Think you know Mexican food? Think again! Get to grips with the difference between Tex and Mex in our quick foodie guide, before you begin backpacking around Central America.
I love Nachos, what else is there to know?
What you’re thinking about is Tex-Mex – a mash up of cuisine from the North of Mexico and Texas. Nachos, for instance, were actually invented by an American couple. Like all good mash ups Tex-Mex is a little bit addictive and hard not to love, but it's not the origional.
Wait – you’re telling me they don’t have Burritos in Mexico?
Don’t panic! They do have Burritos in Mexico, although they might seem a little different from what you’re used to and you might only be able to buy them in the North, because that's where they are traditionally from. Burritos are a street food sold by vendors – they’re small, thin and only contain a couple of ingredients like meat and rice. You can even get Nachos in Mexico because they’ve recently become popular in the North of the country. We guess that’s globalisation for you.
So if I'm not eating Nachos, what will I be eating?
Well, that really depends on where you are. Mexican dishes change from region to region - so there's no real equivalent to the British roast dinner. What you will notice is that various key ingredients pop up everywhere. Corn, for example, is essential to the Mexican diet - because they use it to make their Tortillas, which Mexicans eat alongside dishes like bread.
Chillies are also a huge part of Mexican cuisine - almost every restaurant in Mexico serves at least three different kinds of chilli sauces, from mild to hot. Spicy flavours can be cooled down with lime, coriander and a nice cool beer but not all of Mexico is hot, hot, hot. In the Yucatán, a unique, natural sweetness prevails over spiciness.
Location seems really important then?
It really is. Most of the food you probably recognise will come from the North of the country – but as you move south things get more exotic. The Western district of Jalisco is famous for Birria – a spicy meat stew often made with goat or lamb.
If I want to be really adventerous, I should head South?
Adventurous eating is a state of mind. Every big city in the country will sell food that Westerners recognise and are comfortable with, although you may pay more for eating like a foreigner. But, if you make an effort to eat like a local, you could find yourself consuming some ant eggs (escamoles) - which are a Mexican delicacy. If you really want to get into the spirit of local cuisine, explore the pueblos (villages), where choice will be limited. You may even spot some iguana, rattlesnake and spider monkey dishes!
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