Mexican Food: 5 dishes you must try
- get to know Mexican cuisine from Aguachile to Pozole
Mexican food is so much more than tacos! If you are a foodie like me, it is hard to imagine you will not love Mexico for its amazing variety of seriously delicious dishes. The street food is amazing, but there are also many elaborate dishes that are absolutely mouth-watering and form an essential part of Mexican cuisine. And they are not all spicy. Here are five traditional Mexican dishes you have to try on your next visit: Mole, Tamales, Pozole, Enchiladas and Aguachile.
Mole describes a thick sauce made from a variety of ingredients, including ground spices, chilis, tomatoes and secret ingredients such as bread rolls and dried fruits. Every family has their own mole recipes. The mole poblano is probably the most well-known. It contains chocolate and has a distinctly sweet flavour. Oaxaca is known for its seven moles, each made with different kinds of chilis. Some include chocolate, but not all mole does. In my husband’s hometown, the mole rojo made by one of the villagers is legendary. People buy the thick mole paste for special occasions. The recipe, of course, is a secret. This mole truly is one of the most delicious sauces I have eaten in my life. It is full of flavour, thick and heart-warming.
Tamales are not only one of the most common street food in Mexico, but also a staple meal in every Mexican home and traditional supper on many religious festivities. Tamales are known across Latin America, but each country has its own versions. In Mexico, the typical tamale is soft, slightly crumbly corn dough with a filling, wrapped in corn leaves. Its fancier twin, the tamale oaxaqueño, is stickier and wrapped in banana leaves. Both options are delicious. Typical fillings are rajas con queso (roasted poblano pepper stripes and cheese), salsa verde (chicken in a tomatillo sauce), mole rojo (chicken in a red mole sauce) and dulce (sweet). The sweet flavour can be any fruit, such as guava or pineapple, or canario, which is simply a sweet buttery flavour.
If you happen to live in Toluca or visit it, try Tamales el Don on Ruta de la Independencia. Hands down the best tamales I have had, thanks to their fluffy texture.
My favourite type of tamale is tamale de elote. This is a very basic tamale, only consisting of a dough of coarsely ground corn, wrapped in corn leaves. It comes with a slightly spicy tomato sauce. Sometimes, the simplest things are the most delicious! Even though – or maybe because- it is very simple, it is not that commonly sold.
Pozole is probable the most iconic Mexican dish, next to tacos. It is a soup made with a special type of corn that is cooked for a very long time until it opens up, a little like popcorn. Usually, the foundation for the soup is chicken broth and it comes with pieces of chicken, but there are also super delicious vegetarian options. There are several ways to serve and eat pozole. It can be blanco (white) and served with chili powder and/or a spicy sauce to add flavour to your liking. Or it can be verde (green) or rojo (red), already cooked with chilis.
In any case, pozole is served with fresh limes to add flavour to your soup, sliced radish and slices of lettuce. Those ingredients are thrown into the soup and give it a fresh flavour. Usually, pozole is served with tostadas and cream on the side.
You get the corn, Mexico’s most important food staple, the typical Mexican flavours of chili and lime, and the freshness of the lettuce and radish. This makes pozole an iconic Mexican dish.
4. Enchiladas and Chilaquiles
Enchiladas are on every typical lunch menu. They are probably the most every day Mexican dish. And Mexican enchiladas have very little to do with what they are trying to pass off as enchiladas in Germany. Enchilada means “covered in chili”, or something along those lines anyway. And this is literally what real enchiladas are. They are soft corn tortillas covered in a spicy red or green sauce. Usually, the tortillas are wrapped around bits of chicken meat, then smothered in the sauce and topped with shredded lettuce, ground cheese and cream. The filling can vary, and you can always opt out of any of the topping.
I especially love enchiladas verdes. The sauce is made with green chilis and green tomatoes or tomatillos. Those green tomatoes, which by the way are not just unripe “normal” tomatoes, have a distinct acid flavour. It is hard to describe. You just have to try it. Combined with the chili and the soothing flavour of the tortillas and the cheese and cream, this makes for a wonderful explosion of flavours.
Chilaquiles, Mexico’s famous leftover food, is basically the same concept. Leftover tortillas are torn up into quarters, fried and smothered in leftover red or green sauce, then topped with cream and cheese and sometimes also beans, lettuce and occasionally meat. Well, that is the idea, anyway. But of course, if you get chilaquiles in a restaurant, the totopos (fried tortilla pieces) and sauce will not be leftovers.
Aguachile is a bit out of the order on that list. It is definitely not an every-day dish- unless you live on the seashore, maybe. But it is super delicious and tastes of a vacation on one of Mexico’s many beautiful beaches. Aguachile is Mexico’s ceviche. It is usually made with raw shrimp but can also be served with raw fish or octopus. The raw seafood is covered in a very spicy, watery sauce flavoured with chili, lime and cilantro. Usually, aguachile also contains raw cucumber and onions. It normally is a little more liquid than ceviche. Aguachile is served with slices of avocado and tostadas (toasted tortillas). The idea is that you put some aguachile on your tostada and eat it like that. The fatty avocado helps balance out the spiciness.
Those only are some of the most typical Mexican dishes. There are so many more. Barbacoa, chiles rellenos, cecina, pipián, sopa de calabaza… and the list goes on. I tried to pick five very typical dishes that also happen to be among my favourite Mexican foods. Once you have tried all five of those very different dishes, you will have a better understanding of what Mexican cuisine is all about.
What is your all-time favourite Mexican dish? I would love to know in the comments.