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Mexico        Rêve Mexicain en français
 
 
 
Gastronomy in Mexico
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
 
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In Mexico, you can eat at any time, but remember Cuisine is an Art. You will be surprised by its variety.

Introduction

Mexican cuisine possesses a lot of ingredients. Mexico is a country rich in traditional dishes, some issued from old pre-Hispanic recipes. The Indian influence stays preponderant in this field. The products are numerous, abundant, rich and tasty. We owe Mexico numerous foods from Pre-Hispanic time like corn, cacao, beans, pineapples, avocado, pumpkins, vanilla, tomatoes and turkeys. Mexican cuisine is a mixture of various ingredients, spiced and sometimes hot, but spiced doesn’t mean hot. You have to venture to the countryside, especially in the States of Jalisco, Oaxaca and Puebla, if you want to discover the culinary art.

Pepper, or chile   - all sizes, shapes and colors

The Chile is presented in sauces on every table like ketchup in the USA. Mexico has a big variety of chile. The most famous are : The guero : it looks like a banana because of its appearance and color. You can eat it crystallized as an appetizer with eggs. The chile de arbol and the chile piquín (small round and very hot red pepper) for hot sauces ; you can even use it as a cure for constipation and sore throat There are also the poblano, green and sweet, served stuffed with meat, the xalapeio, usually served with vinaigrette and the serrano, green, thinner than the previous one. The peppers, stuffed with meat or cheese are called chiles rellenos.
You can find also the green peppers from Puebla, stuffed with pork meat, dried fruits and apples, fried and covered with a walnut-pomegranate sauce. The chiles jalapenos are big peppers, quite hot, green, and marinated with onions and carrots. You can find them in sandwiches called tortas. There is also the chile xcatic (Maya name) that makes the dishes tasty and the chile habanero, red-orange, which is the hottest at first sight but the taste is a little bit sweeter after all. There are more than 150 varieties of peppers.

the green Serrano the red chile
     Above pictures : the green Serrano and the red chile

Corn - an ancestral cereal

Corn is to Mexican cuisine what bread is to French cuisine, since Pre-Hispanic times. As a symbol of life, it is eaten in numerous and various forms.
With a grinding stone (metate) and a cylindrical mill (metlapili), the corn is crushed, and then cooked, in the old days on a clay griddle, and now over gas. One of the ancestral forms of presentation of this food is the “pancake” (tortilla) obtained by hand-patting a bowl of dough with this typical slap slap sound that you can sometimes hear. Made with slaked lime and water, it is, still today, the equivalent of bread on our tables, with the slight difference that you eat it rather warm.
Today, the most offered varieties are : the enchiladas stuffed with tomatoes, salads, chile, cream and cooked in oil or baked, the sopes, which look like small tarts spread with frijoles (purée of beans, tomato and cilantro), the tamales, tender small breads, sometimes filled with meat, wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves and then steamed, the pozole, one of the national dish made from grinded corn, vegetable and meat. The chilaquiles, kind of tortillas stuffed with chorizo, beans, onions, avocado, and cheese and rolled and fried in a hot sauce. The antojitos are snacks made from tortillas, like the tacos, which are rolled tortillas stuffed with meat, chicken or vegetables, or the quesadrillas, tortillas dough turnovers filled with cheese, flower of gourd, pepper or potatoes. You could find also corn in a puree, the atole.
A small statement that says a lot about the importance of the tortilla in Mexican cuisine is:

Average consumption of tortilla per person per day in Mexico : Just over 1lb !



Video on the market stand (preparation of corn)
How to make tortillas :
Prepare 24 h ahead : Immerse corn in cold water with pieces of lime. The following day, get rid of the white water and grin the corn with a pestle carved from volcanic rock on a surface made from the same substance.
Make the “pancakes” and bake them (8 to 10 at the same time) on a comal (clay griddle) in olden times and on a steel grill now.
For your information, the lime was the source of calcium for the Indians. They did not discover milk and its by-products until the Spanish arrived. You could find lime in every market as white stones.
The tortillas are kept hot in a hollow colocynth with a narrow opening and covered with a napkin.

USA is the biggest corn producer, followed by China, Brazil, Russia, Mexico and India.

tortilla with meat

 

 

     Right picture : tortilla with meat









The beans, or frijoles

A lot of varieties are proposed on the markets and they vary depending on the States : black, beige-pink or red and small. They are served at every meal, either in a soup or as a side dish in a puree or refritos, meaning squashed and fried with oil.

Green tomato

It is not from the same family as the red tomato but is a variety of plants called, in Mexico, the Chinese lantern or the Prisoner Heart.

The sauces

The mole is a sauce prepared with different dry and ground chiles, chocolate and various seasonings. The most famous is the mole poblano, but there is also the mole verde (made with green tomatoes), rojo and amarillo, the mole negro from Oaxaca, the mole de olla, kind of Mexican boiled beef with vegetables. This sauce usually goes with chicken. The guacamole is a puree of avocado mixed with onion, green chile, chervil and a green tomato, the whole thing sprinkled with lime juice. It is served with tostaditas (pieces of fried de tortillas). The pipian is a red or green sauce made with ground seeds of gourd mixed with chile. The mole poblano is the national dish : it is a chocolate-chile sauce poured over turkey.

The guacamole

Mash a small green pepper. With a mortar, squash the pulp of two ripe dark-green skinned avocados. Add a small, finely minced onion, the ground pepper, and a tablespoon of finely minced cilantro leave, the juice of a lime and a big peeled tomato, cubed and seeded. Mix in order to obtain a thick, homogeneous sauce.
Melt 100g of lard in a pan and fry the pieces of tortillas until they turn golden. Drain on an absorbent paper towel.



The mole

the Aztec word for « sauce »

How to prepare the « mole poblano “:
The preparation of mole poblano, specialty of Puebla (it is named after Puebla), is a fiesta itself. Prepared during the whole night, it is the dish for big occasions. It is made from boiled turkey and pasilla, a dry chile that gives its color. It is served with hot tortillas and white rice. Its particularity is that it has to be composed with 35 ingredients or at least 25 according to custom.

differents "mole" at Merced Market in Mexico city

     Right picture : differents "mole" at Merced Market in Mexico city


Plunge the turkey in cold water and bring it to a boil. Cook until tender. Meanwhile, seed the chile and brown progressively all the ingredients with a little bit of oil, crush them to obtain a homogeneous dough (keep some sesame seeds for the presentation). Then put the preparation in a little bit of oil, and cook it wetting it with the turkey stock. Serve the turkey with white rice sprinkled with grilled sesame seeds and tortillas.
In brief, you need at least a turkey, almonds, onions, cloves, cinnamon, dried raisins, sesame, cumin, peanuts, pepper and a few squares of chocolate or cacao seeds, chile pasilla and mulato depending on your taste. Bon appétit !



 

Meat

Mexican people eat beef, veal, pork, chicken, turkey and a little bit of lamb. The meat is finely sliced in tortillas.

butcher stall at the covered market in Guanajuato

 

Left picture : butcher stall at the covered market in Guanajuato

 

 

  Paradise of fish

You could find it in filet, in a whole piece, fried, sautéed or raw marinated.

Fish and seafood, delicious, are remarkably well prepared in the Gulf of Mexico and Yucatán. The huachinango a la Veracruzana (red snapper boiled in tomato sauce and served with onions, olives and capers) has to be tasted as well as the robalo. Mexican people love fish. The ceviche, pieces of raw fish marinated in lemon juice, is served in tall glasses, with chile to taste. Be aware of the restaurants that would serve it with ketchup in order to please North American tourists !

Palette of fruits

Mexico is a big producer of fruits with a quasi-paradisiacal range. Don’t hesitate to taste in addition to the familiar fruits, the papayas, guavas, apple-cinnamon, guanabana, pineapples, sugar canes, lime (always on the Mexican table), water melon, mangos, flowers of gourd, and growths of cactus; you won’t be disappointed. Mexican people eat fruits at any time, in juice or syrup and often in ice cream. Every State has its fruits : pineapple in the Gulf of Mexico, apples in Northern Mexico, zapotes in the State of Oaxaca, bananas in the State of Tabasco, and strawberries in the State of Michoacán. It is a dream country for the fan of tropical fruits.

market in Oaxaca city  Right picture : market in Oaxaca city

Drinks

Non-alcoholic drinks

Drink only boiled water (agua hervida) or purified (agua purificada).
When you think of Mexico, you think often of coffee. However, the country exports the essential of its production. Coffee is offered in different ways: café con leche that is a specialty at breakfast, served with milk; cafe de olla that is a coffee traditionally prepared in earthenware pots with cinnamon and sugar, called piloncillo, and served with sweet rolls and finally black coffee with cream.

You can’t neglect the chocolate, made in the old way, with exceptional texture and flavor, often flavored with cinnamon and crushed almonds. With starch, it is a Pre-Hispanic drink called champurrado, served with beignets (churros) that sometimes replaces dinner.
As a precaution, it is recommended to drink only boiled water and you’ll have choices with herbal teas like the tamarindo from tamarind pods or the jamaica, decoction of red flowers of hibiscus. Fruit juices are numerous too and the pulp is mixed either with cornstarch, either with rice and water. Very refreshing are the aguas frescas also from lime or melon, served in big bowls covered with mint leaves. Give your preference to the small supermarkets (like the chain Michoacana), which prepare delicious jugos (tropical fruits), jugo verde (orange or grapefruit, parsley, celery), licuado (fruits juice and milk) and finally the licuado de platano with bananas.
Last but not least non-alcoholic drink : the coke supposedly responsible for the non-dehydration of the children as a first producer and consumer country.


       Below picture : differents types of fruit drinks (maracuya, xolixpa, pineapple, etc..)

differents types of fruit drinks (maracuya,xolixpa,pineapple, etc..) Alcoholic drinks

Wines are essentially produced in Hidalgo and Baja California and you have to pay for the quality. The brands : La Ceto, Cassa Madero, Hidalgo, Domecq, Vergel, Santo Tomas, Monte Xanic, San Lorenzo, Calafia and Los Reyes are good red (tinto) and white (blanco) wines.
Like the wine, the Cognac can’t be compared to French Cognac, but it has creditable quality, specially the brands: Madero, Viejo, and Presidente.
Let’s talk about Tequila, famous since the 18th Century and made from the maguey azul, blue agave. It is produced in the state of Jalisco and has to be served with salt and lime. You can drink it before as well as after diner. The most famous brands are: Don Julio, Cazadores and Herradura.
Beers (cerveza), lager (clara) as well as dark (oscura) are good; they are light and they go perfectly with hot Mexican meals. You could try a Christmas specialty : the Nochebuena. The best brands are : Corona, Dos Esquis, Blanca, Bohemia, Sol, Tecate, Victoria, Superior and Caria for lager beers and: Pacifico (especially in the north), Negra Modelo, Montejo and Tres Esquis for the dark ones.

Margarita : tequila cocktail sweetened with fruits.
piña colada : tropical cocktail with coconut, condensed milk, pineapple and rum.
The rompope is syrupy liquor with yolks and rum (similar to eggnog).
And also the mezcal, a distilled spirit (of 40°) made from the agave plant and the pulque, from maguey’s unfermented (and not distilled) juice.

Tequila
It gets its name from a village located 50 km West from Guadalajara, in the heart of the region where it is prepared. It is extracted from the agave tequilana. This blue (maguey azul) agave plant grows at an elevation of 2 000 m, on slightly hilly and not so fertile soils. The agaves are cultivated 7 years after being planted; the harvest occurs during the following two years. Once the leaves are chopped, remains the heart (piña), which is cut before being put in a traditional oven dug in the ground and covered with hot stones. The decoction and cooling last 4 days. Then, the cooked piñas are grinded in a crushing mill and pressed with a millstone moved by an animal or a tractor which stirs the whole thing. The obtained agave juice as well as the remaining fibers is combined with water in a vat to ferment. The fermentation process lasts 72 hours at a certain temperature in the darkness. Then they are distilled in a still.


harvest of blue agave in the State of Jalisco   Right picture : harvest of blue agave in the State of Jalisco

Margarita
You need a margarita glass, salt, tequila, Cointreau, lime, crushed ice. Moisten the rim of the glass with limejuice and dip it in salt; spread on a plate. Pour the juice of one lime, 4cl of tequila and 1cl of cointreau; pour delicately the crushed ice to fill the glass.

The women could drink beer. They mix beer, salt and lemon to obtain the chelada, beer, salt, Worcertershire sauce and chile to obtain the michelada.


 


See special chapter about the production of tequila

Food habits

The Mexican will take a morning coffee in order not to leave the house fasting, then breakfast (desayuno) around 11:00 AM; this breakfast is composed of coffee, fruits juices, omelets or eggs and the famous puree of beans (frijoles). At lunchtime, between 2:00 and 4:00 PM, it is the main meal of the day (the almuerzo or the comida) composed of an average of three dishes (soup or salad, main dish with meat or fish, vegetables and rice, then a dessert). You can also have a snack (merienda) around 6:00 PM, usually a sweet roll with hot chocolate. Diner (the cena) is usually a light meal, a soup or a few tacos, taken late evening.


AT THE RESTAURANT

They won’t bring you the bill if you don’t ask for it.
The service is usually not included. A 10-15% tip is expected. Be aware that if you pay with a credit card, you need to fill in the line reserved for the tip and write down the total amount (bill + tip).


mexican restaurant

 

 

Left picture : mexican restaurant

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuisine

Mexican cuisine lovers can take classes with professionals in the excellent culinary schools in the whole country.

You can log onto the web sites for Mexican recipes :

: (spanish), (french) (french)


making sausages at the market

 

 

Left picture : making sausages at the market


 

 

 

 





 

Covered market in Guanajuato (el Bajio)


     Right picture : Covered market in Guanajuato (el Bajio)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

 

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