Experience Mexico Through its Food

The variety of Mexican cuisine

We’ve visited Mexico multiple times, and a large part of our memories revolve around food. My first visit was on spring break from the East coast in 1970 when we camped on the baja beaches and bought local seafood and shrimp to cook over a campfire. Each morning we’d walk into town for a breakfast of chilaquiles.Later visits took us to Mexico city and the Yucatan peninsula, where again, in addition to famous landmarks, we wandered the markets and sampled the food.  One unique evening I dined at a small restaurant that opened at 7:30.  No menu, instead, the waiter arrived with a tray of the evening’s fresh offerings.  I chose ‘the’ fish. Next I was asked how I’d like it cooked.  The waiter proceeded to the other 3 tables, took our orders to the kitchen, then set the ‘closed’ sign on the door.  An excellent, multicourse meal  leisurely followed.

Here are some typical Mexican dishes I created based on our experiences. (Note, Mexican markets provide numerous types of dried chilies and moles. If you can’t find these in your area, chili powder and paprika make an adequate substitute)

 

 

Pollo con cuatro pimientas (4 pepper chicken)

  • 1 T ancho chile powder
  • 1 large red pepper, cut into stirps, 1/2″ wide by 3″ long
  • 1 T paprika
  • 1 t fresh black pepper
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 3 med tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

1. Dredge chicken in flour, then heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or
skillet , and sauté chicken for 5’ on each side, letting it brown.

2. Remove chicken, then in same pan sauté red pepper and garlic for 10’.
Sprinkle with ancho chile powder, paprika and fresh black pepper, then add
tomatoes.

3. Return chicken to the pan, mix. Place the sliced onions on top of the
chicken mixture, cover and simmer 30’.

4. Remove from heat, mix onions into chicken.

Mexican Winter Chicken

  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 3-4 jalapeno or serrano peppers (canned or fresh)
  • 3-4 dried ancho chiles, prepared (optional), or substitute 1 T chile
    powder and 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 turnips, diced
  • 1 large parsnip, diced
  • 1 quart chicken stock

Saute the chicken pieces in 2 T olive oil for 5 minutes. Add the peppers
and chiles and other ingredients except for the stock. Saute 5 minutes.
Remove to casserole dish. Add 1 quart stock. Cover and bake for 1 hour at
350 deg.

At end mix in 1/4 cup of water with 3 T flour.

Pollo con Pina – Chicken with Pineapple

  • 1 chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 1/2 fresh pineapple, diced
  • 2 zucchini, cut in thick slices
  • 2 cinnamin sticks or 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 can green chiles
  • 1 T fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 t ground, dry)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, sliced

1. Brown the chicken pieces in a skillet 5-10 min. (optionally, remove
kin). Add the onion, garlic and cinnamon and saute for 5-10 min.

2. Add zucchini, wine, chilies and oregano. Lower heat to simmer for 30′.

3. Add pineapple and simmer another 20′ or until chicken is done.

 

 

  • Famous Landmarks in Mexico City – Zocalo Despite its reputation as huge smoggy sprawl, Mexico City is well worth a visit of several days – exploring some of best museums in world, outdoor markets, great walking, easy access to outskirts by metro.
  • Images of Mexico’s famous landmark – Xochimilco Escape the big city crush and confusion by spending a day drifting the canals of Xochimilco and viewing the art of Diego Rivera.
  • Famous Landmarks in Mexico In Mexico City, alone, you’ll find numerous landmarks Chapultepec Castle and
    Park is famous from the US – Mexican War of 1846 and now hosts many museums, including the excellent Anthropology museum

More recipes & cooking

Recipe – Chilaquiles – Mexican Breakfast Favorite

 


Chilaquiles the Mexican Breakfast or Brunch Favorite Recipe

Chilaquiles are a traditional Mexican breakfast or brunch menu item. Stale corn tortillas are torn in quarters and usually fried. . Green or red salsa or mole, is poured over the crispy tortilla triangles. This Mexican lasagna is then simmered or baked until the dish becomes soft. Various other items can be added, including queso fresco and/or sour cream (crema) Since chilaquiles are eaten at breakfast or brunch they’re a frugal use of leftover tortillas and salsas.

Basic Chilaquiles

1 dozen corn tortillas.

  • · 1 lb pork sausage, ground turkey or lean ground beef
  • · 1 cup chopped celery
  • · 1 green pepper, diced
  • · 1 small onion, diced
  • · 1 medium tomato, diced

Seasonings:

  • · 1 t chili powder
  • · 1/2 t cumin
  • · 1 t fresh oregano (or 1/2 t dried)
  • · 2 T fresh coriander
  • · salt and pepper to taste

1 cup grated cheese, (Swiss, cheddar or Monterey Jack)

2 cups chicken stock

1. Preferably, the tortillas should be day-old or stale, but if you must use fresh ones, let them sit out for several hours to dry out.

Tear them roughly into small pieces about 2″ across. Traditionally these tortilla pieces are fried until crispy, but I skip this step to keep the fat content lower.

2. Combine meat, celery, pepper, onion and tomato in a mixing bowl. Add seasonings and mix well.

3. In a deep baking dish or dutch oven, add a layer of tortilla pieces, cover with a layer of the meat mixture, sprinkle with cheese. Continue, until all ingredients are used up. Pour the chicken stock over the dish when finished and top with cheese.

4. Bake in a 350 deg oven for 30 min.

 


Green Chicken Chilaquiles

Ingredients

  • 2T olive oil
  • 2 chicken, breasts, boned, cut aginst the grain into 1/2″ strips
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 lb tomatillos
  • · 1 medium onion, diced
  • · 8 oz can of green chiles
  • · 4 T fresh cilantro, chopped·

8-10 tostado shells, or old, stale corn tortillas

12 oz queso fresco (or ricotta or feta)

Instructions

  1. Saute the chicken pieces in olive oil for 3’, then add onion and garlic
    and continue to saute for another 5’. Add tomatillos and chiles; reduce heat
    and simmer for 10-15’ until the tomatillos become soft. Turn off heat, add
    chopped cilantro, let cool a bit. (This can be made ahead and stored in the
    refrigerator.)
  2. In a large casserole dish build layers of broken tortilla pieces, the
    chicken mixture, and crumbled cheese. Bake in 350 deg oven for 30’

 


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More recipes & Food images

Spices Markets of the World

Spices make excellent souvenirs for many trips – for yourself or your friends. They’re light, reasonably priced and literally import the exotic flavors of your trip. Of course, it helps if you know how to use them, but even if you don’t, you’ll find but even if you don’t, you probably know someone who does, and spices make a great gift.

There’re rarely any problems with customs. The main hassles are raw food items like unroasted coffee beans (ie, only buy roasted coffee beans) or many air dried meat products like prosciutto. Educate yourself before your trip;
learn what the common spices look like in various forms. During the trip, ask the waiter about the flavors in dishes you particularly enjoy. You may even be invited by the chef to explore the kitchen.

Spices can be found in many tourist souvenir shops, but avoid these prepackaged bits, often 5 or 6 spices on a foldout card . They tend to be both old and expensive. Instead, find a local market, where business is more frequent. In Istanbul, the Egyptian Market on the Golden Horn waterfront is the exemplar. Some bargaining is expected, with minimal changes of 10% or so are common. Do ask for prices before buying though. Some spices, like sumak or cardamon are several times more expensive than more common ones. Familiarize yourself with the metric equivalents if you’re used to ounces. 50- 100g should be enough for most purposes (about 2-4 oz).

 

Turkey – Recipes

    • My favorite spices from Turkey are its many peppers — everything from mild paprika, to hot red peppers. Usually powdered, they’re also found in paste form, and if well packaged, these travel and keep well.
    • Saffron is available in several forms.  It’s not as good as Iranian orMoroccan, but much cheaper, and for simple rice dishes, or soups, you just use a bit more.   Watch out for ‘Indian Saffron’ — it’s just turmeric.
    • And there are now many different forms of Turkish Viagra — from powdered ginger to walnut stuffed figs.

India – Recipes

India was the source of the original spice trade, making the fortunes of many successful voyagers.
Today anyone can bring back a Prince’s ransom in delectable spices.

  • Cardamom is the fruit of Elettaria cardamomum, a member of the ginger family, which grows in the moist, tropical regions of Southern Asia
  • Vanilla beans
  • Cocoa pods
  • Tamarind
  • Nutmeg & Mace are derived from the apricot-like fruit of the evergreen tree Myristica fragrans. When the fruit is ripe, it splits in half revealing a deep red, net-like membrane that covers a brittle shell. The membrane is mace, the shell nutmeg.
  • Turmeric is a rhizome of the tropical herb Curcuma longa. It’s used in powdered form.
  • Coriander
  • Ginger is a light-brown rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale
  • Cayenne is made from the dried red skins of chili peppers
  • Cinnamon is the dried bark of an evergreen tree of the laurel family, Cinnamomum
    zeylanicum
    is native to India and Sri Lanka.
  • Asafoetida is the sap from the roots and stem of a giant fennel-like plant which grows wild in Central Asia. The sap dries into a hard, smelly resin and is usually used ground

Morocco

Cumin is the national condiment, found with salt & pepper on tables everywhere. Use either the seeds of this small
annual herb from the parsley family Cuminum cyminum, or the ground powder form. Popular in tagines.

Saffron – various qualities of saffron are widely available, prices vary accordingly.

Mexico Recipes

Dried peppers of all sorts are cheaply available everywhere. There’s no problem in bringing them back to the US, even with their seeds. In Mexico, both fresh and dried peppers are abundant, and the names change when a pepper is dried — anchos are just the dried form of poblanos. Chipotles are the smoky, dried form of jalapenos.

In many markets you can find moles – mixtures of up to 20 or more spices. These are excellent bases for sauces, soup flavorings, or marinades and I always buy several kilos – they’ll keep for months in the refrigerator.

Huitlacoche  is a fungus that grows on corn ears, producing big, swollen, deformed kernels, black inside with a silvery gray skin. It’s easily compared to truffles, with a delicious, inky mushroomy flavor, but it’s rarely available commercially. Sometimes you can find it in restaurants as Huitlacoche para Quesadilla.

China – Recipes

        • Ginger
        • Anise

Specific Spices:

  • Saffron  Absurdly priced in the US, saffron is affordable in many countries.   You do need to know a little about the differences. True saffron is made from the are the stigma (female organ) of the autumn
    crocus, or Crocus sativus, but other ‘saffrons’ are made from different flowers, sometimes even leaves.  Mexican saffron is one of these, it’s very cheap, but gives a completely different flavor (though quite good).   Turkish saffron is very good, but you need to use a loose teaspoon of threads where a recipe calls for a few threads of Spanish saffron.   In Morocco, several grades of saffron are available, in both thread and powdered form.  All are good value and reasonably priced.  Iranian saffron is some of the best I’ve found, but priced accordingly. In Turkey, you’ll also find ‘Indian Saffron’, but this is really Turmeric, a different spice entirely
  • Sumak Mostly unknown in the US, this is a common spice in the Mideast.  Use it to flavor grilled chicken or fish, or just sprinkle lightly on a salad of tomatoes and sliced onions.PepperDozens of choices, so try tasting them and choosing what you like best.  In Turkey, commonly red pepper, with some browns.
  • Pepper pastes (moles) also widely available.   In Mexico, both fresh and dried peppers are abundant, and the names change when a pepper is dried — anchos are just the dried form of poblanos.  Chipotles are the dried form of jalapenos.
  • Paprika  Good paprikas are widely available, with tastes varying from sweet to moderately spicy.
  • Cumin–The national spice of Morocco — found on most tables withthe salt and pepper.  Used in many dishes here and in India, Mexico, and the Middle East.  Available in both powdered and seed form. Roast the seeds to get a wonderful flavor
  • Coriander  The powdered form (made from the dried seeds)  very different from the fresh leaves and stems (also known as cilantro). Used in cultures throughout the world.   Use the fresh form in
    dishes that call for parsley!
  • Turmeric— The ‘poor man’s saffron’, this spice is basic to many dishes in the Indian subcontinent, up through China. It provides a beautiful saffron color, and a distinctive taste. In the US it’s most
    commonly found as a coloring agent in chicken soup.
  • Cardamom Another expensive spice in the US.  You can find green or black forms, or seeds.
  • Discover recipes using these spices

    More on markets, souks and bazaars