Before we visited Mexico, I imagined that real Mexican food was fantastic because of the amazing array of fresh foods. Imagine the variety of fruits: in the course of ten minutes, you can find street vendors selling ten different varieties of mangoes! Simply amazing! The oro (or golden) and manila (incredible with a bit of fresh ground chili powder) are so good.
As the traveler comes to know Mexico, it is soon obvious that the fresh fruits and vegetables are not the reason the food is so incredible. Popular street food stands demonstrate something of my theory about why Mexican food is crazy good.
Secret Grandmother Knowledge
Walk down any street in Mexico City, or within a couple of hours in either direction, and you will notice the grandmothers. These elders carry the equivalent of top-secret formulas for family favorite concoctions that bear no resemblance to hard taco shells filled with extra lean ground hamburger and orange processed cheese. For instance, squash blossoms, grilled panella cheese, and tiny mushrooms on a fresh flatbread: I was never told the name of this delectable dish but I know this is not yo quiero taco bell.
Strange and beautiful Mexican food
I believe in eating the local food to enjoy local flavors and, when I travel to Mexico, eating quesadillas with pig brains, pancita (rich beef broth with tripe, oregano and lime juice); pigs feet tacos spritzed with vinegar; shockingly unpasteurized cheese with tamales; and lots of coffee made with locally grown and roasted coffee beans are just what I want.
Yes, of course, people in Mexico eat tacos that look like sapphires and rubies. These tacos do not look like ours. There are also weekend farmers markets and fantastic foods made by the revered aunts and grandmothers. But these farmers markets are everywhere and I am pretty sure that telling you which one is best is impossible. Try as many as you can.
The food offered is freshly prepared. A stand vendor carves fresh meat from a slow-moving spit, then adds sauces that are indescribably good. I was told some have been passed down in families for hundreds and hundreds of years. So this is history! You can eat pork and chilies (or lots of variations on the recipe), find thousands of different subtle mole sauces, and foods that will make you cry if the ingredients are shared.
Delicious, Non-Gringo Foods
This happened when I asked about a really delicious and slightly crunchy croquette-looking thing. I learned that ant eggs when properly prepared are really, really tasty. Red maguey worms (yes, worms) look a little like pasta but taste much better. I will admit, I enjoyed them.
Tamales can and do contain all the ingredients expected, such as cilantro, fresh salsa, and onion, and people have enjoyed them since the days of the Aztecs. But fresh ingredients are not the secret to some of the most mysterious Mexican foods.
Cecina is one of these: it is beef rump cut into extra-thin slices, dried with salt, and folded like fabric. This ugly-looking stuff is made to order. After grilling, this food of the gods is served with a little secret sauce and mmmmm. Try it with freshly grilled blue corn tacos! Graze between the vendor stalls and you get hundreds of different cecina tastes. This is Mexican food, and most Americans have never tasted it!
According to Del Mar Escapes, the ultimate vacation getaway, elote is another popular street snack in Mexico. It is a corn cob smothered with ingredients that include white cheese, mayonnaise, lime, and chile powder. In southern and central Mexico, the kernels are removed from the cob and transferred to cups. The ingredients are then mixed in for customers to eat the concoction with spoons. This variant of elote is known as esquite. Although popular in the streets, elote is actually more common in stores and restaurants.
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