Anyone who has ever tasted a good Mexican dish is familiar with the rich palette of flavor that explodes in your mouth. The ethnic dance of spices, herbs, meats, and vegetables are enough to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. In truth, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy a good Mexican dish. But for something we all love so much, it’s surprising that we know so little about it. Things like it’s origin, history, and even preparation styles are all absent from the collective conscious of most Mexican food fans. Well, it’s time to change that. In today’s post you will learn about the true origin of Mexican food, some of the traditional preparation methods of your favorite Mexican dishes, and even some bizarre Mexican food items you probably did not realize existed. So if you want to learn more about the awesomeness that is Mexican food, check out today’s list: 25 Things you might not know about Mexican food. And if you are a food junkie and want to learn about some of the spiciest foods you’ve ever eaten, check out 25 of the world’s spiciest foods. Warning, this list is not for the spice intolerant people out there.
Mexican cuisine is more ancient than you might think; many of Mexico’s more traditional recipes hail straight from the Aztecs and Mayans.
In the 1520s, the Spaniards imported to Mexico plants and animals that no Mexican had ever seen. These included horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and chickens. Among the condiments that were introduced were olive oil, cinnamon, parsley, coriander, oregano, and black pepper. The Spaniards also introduced nuts and grains such as almonds, rice, wheat, and barley; and fruit and vegetables including apples, oranges, grapes, lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes (brought from Peru), and sugarcane (from whence comes sugar).
Mexican cuisine is also famous for its variety of fresh juices. The abundance of tropical and exotic fruits provides the base for ice-cold drinks sold at roadside stands.
Tortillas are the staple food of Mexico. They are made of corn or flour, and the preferred variety differs from one part of the country to another. Tortillas are used in many dishes and can be soft or crunchy.
Between 1864 and 1867, Mexico was ruled by the former Austrian archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, who was kept in power by French troops. Though Maximilian’s reign was brief and tragic, French cooking left its mark on many Mexican-style dishes. French-inspired Mexican dishes include chiles en nogada (stuffed chilies in walnut sauce) and conejo en mostaza (rabbit in mustard sauce).
In 1519 when the first Spanish conquistadors entered the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán (where Mexico City stands today), they found the Aztec emperor Montezuma quite fond of a drink concocted from vanilla and chocolate and sweetened with honey. This was a native Mexican-Indian dish probably invented by the Maya, which would later find worldwide acceptance in various forms including the milk shake.
Also from the colonial period comes such fare as lomo en adobo (pork loin in a spicy sauce), chiles rellenos (chilies stuffed with cheese, beef, or pork), guacamole (avocado, tomato, onion, chili, and coriander), and escabeche (marinades).
Some Mexican dishes, especially those originating from the Yucatán and Vera Cruz, also have a Caribbean influence. Other Mexican dishes, such as bolillo, have a French influence. Bolillo is a popular Mexican bread.
In some parts of Mexico, exotic foods include grasshoppers and caterpillars. Tacos in some parts of the country also come with different fillings, from cow’s brains to cow’s testicles.
Calaveras de Azukar (sugar skull candy), one of Mexico’s most famous candies, are made on the Day of the Dead.
It is estimated that an average family in Mexico can consume up to two pounds of tortillas a day.
Even traditional Mexican desserts have chilies in them. The chilies help create a nice melding of hot and sweet.
Northern Mexico likes its dishes with meat, while Mexico’s southern states prefer chicken and vegetables as the main ingredients. Both regions, however, tend to use the meat as a relish, instead of the main ingredient.
Quesadillas are one of the mainstays of Mexico’s street stands, and are considered quintessentially Mexican. It turns out that they, like Mexicans themselves, are hybrid creations, half indigenous and half Spanish. The corn tortilla, with which quesadillas are put together, is Native American; the cheese, as well as the pork and/or beef that may accompany the cheese, is Spanish; in terms of the garnish, the hot sauce made with chili pepper is indigenous, but the shredded lettuce is Spanish.
Last but not least, if you thought that only Asians specialize in using some of the grossest animals in their cuisines you will find it interesting to know that some traditional Mexican food recipes include ingredients such as iguana and rattlesnake.