Mexican food culture is as diverse as the country and its inhabitants. Every region and city has its own local dish. A culinary journey through Mexico is therefore an absolute must for every foodie. Johan tells you what you absolutely should not miss during a culinary tour through Mexico.
Eating as an important part of daily life
In Mexico, food is an essential part of social life and it also forms the identity of Mexicans. Most of the dishes served in Mexican restaurants in the Netherlands are almost always limited to the kind of 'Tex Mex' food served in 'fast food' restaurants in the southern states of the US. As a result, we often get a very limited idea of what the multi-faceted Mexican cuisine really has to offer.
Fortunately, more and more attention is being paid to the truly sophisticated Mexican cuisine. With a documentary series such as 'Las Cronicas del Taco', which is currently shown on Netflix, or with the series 'Street food Latin America', which can also be watched on Netflix, in which in episode 3 attention is paid to the street food culture in Oaxaca, you get a much better impression of what Mexico has to offer in the culinary field.
Watch the trailer of Las Crónicas del Taco below.
Start your culinary tour in Mexico City
A culinary tour of Mexico is best started in Mexico City. A visit to the leafy Roma district is an absolute must in this context. Roma is a colourful and artistic district. Start your day well and have chilaquiles for breakfast. Chilaquiles are fried tortillas from the day before and are considered the ultimate Mexican food to start the day with. They are often served with a green, red or black mole, typical Mexican sauce combined with frigolles, a paste of brown beans. I have eaten delicious chilaquiles in Fonda Mayora. This restaurant was opened in 2016 by the highly acclaimed Mexican chef Gerardo Vazquez Lugo and focuses mainly on breakfast. (Photos: Fonda Mayora)
Taco al Pastor
Just as Mexican culture is coloured by many influences from all over the world, so are the dishes. An example of this is the popular Taco al Pastor. This taco consists of lamb and shows similarities with the Turkish kebab. This taco has its origins in the time when Lebanese immigrants came to Mexico at the end of the nineteenth century, beginning of the twentieth century. They prepared the lamb in the way they got it from home but added Mexican herbs and spices. Turkish bread was replaced by Mexican taco.
There are many places where you can buy this delicacy, but Taco los Güeros on the Calle Lorenzo Boturini, on the way to the airport, is an absolute must. Many inhabitants of Mexico City often make a stop here when they have landed at the airport after a long journey. El Vilsito is also definitely worth mentioning. During the day this is just a car garage, but every evening this place is transformed into a taqueria, where they say the best Pastor is served.
Fine dining at Pujol
When it comes to fine dining, you can also indulge yourself in Mexico City. In addition to the Roma district, it is the Polanco and Condesa districts where the best restaurants can be found. Absolute crème de la crème is of course restaurant Pujol of the Mexican chef Enrique Olivera. This year the restaurant was voted the third best restaurant in Latin America and is ranked 12th on the list of the best restaurants in the world. The restaurant is located in a beautiful historic building in the chic Polanco district and is actually the place where all the beauty that the varied Mexican cuisine has to offer comes together in a very refined way. You should definitely try the Mole Madre here. (Photos: Pujol restaurant)
The seven moles of Oaxaca
If you have tried the Mole Madre, it is time to travel on to Oaxaca. If you are making a culinary voyage of discovery through Mexico, this city should definitely not be missed. Skipping Oaxaca is the same as making an archaeological trip to Egypt and not visiting the Pyramids of Giza. In Oaxaca they talk about the seven moles of Oaxaca. The most famous one is without a doubt the Mole Negro in which, among other things, chocolate is used.
Tacos del Carmen
During my stay in Oaxaca, I was tipped off about the Tacos del Carmen food stall. This food stall has been run by a number of ladies since the 70's and I was told it is one of the best places to try the local street food.
It was seven o'clock in the morning when I left my hotel and walked through the still quiet streets of Oaxaca to the food stall. I was not the only one who wanted to start my day with a taco, quesadilla or empanada complemented with a coffee or an atole, a typical Mexican corn drink. I chose the Taco de Chile Relleno con Quesillo, a taco with stuffed chilli peppers and cheese. Then I also tasted a Quesadilla con Flor de Calabaza con Quesillo. The dishes of Tacos del Carmen are all rich in flavour. Everything is freshly prepared, and the ladies have fun in it. Like the Tacos del Carmen food stall, there are many stalls where street food is elevated to a true art form. Just on the street, sitting on a wooden stool, you will usually be spoiled culinary more than in many 'top' restaurants.
Cooking with insects
So, in Oaxaca you can eat on the street, but there are also plenty of restaurants where you can taste the Mexican cuisine in full glory. I remember a lunch in restaurant Casa Oaxaca, where I ate a tostada de insectos con chicitanas, chapulines, gusitanos de maguey, guacamole tepiche y rabanitos, or a dish full of Mexican insects. As with all other dishes, this dish once again pleasantly surprised my taste buds.
Colourful and fragrant local markets
A culinary journey through Mexico would not be complete without a visit to a number of local markets. For example, I visited local markets in the historic town of San Miguel de Allende in colonial Mexico, and the market of Mérida, the capital of Yucatán. These markets are a veritable explosion of smells and colours. You will find the most beautiful vegetables, spices and fruit and there is always the possibility to taste traditional dishes at the various stalls.
In Yucatán you will also find a dish with a strong Dutch link. Queso Relleno, the traditional dish from this region, consists of a hollowed-out Edam cheese filled with minced meat, sultanas, almond and olives, topped with tomato and k'ool blanco sauce, a sauce that originates from the Mayan culture.
The best time to travel for a culinary trip
Of course, food is always possible, but if you really want to experience everything in terms of gastronomy in Mexico, I would advise you to do so in September. On 16 September, Mexico celebrates its independence, and chauvinistic as one is, it is celebrated almost all month long. Even during this month, a typical Mexican dish is served in the colours of the national flag, which is undeniable and more than justifies the choice to travel in September. The dish in question is called Chiles and Nogada. The dish consists of Poblano-Chile peppers with picadillo and a creamy sauce made of walnut. This white sauce with the red of the pomegranates and the green of the parsley form the national tricolour.
A culinary journey through Mexico will surprise even the most spoilt foodie with its enormous variety of smells, colours and flavours. Not to mention the Mezcal and Tequila or the fact that beautiful wines are produced in the north of the state of Baja California. A journey through Mexico is always very varied, in which really all the senses will be stimulated.
A culinary trip through Mexico
Would you like to discover the Mexican food culture for yourself and are you curious about the possibilities? That is possible and we are happy to help you. Do you have questions about a unique journey in Mexico, would you like a tailor-made travel proposal, or would you like to make an appointment at our office? Feel free to contact us. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +31 73 610 62 04. We are happy to help.