Food is a wonderful window into a country’s culture. If you enjoy learning about a place through its cuisine then you’ll love this Frommer’s piece that takes a look at popular dishes in Mexico by region. Here is a sample:
Mole poblano in Puebla – You can eat mole poblano — a mysterious sauce made of spices, nuts, and chocolate — all over Mexico, as it’s practically considered the national dish. But it gets its name from the state of Puebla (poblano = “from Puebla”). Typically served with turkey, this is by far the richest and thickest of the moles, getting its body from raisins, ground almonds, and sesame seeds). It’s also the most symbolic sauce, representing the melding of indigenous Mexican tradition and European influence, allegedly invented by nuns at the Convento de Santa Rosa but incorporating ingredients unique to Mexico.
Tlayudas in Oaxaca – Oaxaca gets two slots on the list because it’s perhaps Mexico’s most food-centric state. The signature snack here is the Mexican equivalent of pizza. The base of a tlayuda is an extra-large, extra-thick corn tortilla that’s cooked on a dry griddle or a grill. While the bottom is getting a black-spotted chewy crust, the cook smears on a layer of refried beans (liberally seasoned with lard), then scatters on crumbly white cheese, avocados, and other toppings of your choice: grilled cactus-paddle leaves (nopal), spicy beef strips (cecina enchilada) or even that Oaxacan favorite, fried grasshoppers.
Carnitas in Michoacan – Pork is braised for the better part of a day, until the meat is near-melting, then the braising liquid is boiled away until the meat is sizzling in its own rendered fat. This creates an outer layer that’s addictively crispy, chewy, and slightly caramelized. Once the meat reaches the perfect texture, it’s served up on platters with tortillas for make-your-own tacos. Garnish with cilantro, radishes, guacamole, beans, and more. The savvy carnitas eater can request particular parts of the pig.
Fish tacos in Baja California – Nothing complements beach-bumming like this most delish fish, fried in a light beer batter and wrapped in a warm tortilla. The best versions let the fresh fish shine through, with only a garnish of crispy shredded green cabbage, diced tomatoes, and a creamy sauce that’s usually nothing more than thinned-down mayonnaise. Add a squeeze of lime, and you’re good to go … right back to the beach.
See the entire article for other examples of traditional Mexican cuisine.
Photo credit: AlejandroLinaresGarcia via Wikimedia Commons.