MEXICAN CUISINE IS A WORLD OF ITS OWN. NOT ONLY ARE MANY OF THE INGREDIENTS UNIQUE, SOME OF THE UTENSILS TRADITIONALLY USED FOR PREPARATION CAN ONLY BE FOUND IN MEXICO.
THIS IS A LIST OF INGREDIENTS, UTENSILS AND DISHES THAT MAY HELP YOU DISCOVER THIS NEW WORLD OF FLAVOURS.
Achiote: A rust-coloured seed that is harvested from the annatto shrub to produce the Achiote spice. Its scent is described as “slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg” and flavour as “slightly sweet and peppery”.
Aguas frescas: Fresh fruit flavoured water. Aguas frescas are a must at the table at every meal.
Alambres: In Mexico City alambre dishes can be found on most menus. Alambre in Spanish means ‘wire’. However, a skewer is not always used in alambre tacos. Certain ingredients are associated with it, such as diced mild green chilli, onions, meat and bacon. Alambre can be served as a filling for tacos. The emphasis is on stir-frying the above, relatively finely chop all the ingredients together.
Antojito: A snack to satisfy a craving.
Barbacoa: Throughout Mexico, traditional barbacoa is often made in the same way it was for centuries, before the arrival of the Spanish. In this original pit-cooking process, the meat (goat, mutton, sheep) is seasoned, wrapped in either maguey or banana leaves, then placed on a grill over a cauldron of water that is set over hot coals in a pit about three feet deep. Spices are added to the pot, and will later be served as a soup with the meat (known as “consomé“). The pit is then covered and sealed with damp earth. The result is that the meat cooks in a unique process combining smoke and steam. At home, you may use a pressure cooker.
Botana: Snack, appetizer.
Cabrito: Is a baby goat. Monterrey, Mexico, is generally viewed as the home of cabrito. There are actually several traditional ways to make roast cabrito; one of the most common ways to make this dish is to roast a whole baby goat on a spit over a slow-burning charcoal fire, turning it frequently and basting it well to enhance the flavor.
Caldos: Soups of beef, chicken or a combination, often loaded with a variety of vegetables and sometimes rice or chickpeas.
Cajeta: A Mexican confection of thickened syrup usually made of sweetened caramelized goat’s or cow’s milk.
Ceviche: Raw fish cut in small pieces and marinated in lime juice. The citric acid in the juice “cooks” the fish without heat. After a few hours, the fish is mixed with pico de gallo salsa and salt.
Chapulines: Cooked and dried Grasshoppers; it’s a centuries-old tradition in Mexico. Grasshoppers among other insects are an exotic affair at expensive restaurants. They have twice as much protein as beef. They are available only a couple of months of the year.
Chilaquiles: Totopos covered in red, green or any other salsa. The mixture is simmered until the tortilla starts softening. Eggs (scrambled or fried) and shredded chicken are sometimes added to the mix. The dish is topped with cheese, cream and some rings of fresh onion.
Chile relleno: Literally means “stuffed pepper”. It consists of a fresh pepper or dry chili, stuffed with picadillo meat. Then, it’s covered in an egg batter and fried.
Comal: This artifact dates back to the pre-Columbian era. A comal is a flat, rounded big plate originally made of pottery. Comales were used to cook tortillas and toast coffee and cacao beans. The word comal comes from the Nahuatl word comalli.
Enchilada: Is a folded or rolled corn tortilla with a filling and covered with a chilli sauce. Enchiladas can be filled with a variety of ingredients, including meat, chicken, vegetables, cheese or combinations.
Epazote: A perennial plant that is used as a condiment. This pungent annual herb has no substitute, because of its unique flavor, especially if you’re cooking black beans.
Flautas: These are a type of fried taco, made by wrapping a tortilla around a filling (savory) and deep frying it. The flautas or taco frito as they are called in Mexico are served hot out of the fryer, topped with an assortment of ingredients: black beans, lettuce, crumbly fresh cheese, salsa and coriander. Usually, two flautas are served on a single dish and although are considered starters many people choose them as a main course.
Frijoles refritos: Cooked and mashed beans.
Hominy: Known as Cacahuazintle in Mexico, is a variety of maize originated in Mexico. This type of maize is traditionally used to prepare pozole and also is the base of the tortilla dough, known as nixtamal.
Huevos rancheros: Traditionally a breakfast dish, it consists of lightly fried corn tortillas, with fried eggs on top, covered with a spicy sauce (green or red). Refried beans with crumbly cheese are usually on the side in this plate.
Huevos Divorciados: As above but because of the two different salsas used in the same dish they are called divorced eggs.
Metate: A ground stone mortar tool used for processing grains and seeds. Typically used by women who would grind calcified maize and other organic materials during food preparation. While varying in specific morphology, metates adhere to a common shape. They typically consist of large stones with a smooth depression or bowl worn into the upper surface. The bowl is formed by the continual and long-term grinding of materials using a smooth handheld stone (known as a mano).
Molcajete: It’s a stone tool, the traditional Mexican version of the mortar and pestle. Molcajetes are used to crush and grind spices and prepare salsas and guacamole.
Mole: From the nahuatl mulli or molli, meaning “sauce” or “concoction”, mole is a type of thick sauce containing chillis and spices. There are different types of mole: Mole Poblano, mole Rojo, mole Verde, mole Negro, mole Amarillo, mole Coloradito, chichilo, mancha manteles and pipan. Mole originated in Puebla having only Mole Poblano however, Oaxaca is well known for its variety of eight moles mentioned above.
Nachos: may have originated in Piedras Negras Coahuila in 1943, when Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya invented a new dish when the wives of US soldiers arrived at the restaurant after it had closed for the day and invented a new snack with what little he had available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese sauce. Anaya cut the tortillas in triangles; added shredded cheddar cheese heated them, added sliced jalapeno and served them. It is said that when asked what was the dish called he answered “Nachos especiales”. Nowadays Nachos are known all around the world and it’s considered a Tex-Mex dish because in Mexico they are called totopos and cheddar cheese is not used in Mexican dishes.
Nopal: From the Nahuatl word nõpalli for the pads; or nostle, from the Nahuatl word nõchtli for the fruit, the nopal (prickly pear cactus) belongs to the cactus family. It’s a fruit. A prickly pear (tuna) and its leaves (pencas) are a common ingredient in the Mexican diet. Nopales are generally sold fresh, bottled, or canned, less often dried.
Pancita: Also known as menudo or mondongo, it’s a traditional spicy caldo cooked with tripe. It’s served hot, with a bit of dried oregano and finely chopped onions. Pico de gallo: A type of salsa made of finely chopped raw ingredients: tomatoes, onion, coriander and fresh
Piloncillo: Piloncillo is an unrefined sugar from Mexico. The name piloncillo refers to the traditional cone shape in which the sugar is produced.
Pozole: Is a traditional pre-Columbian soup or stew made from hominy, with chicken or no meat and other seasonings and garnish, such as shredded lettuce, dried oregano, sliced fresh radishes , chopped onion, lime juice, dried chilli de árbol, etc. There are a number of variations on pozole, including blanco (white or clear), verde (green), and rojo (red).
Rajas: Strips of roasted chili mixed with sliced onion and topped with cream and crumbly cheese.
Sangrita: A traditional chaser for tequila made of tomato juice, spices and condiments.
Sope: Sope is a small circle of fried masa with pinched sides. This is then topped with refried beans and crumbled cheese, chopped onion, red or green salsa and cream.
Taco: A folded or rolled soft corn tortilla filled with anything savory. A taco is generally eaten out of hand, without the aid of utensils, and is often accompanied by a garnish such as salsa and vegetables such as coriander and onion. Mexicans use soft corn tortillas to eat tacos never hard shell tortillas. Some of the most popular tacos are: de canasta, al pastor, flautas or de guisado.
Tamal: Corn dough spread on corn husks or banana leaves, filled either with a savory or sweet filling, then wrapped and steamed.
Tinga: A dish of shredded chicken or beef cooked in a spicy tomato, onion sauce.
Tejate: Tejate is a maize and cacao beverage traditionally originating from pre-Hispanic times.
Torta: A torta is a Mexican sandwich, served on an oblong 6-8 inch firm, crusty white, bread roll, called bolillo, telera o virote. Tortas can be served hot or cold. Among the most popular, we can find: turkey ham, milanesa, ahogada, cubana.
Tostada: A crispy, dried or deep fried corn tortilla disc. The tostada was created when tortillas went stale but were still fresh enough to eat. Not wanting to waste old tortillas these were put under the sun in order to dry them. Once this happened, the tostadas were topped with almost any savory ingredient, raw or cooked, one can think of: beans, guisados, cheese and/or vegetables.
Tortilla: A thin, round disc, about the size of a hand palm, made of cooked corn dough.
Totopo: Crispy tortilla triangles. Originally totopos were the leftover tortillas. In order not to waste them, people used to cut them by hand in small pieces and put them under the sun to dry out. You still find those kind of totopos in some parts of the country. More recently, the pieces of tortilla are deep fried.
Quesadilla: Folded corn tortilla normally filled with melted cheese, Nowadays the quesadillas have, just like tacos, almost any imaginable savory filling.