A taste of Mexico

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Eat your way around Mexico

A vibrant melting pot of striking flavours and pungent aromas, Mexican food is known the world over for its ingredients with a kick. Tangy chiles, sour lime and floral coriander characterise many of its recipes. Yet one of its best-kept secrets is that its dishes are also innately wholesome and satisfying. This a cuisine made to feed a community; comfort food at its best.

Mexico’s local staples are steeped in history, shaped by the land and the sociology of its people. Many originate from a vegetarian Aztec diet; maize was cultivated by indigenous farmers thousands of years back. In Yucatán, ancient Maya flavours live on in the oft-used ingredients of sharp lime, oranges and the notorious habanero chilli. And with arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century came domesticated animals and other ingredients, giving the nation new twists to old methods.

Today Mexico is home to one of the world’s most renowned street food cultures. In Mexico City, antojitos (street-food bites) bestow the streets with scents of homemade salsa, rich onion and beef-topped chalupas and woody, blackened corn. Head to Oaxaca for a colourful street food scene with snacks like garnachas, originally served as party food at velas (festivals). Venture to Puebla and you’ll experience the city that gave birth to the chocolate and chilli mole poblano.

But street food can be found away from the markets too, in diners and gourmet restaurants throughout the country, where the only palpable difference is presentation. In Baja California, for example, upmarket seafood, trendy craft breweries and vineyards stretch along one of the world’s largest peninsulas. Here, young chefs combine local delicacies such as lobster and fish tacos with contemporary Asian flavours. The Pacific Coast is another slice of gourmet heaven: eat on sun-soaked terraces alongside shrimp markets, sampling local fruit, herbs and edible flowers that complement exotic dishes such as fish and coconut ceviche.

Despite its regional varieties, a common element unites this cuisine across the country: a collective resourcefulness. Communities pull together preparing for fiestas, at which food is created both to feed the masses and deliver a celebratory punch. Dishes come alive in the pueblos, with festivities marking patron saint celebrations, weddings and birthdays – especially quinceañeras (15th birthday celebrations) – think warming chiles en nogada, pork tacos and pots of pozole stew.

This is a culture in which local food, full of heart and prepared with an unlikely combination of humility and pride, is king. The Mexican food experience has earned the right to its status as one of the most exciting and authentic in the world.

Reproduced with permission from From the Source Mexico, © 2017 Lonely Planet, www.lonelyplanet.com

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