10 Things You Don’t Know About Mexican Cuisine

10 Things You Don’t Know About Mexican Cuisine

Tacos, burritos, salsa - these are among the first foods people envision when someone mentions Mexican cuisine. It’s easy to see why! These are common introductory dishes to the foods in this region, and each of them is both delicious and varied. That said, there is so much more to Mexican food. All of it is worth learning about and trying if the opportunity presents itself. Why not start with these ten lesser-known facts about the food of Mexico?

1. Vast Cultural And Historical Influences Make Mexican Cuisine

There is no single influence on Mexican food. Its food originates with Mayans, Aztecs, Zapoteca, and other native cultures. Later, Spanish colonizers introduced wheat and other ingredients. Additionally, you can see where other cultures have made their mark. 

Tacos Al Pastor shows a decidedly Middle Eastern influence. That’s from Lebanese immigration to Mexico. Enchiladas Suiza are quite literally Swiss Enchiladas. You will also find that African culture has made its mark on this diverse cuisine.

2. Mexican Cuisine is Regional

Like the United States, Mexican cuisine looks quite different from one region to another. Each geographic locale has its signature dishes and flavors. Here are the seven culinary regions of Mexico:

  • Bajacaliforniano
  • Norteno
  • Chiacas
  • Oaxaca
  • Veracruz
  • Yucatan
  • Jaliscense
  • Poblano

3. Hot Chocolate Was Born in Mexico

Hot chocolate originated with the Mayans. It’s not the sweet and creamy drink you experience today. Instead, it was hot and bitter. Today, you can get hot chocolate in Mexico that is truly unmatched in depth of flavor. It has chiles, cinnamon, and other spices to make it sweet and rich. It’s commonly served with churros or other desserts.

4. Salsa Isn’t Quite What You Think It Is

Who doesn’t love chips with salsa? That chunky red stuff comes as mild or spicy as you like it. It’s delicious stuff, but it only represents a small part of what salsa truly is. 

Did you know that salsa simply means sauce? That’s a pretty broad definition. Salsa can be chunky or smooth. It can be raw or cooked, and smooth or chunky. You can find tomato-heavy salsa, chili sauces both red and green, and even avocado salsa. Some salsas are oil-based while others are quite acidic. 

5. Mexican Food is a World Heritage Cuisine

You may be familiar with UNESCO. This is the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. This organization has declared that Mexican food is a world heritage cuisine. It recognizes the historical and cultural importance of Mexican food, cooking and preparation methods, farming, and more. Mexican food isn’t just something people eat. It creates and strengthens cultural and community identity, creates social bonds, serves as an expression of history, and provides opportunities to women. Only Mexico and France have received this designation.

6. Mexico is More Than Rustic Dining

What do you see when you think of Mexican food? Do you visualize street vendors selling tacos, street corn, and mangos covered in lime and chiles? Maybe you picture yourself in a cantina enjoying spicy foods and chasing what you eat with cold beers. These are all accurate representations of the food of Mexico, but very limited.

Yes, there is plenty of rustic, traditional food associated with Mexican culture, but there’s more to it! If you ever plan a foodie’s journey to Mexico don’t forget to pack your nice clothing too! There are world-class chefs in Mexico offering fine dining to rival what you would get anywhere else in the world.

7. Chile Peppers Really Are in Everything

Mexican food and chili truly do go hand in hand. Are they in everything? Maybe not, but it’s very close! They come smoked, dried, roasted, raw, and pickled. Some dishes feature chile peppers as the main character. Others use chiles as a powerful background player. 

More than sixty varieties of chile peppers grow in Mexico. Many more are easily imported. Even though these colorful capsicums are often associated with heat their flavors are deeper than that. Some are even quite mild. Chiles can be spicy, sweet, herbal, floral, or even grassy. They add a pop of flavor in just the right places and can cut through fattier dishes.

8. There Really Are More Tacos Than You Ever Imagined

You could take a tour of Mexico and only eat tacos. There truly is that much variety. If you’ve never experienced traditional tacos south of the border, it’s worth exploring your options. You can try:

  • Arabes: Arab-influenced tacos with spit-roasted pork
  • Al Pastor: Also pork with a Middle Eastern influence often with pineapple and onion
  • Birria: Slow-cooked beef or goat dipped in juices
  • Barbacoa: Tender smoky meat cooked for hours  underground
  • Carnitas: Slow-cooked pork simmered in its own fat and caramelized
  • Carne Asada: Steak citrus-marinated and sliced thin
  • Pescado: Fish tacos served up with marinated cabbage and creamy sauces
  • Chorizo: A spicy and vinegary pork sausage
  • Canasta: Filled with beans and cheese or chicharrones with an oil based salsa packed in baskets often sold by bicycle vendors
  • Guisado: Stew tacos
  • Suadero: Spicy brisket
  • Cabrito: Goat
  • Cochinita: Mayan pit-roasted pork

This is hardly a comprehensive list. You can find tacos made with traditional corn and flour tortillas filled with a wide variety of ingredients and served up with a range of salsa.

9. Tuna Ice Cream is a Thing

No, not the fish in the can that we love to turn into sandwiches and casseroles! Tuna is a fruit grown in Mexico that is made into a sweet dessert. You may know it as prickly pear. One version is simply the fruit, lime, and sugar blended together and frozen. You can also get a creamier version made with cream or even milk powder. This sounds like a perfect treat for two. So, grab a travel date and get the scoop!

10. Mexicans Love American Food

Americans often get a hankering for Mexican food. It only makes sense, the food is amazing! Did you know that in Mexico, people often get a similar craving for American food? It’s true! Restaurants that serve casual American fare such as burgers, fries, and hotdogs enjoy a loyal customer base.

Take a Culinary Tour!

In a perfect world you could hop on a plane and enjoy a fabulous culinary experience in Mexico. If that’s not possible, take some to explore the foods of Mexico at restaurants near your home and even in your own kitchen.