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MONTH OF MEXICO

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Not to be confused with Tex-Mex cuisine, which is often referred to as “Mexican food” in the U.S. and Canada.

 

Mexican cuisine is a style of food which is primarily a fusion of indigenous Mesoamerican cooking with European, especially Spanish, cooking developed after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. The basic staples remain the native corn, beans and chilli peppers but the Spanish introduced a large number of other foods, the most important of which were meat from domesticated animals (beef, pork, chicken, goat and sheep), dairy products (especially cheese) and various herbs and spices. While the Spanish initially tried to superimpose their diet on the country, this was not possible and eventually the foods and cooking techniques began to be mixed, especially in colonial era convents.

Mexican cuisine is highly tied to the culture, social structure and its popular traditions, the most important example of which is the use of mole for special occasions and holidays. For this reason and others, Mexican cuisine was added by UNESCO to its list of the world’s "intangible cultural heritage".

Mexican cuisine is it is created mostly with ingredients native to Mexico as well as those brought over by the Spanish conquistadors, with some new influences since then. Native ingredients include tomatoes, squashes, avocados, cocoa and vanilla, as well as ingredients not generally used in other cuisines such as various edible flowers, vegetables such as huauzontle and papaloquelite or small criollo avocados, whose skin is edible. European contributions include pork, chicken, beef, cheese, various herbs and spices and some fruits.

The other basic ingredient in all parts of Mexico is the chilli pepper. Mexican food has a reputation for being spicy but it has its seasoning can be better described as strong. Many dishes also have subtle flavours as well.  In Mexico, the various chilli peppers are used for their flavours and not just their heat, with Mexico using the widest variety of chilli peppers. If a savory dish or snack does not contain chilli pepper, hot sauce is usually added and chilli pepper is often added to fresh fruit and sweets.

Many dishes in Mexico are defined by their sauces and the chilli peppers those sauces contain, rather than the meat or vegetable that the sauce covers. These dishes include entomatada (in tomato sauce), adobo or adobados, pipians and moles. A hominy soup called pozole is defined as white, green or red depending on the chilli pepper sauce used or omitted. Tamales are differentiated by the filling which is defined by the sauce (red, green, chilli pepper strips or mole). Dishes without a sauce are nearly inconceivable to eat without a salsa or with fresh or pickled chilli peppers. This includes street foods such as tacos, soups, sopes, tlacoyos, corditas and sincronizadas. For most dishes, it is the variety of chilli used that gives it its main flavour.

Mexican street food is one of the most varied parts of the cuisine. It can include tacos, quesadillas, pambazos, tamales, huaraches and food not suitable to cook at home including barbacoa, carnitas and since many homes in Mexico do not have ovens, roasted chicken. One attraction of street food in Mexico is the satisfaction of hunger or craving without all the social and emotional connotation of eating at home, although long time customers can have something of a friendship/familial relationship with a chosen vendor. The best known of Mexico’s street food is the taco, whose origin is based on the pre Hispanic custom of picking up other foods with tortillas as utensils were not used. The origin of the word is in dispute, with some saying it is derived from Nahuatl and others from various Spanish phrases. Tacos are not eaten as the main meal; they are generally eaten before midday or late in the evening. Just about any other foodstuff can be wrapped in a tortilla and in Mexico it varies from rice, to meat (plain or in sauce) to vegetables and cheese. Preferred fillings vary from place to place with pork generally found more often in the center and south, beef in the north, seafood along the coasts and chicken in most of the country.

On the follow recipes we will present you Modern Mexican Flavours, by using all the traditional ingredients.

¡Buen apetito!

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