(If you´re new to Mexican food, consider reading “A beginner´s guide to Mexican food that will save you hours of studying the menu” first.)
There´s a Mexican in basically every European city, right? So why pressure yourself to try every dish in Mexico, when you can as well easily have it back home? For two reasons: Either it just tastes completely different there or you simply don´t get it outside Mexico.
Here´s an introduction to the dishes I think you really shouldn´t miss when in Mexico!
A black chocolate, chili sauce (that´s very simplified, it has A LOT more ingredients!) which is usually served on chicken or tamales. It has a very specific taste and like there´s and endless number of chili types, the same counts for mole. And besides that, because of the many ingredients (up to 75, including as well nuts and dried fruits), it tastes a bit different everywhere.
Mole is a Mexican signature dish with a very long tradition going back to the Aztecs. The way it´s served today, consisting of ingredients from North America, Africa and Europe, makes it one of the first intercontinental dishes of America.
While Mexicans love to combine sweet and spicy, Europeans are not really used to that taste. Many of my friends were not really convinced by Mole. I personally liked it and it´s definitely worth trying! I promise, you´ll experience a taste you never tried before and who knows, maybe it will be your new favorite dish!
Chile en Nogada
A big, green chili (chile poblano) filled with meat, nuts, dried fruits and topped with nut sauce and pomegranates. Sounds weird to you? This combination tastes amazing! Really everybody I know loved it and it’s my favorite Mexican dish.
Supposedly, “Chile en Nogada” is related to Mexico´s independence and Mexicans will proudly explain to you that the dish has all the colors of the flag (green – chili, white – nut sauce, red – pomegranate).
It´s so special, because it´s really hard to get. In Mexico, it used to be served only in the season of walnuts. (Today you can buy it all year long, but not everywhere.)
The chili is prepared by holding it over the open fire of a, for Mexico typical, gas stove, which you hardly find in Europe nowadays and “Chile en Nogada” consists of many ingredients that are hard to get in Europe or taste completely different there.
So, make sure to give it a try when in Mexico! TIP: Restaurants that serve “Chile en Nogada” often advertise it with poster at the entrance.
If you read my beginner´s guide to Mexican food before this, you already know the following: There are very few Mexican dishes that don´t include tacos in some form and if they are processed, they are not considered tacos anymore and the meal gets a completely different name.
That´s the case with Chilaquiles. They are fried, cut tacos (basically nachos without spices) soaked in chili-tomato sauce topped with cheese and sometimes salad. Although Chilaquiles don´t have any historical or traditional value, at least none I know about, they are highly popular and you will for sure get in contact with them at some point because Mexicans love them for – wait for it – breakfast! (Did I mention they have a weird taste?).
But actually, Chilaquiles are really tasty and one of those things you have to try if you want to experience a bit of how modern Mexicans live. And if you want to do it right, you´ll have to wait for breakfast until about 11 in the morning, no matter what time you got up.
In the morning Mexicans often only have a coffee and maybe a small pastry. The second breakfast is the “real” one, where they eat things like toasted bread topped with frijoles (beans), cheese and avocado (“Molletes”, really good as well), eggs and – most commonly – Chilaquiles. And yes, also Tacos can be considered breakfast.Embed from Getty Images
Talking about it: After all those fancy dishes you maybe never heard of before, you probably didn´t expect tacos on this list. I decided to include them for one reason: they are just nowhere in the world as good as in Mexico! (Read about the differences between European “tacos” and the real ones in this blogpost.)
In Mexico, tacos are actually a very simple food. Often you just get the meat of your choice on a corn tortilla and add all the toppings from a huge election of small pots by yourself. I think this is actually the reason why they taste so different in Mexico. They have so few ingredients, that the taste of the ones included is superimportant. And to completely copy a taste of basic components like corn, meat and onions in another country is just impossible due to natural resources.
Long story short: Eat tacos in Mexico! There´s never a bad moment for a taco.
Pan de Elote
“Pan de Elote”, translated “corn bread”, is basically a pastry made of corn (not the cornbread you might know from America!).
Because back home we usually eat corn in combination with salty food, the taste of this simple pastry (it doesn´t feature a lot more than corn, flour, eggs and milk) was really new and surprisingly amazing to me. It was one of the few Mexican pastries that didn´t fall in the categories “too greasy” or “too sweet”
(I LOVE sweet and I didn´t think the moment would come I´d consider something “too sweet”, so believe me on that. I´m writing about this in detail here.)
In some parts of Mexico, “Pan de Elote” tastes more like a cake, in some parts it’s rather a sort of bread. I love the cake version of it!
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