano, on the other hand, is not actually an oregano at all.

The People of Corn star
According to the Mayan myth of creation, the gods made man from a dough of corn. Corn originated in Mexico, which was known as the "cradle of corn", and the veneration and cultivation of corn are inextricably woven into Mexican history, culture and food.

The Pumpkins, a Very American Family star
The pumpkin does not have much to brag about on the gastronomic stage, except perhaps for its wonderfully warm, vibrant hue. This does not mean, however, that that it has failed to find fame - on the contrary, as it has been lucky enough to be immortalised not once but twice.

The sauces of Mexico - Adobo star
An adobo starts off as a marinade and from there often graduates to being a sauce. The name comes from the Spanish “adobar”, which has several meanings, among them “to marinate, pickle or cure” but more importantly, “to stew”, all verbs which illustrate an adobo’s versatility very nicely.

The sauces of Mexico - Cooked tomato sauce star
A cooked tomato sauce is one of the most important building blocks of Mexican cuisine. Not only does it have a role to play in its own right, but it is also a starting point for countless other dishes for behind many great classical Mexican culinary creations stands the “salsa de tomate cocida”.

The sauces of Mexico - Encacahuatado star
A sauce thickened with seeds and nuts is an utterly pre-Hispanic concept, and Spanish chroniclers who accompanied Hernán Cortés during the conquest of Mexico talked in their accounts of great earthenware cazuelas full of bubbling red sauces which were thickened in precisely this way.

The sauces of Mexico - Guacamole star
Guacamole is one of the best known Mexican dishes and its fame has spread far and wide, to the extent that you can buy it in a tub in the refrigerated section of a supermarket, and even a ´long life´ version in a jar - and if that is all you have ever tasted, you are in for a big surprise.

The sauces of Mexico - Mancha manteles star
The name speaks for itself – mancha manteles is Spanish for table cloth stainer, and this brick red sauce, when spilled on a white table cloth or down the front of a white shirt, can cause very serious damage indeed.

The Sauces of Mexico - Mole star
The Aztecs called it “molli” or “mulli”. In their Náhuatl language, it simply meant sauce or mixture. For the Spaniards, who encountered it in its countless versions in the cooking pots of the great market place of Tenochtitlán, it became “mole”, the name which it still bears today.

The Sauces of Mexico - Oaxacan Coloradito star
Oaxaca’s Mole Coloradito is much bigger than its name which translates quite simply as Little Coloured Sauce, or Little Red Sauce. Habitually referred to as just Coloradito, it is life-sized and powerful, gutsy and spicy, rich and deep.

The sauces of Mexico - Pipián Verde recipe star
A truly pre-Hispanic sauce, Pipián Verde is rich with pumpkin seeds and the characteristic caramel tones of tomatillos roasted in the oven.

The sauces of Mexico - Salsa Cruda star
Salsa Cruda, raw sauce, or Salsa Fresca, fresh sauce – names which could mean anything, but in Mexico, they both refer to one very specific sauce, which is the quintessential and most common of all Mexican salsas

The sauces of Mexico - Salsa Verde Cruda star
A raw “salsa”, made from tomatillos, the Mexican green husked tomato, is one of the pillars, and joys, of the Mexican table.

The Sauces of Mexico - Yucatecan Salsa Xnipec star
The Mayas’ nose of the dog has a rich sting, with the local habanero chilli providing unequivocal fire and brimstone. Salsa Xnipec is to the Yucatán Peninsula what Salsa Cruda is to the rest of the country: the most popular and traditional table sauce, served at virtually every meal.

The Sauces of Mexico - Yucatecan Sikil Paak star
Rich and creamy with pumpkin seeds, spicy with roasted chillies and fresh with the juice of the very local sour orange, naranja agria, the Mayas’ Sikil Paak is one of the Yucatán’s great specialities.

The Spanish Influence in Mexican Cuisine star
The discovery of the Americas resulted in the dissemination throughout Europe of a multitude of hitherto unknown crops. But just as many Mexican foodstuffs crossed the Atlantic and were introduced to Europe, so too did non-American ingredients make their way back in the opposite direction.

The Spices of Mexico - Achiote star
The talents and versatility of the Americas’ “poor man’s saffron” are manifold, from body paint and cosmetics to insect repellent and food colouring.

The spices of Mexico - Cinnamon star
Researching cinnamon in a Mexican cookbook is a perplexing experience, as it can be referred to as Mexican cinnamon, true cinnamon, soft cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon or simply by its Spanish name, canela. The purpose is perhaps to avoid confusion with the bark of the cassia tree.

The spices of Mexico - Cumin star
“Comino” is one of the countless gastronomic immigrants which travelled to Mexico aboard the Spanish galleons and landed on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico - more likely than not in the port of Veracruz, where it made itself very much at home and was willingly absorbed into the local cuisine.

The spices of Mexico - Vanilla star
Vanilla is a shy and gentle spice. There is nothing brash or flamboyant about it, and yet its power is great, with a delicately warm, sweet flavour and scent which are deeply evocative, almost hypnotic.

Tomatillo and Mulato Chilli Sauce Recipe star
My favourite way of serving this sauce is with a fried egg sitting on a lightly fried tortilla – very reminiscent in fact of that Mexican classic, Huevos Rancheros, Eggs from the Ranch. While the whole dish is typically served for breakfast, it also makes a delicious lunch or supper.

Tomatillo, the Mexican Husked Tomato star
When is a tomato not a tomato? When it is a “tomatillo”, which translates as” little tomato” but does not refer to a tomato as we know it.

Tomatoes - The Aztecs´ Tomatl star
The Incas thought little of the vine with its small golden fruit, a weed growing among the bean and corn plants in their fields. However, the vine slowly spread across the continent and today the Aztecs’ tomatl is cultivated wordwide and is an intrinsic part of countless gastronomies.

Tortas, part of every day Mexican life star
Tortas are an institution in Mexico, a part of every day life and an essential constituent of Mexican cuisine – there are even annual festivals in their honour. They are eaten by everybody at any time, and “torterías” are found on virtually every street corner.

Tortillas, the bread of Mexico star
Corn tortillas are quintessentially Mexican, intoxicatingly fragrant and utterly addictive. They take centre stage in the national cuisine as the “bread” of Mexico, and no meal is complete without this truly pre-hispanic food which is eaten daily in every household.

Tostadas from Guadalajara Recipe star
Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara, is home to Los Tapatíos, as its residents are known. They are very keen on their food and the local cuisine is rich and savoury, with noticeable pre-Columbian and post-Hispanic roots.

Tuna-stuffed Jalapeño Chilli Recipe from Veracruz star
The famous jalapeño chilli is a native of Veracruz and finds its way into pretty much every area of the state’s (and country’s) gastronomy, and Veracruzana cooks are keen on stuffing it with anything from fresh crab and tinned tuna to cheese, meat and vegetables.

UNESCO and the Cuisine of Mexico star
UNESCO has never included food and cooking in its “intangible cultural heritage” awards, but on 16 November 2010, it bestowed this honour upon Mexican Cuisine, a decision which was greeted with tremendous personal and national excitement and pride.

Veracruz - Arroz a la Tumbada star
The Spaniards brought rice – most likely from Europe or perhaps from Asia aboard the legendary Manila Galleons – and the rich coast of Veracruz provided the seafood for one of the state’s most renowned dishes: Arroz a la Tumbada, Tumbled Rice

Veracruz - Black Gorditas Recipe star
The cafés around the Plaza de Armas in the port of Veracruz do a roaring trade at breakfast time, with the state’s famous Gorditas Negras flying out of the frying pan and onto the tables as fast as they can puff up.

Veracruz - Camarones Enchipotlados Recipe star
Langostinos or Camarones Enchipotlados are one of Veracruz’s most classical and typical seafood dishes, partnering the very “Jarocho” chipotle chilli with the fabulously seafood caught in the river waters as they flow into the sea.

Veracruz - Chicken Tlatonile Recipe star
Italian immigrants in the late 19th century undoubtedly left some kind of culinary legacy, but the gastronomy of the town of Huatusco is founded not on pasta and pizza but on ants and more particularly on the famous local “tlatonile”, a “mole” based on ancho chillies and sesame seeds.

Veracruz - El Torito Cocktail Recipe star
Little Bull, the Jarochos’ favourite tipple, packs a powerful punch. Based on heady fire water and tinned milk, both evaporated and condensed, El Torito is sweet and sickly, yet deeply refreshing – let alone hopelessly moreish and a thirst quencher redolent of warm tropical climes!

Veracruz - Fish a la Veracruzana star
The bustling port of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico is a melting pot of culinary influences and much of its cuisine is based on the local fish, the most famous being Pescado a la Veracruzana, a perfect example of the blending of Old and New World ingredients.

Veracruz - Huevos Tirados Recipe star
The “thrown eggs” from Veracruz, scrambled with black beans and topped with fresh cheese and fried plantains, are on offer in every restaurant and food stall in the state – and while they do not look wildly appetising, the texture and flavour more than make up for any shortcomings in appearance.

Veracruz - Mole de Xico star
Veracruz’s best known mole may not be as celebrated as those of other regions but it deserves a hearty accolade. Its flavours are nutty, rich and fruity – even steamy, lush and tropical – and the texture is thick and wonderfully jammy. It is not fast food but very manageable and worth the effort.

Veracruz - Mole de Xico Recipe star
Veracruz’s best known mole may not be as celebrated as those of other regions but it deserves a hearty accolade. Its flavours are nutty, rich and fruity – even steamy, lush and tropical – and the texture is thick and wonderfully jammy. It is not fast food but very manageable and worth the effort.

Veracruz - Molotes a la Veracruzana star
Plump, torpedo-shaped and decidedly carbohydrate rich, the molote’s main characteristic is its pastry, which is more often than not a mixture of pre-Hispanic masa harina or corn flour and post-Conquest wheat flour often with the addition of mashed potatoes or, in Veracruz, mashed cooked plantain.

Veracruz - Molotes a la Veracruzana Recipe star
Plump, torpedo-shaped and decidedly carbohydrate rich, the molote’s main characteristic is its pastry, which is more often than not a mixture of pre-Hispanic masa harina or corn flour and post-Conquest wheat flour often with the addition of mashed potatoes or, in Veracruz, mashed cooked plantain.

Veracruz - Pambazo Recipe star
Tortas, huge, satisfying and nourishing sandwiches, are an essential part of Mexican gastronomic culture. While the bread traditionally used is a flat roll with a good crust known as a telera, in Veracruz a soft doughy roll is preferred for the local and very regional torta, El Pambazo.

Veracruz - Pellizcadas Recipe star
The unattractively named Pellizcadas – pinched ones – of Veracruz are bumpy and dimpled, their surface a landscape of miniature hills and valleys to trap a topping and hold it firmly in place.

Veracruz - Picadas Recipe star
The Veracruzana Picada, like its sister, the Pellizcada, is a very regional member of the vast clan of Mexican antojitos – snacks based on corn, cooked, served and consumed mainly on the streets and in the markets.

Veracruz - Tortillas in Black Bean Sauce Recipe star
Enfrijoladas are a simple formula: stale corn tortillas bathed in a purée of whatever the local bean may be, red, black, white, speckled or tan – it is the food of the home, the market, the countryside, cheap, comforting, soulful - a favourite of street cooks, a truly pre-Hispanic antojito.

Veracruz - White Gorditas Recipe star
The gorditas - little plump ones - of Veracruz are utterly pre-Hispanic, despite being deep fried, and as typical of the state as it comes. The negras which incorporate the local black beans and perhaps some Veracruzano chillies, are the most popular but the blancas are just as time-honoured.

Xocolatl, the Aztecs´ Food of the Gods star
The smooth, velvety, sophisticated chocolate we know today bears no resemblance whatsoever to its Latin American ancestor.

Yucatán - Fish Tikin Xic Recipe star
Tikin Xic is an ancient Maya method of preparing fish, featuring local, pre-Hispanic ingredients like chillies, tomatoes and sour oranges, naranjas agrias. One can sometimes still find a truly authentic version, where the fish is wrapped in banana leaves and then baked in a pib or pit.

Yucatán - Kibbeh Recipe star
The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw an influx of Christian immigrants from the Middle East to the Yucatán Peninsula. Fleeing religious persecution under the Ottoman Empire, they brought traditional ingredients and dishes of their homelands which have been absorbed into Yucatecan cuisine.

Yucatán - Pollo Pibil Recipe star
The historical Mayan pib is a pit, dug deep in the earth; it acts as an oven, heated with hot stones and wood, both green and dead, and is an ancient method of cooking very typical of the Yucatán Peninsula. Anything cooked in it is described as pibil, meaning buried.

Yucatán - Yucatecan Stuffed Cheese star
gends abound concerning this Yucatecan speciality, but whatever Queso Relleno’s origin, it is a very peculiar dish indeed, almost gothic, the type of fusion food which is difficult to understand without tasting it. Nonetheless, the end result is balanced, comprehensible and utterly delicious.

Yucatán - Yucatecan Stuffed Cheese Recipe star
After a success or two and countless failures, I have given up cooking this Yucatecan speciality in its traditional form, a whole Edam cheese hollowed out and stuffed, and now make it in layers, rather like a lasagne – far from authentic but still very good and considerably easier.

Yucatán – Black Rice Recipe star
Sinister and rather sullen looking, the Yucatecans’ Arroz Negro is cooked in the broth of the local black beans, which gives it a wonderfully earthy, mellow flavour. The colour is frankly muddy rather than actual black but once you taste it, you will forget about its appearance.

Yucatán – Venison Salpicón Recipe star
The Maya hunted a small, red deer which they cooked with aromatic sauces boldly flavoured with chillies and often thickened with seeds or nuts – moles and pipianes. In modern times, domestication has enabled this species of venison to remain a traditional Yucatecan dish.

Yucatán – Yellow Rice Recipe star
Rice which has been dyed yellow by whatever means is popular throughout Latin America. The colouring medium is usually saffron or turmeric but the Yucatecos’ Arroz Amarillo or Yellow Rice is different in that it involves the very indigenous and even regional ingredient Annatto or Achiote.

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