Mexican Favorites For Cinco De Mayo!
From their colorful and lively culture to their rich and flavor-filled foods, there’s lots to learn and love about Mexican cuisine!
The heart of Mexican cuisine hails straight from the Aztecs and Mayans, but over time the influences of Spanish, French, and Caribbean cultures weeded their way into the richly flavored foods of Mexico. This resulted in an incredibly diverse melding of flavors from around the world to become one of the most popular yet unique food cultures on the planet.
What To Expect
Chili peppers, honey, salt, chocolate, corn and beans – many food staples of ancient Aztec cultures are still seen in Mexico today. It was not until the Spanish conquistadors invaded that horses, pigs, cattle, sheep, and chickens were introduced to the menu. From this, different regions of Mexico gravitated toward different uses of meat – with the North favoring meats and the Southern focusing on chicken and vegetables.
How They Do It
The primary cooking method of Mexican natives was ceramic cookware over an open fire, then “barbacoa” – steaming meat over boiling water. One specialty item still used today is a molcajete, a mortar and pestle used to grind and mash ingredients into sauces. Today many Mexican dishes have adopted frying for delicious street foods like taquitos, flautas and chimichangas. Grilling meats like carne asada and fajitas is another way Mexican cuisine enhances their rich, bold spices a with warm smoky taste.
Mexican Food Staples
As you may or may not know, here at Best Market we love everything avocado! There is nothing better than the rich, buttery flavor and mouthfeel of a ripe avocado. Because they grow easily in Mexico, avocados are a true Mexican staple, bringing flair to practically any dish, from chunks on a taco or sandwiches and salads.
Beans – Black & Pinto
A great protein and filling vegetarian option, beans are included in or accompanied by many meals.
A white, crumbly and soft cheese that ads a touch of saltiness to dishes like enchiladas and on top of salads. Similar to feta.
The chipotle is a jalepeño pepper left to mature until it turns red. They are then smoke-dried to last up to 6-months. You can buy them canned, or make your own. Chipotle is used consistently for salsas and marinades. They bring a unique heat paired with a gentle, smoky flavor.
When we say chilis, there are many! Each chili brings their own unique flavors to the dishes they are used in, meaning you need to do quite a bit of experimenting before grabbing for any-old-chili! Of these chilis, Mexican cuisine favors chiles de arbol, jalapeño, cascabels, habanero, poblano, pasilla, morita, anaheim, guajillo, ancho, puya, and serrano. Get tasting!
It is the Aztecs we have to thank for chocolate. Through them, the Spaniards brought chocolate back to Europe which exploded in popularity. Around 1519 when Spanish conquistadors found the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan (Modern Day Mexico City) the emperor Montezuma often enjoyed a drink made with vanilla and chocolate, sweetened with honey. This combination was brought back to Europe and soon inspired the ever-popular milkshake.
Dating back to at least 800 BC, “tomatillo” means “round and plump”. The Aztecs were the first to cultivate the fruit, which is very similar to tomatoes, with a tart, acidic full-flavor commonly used in different green salsas and sauces. While not too popular with Europeans, the fruit was loved and adopted by many Italians.
Tortillas – Corn or Flour, Soft or Hard
There is no better way to enjoy tortillas than when they are fresh made at home. If you must buy from the store, less ingredients mean they are likely to be more fresh than others.
The national dish of Mexico! Refined and flavorful, “Mole” comes from an Aztec word molli meaning “sauce” or “mixture”. Mole comes from the southern region of Mexico where there is a Amerindian influence that uses chocolate in both sweet and savory dishes. Contrary to popular belief however, not all Moles include chocolate, only a small percentage of recipes call for it as you see in Mole Poblano or Poblano de Guajolote. Mole is made from a mixture of chiles, nuts, seeds and vegetables and typically served over meat or poultry. Making mole takes hours and many ingredients, with some authentic recipes calling for as many as 100 ingredients!
Traditionally made with mutton or rabbit, modern mixiotes is made with chicken, lamb and pork with vegetarian and vegan options available on the web. Meat is cubed and seasoned with pasilla and guajillo chili peppers, cumin, thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, cloves and garlic before it is wrapped and secured with string in a thin package to be steamed. Authentic packaging is made from the outer skin of maguey/century plant, but parchment paper is sufficient. The package is steamed over simmering water for 1 hour before being transferred to a bowl and opened up. This makes for a great melding of flavors in true Aztec style!
Chiles En Nogada
A post shared by Luis Angel Mex (@luisangelmex) on
This dish is poblano chilis stuffed with picadillo [minced beef, tomatoes, onions, lime, fruits, spices], topped with nogada [walnut-based cream sauce] and pomegranate seeds. While not difficult to prepare, chiles en nogada does take some time to prepare. An effort to chop all the ingredients into uniform sized pieces is just one of the meticulous requirements of this Mexican dish!
Try this simple recipe to make your own Skirt Steak Tacos!
Tag us in your culinary creations with #BestMarket, we’d love to see!
May 2, 2018