The Mexican fare, a marriage of Mesoamerican cooking techniques/main staples and European food components (such as cheese and meat and herbs), is one of the most complex my taste buds have ever encountered. It's up there with Persian, Indian and Chinese. The ingredients of dishes, I could not easily detect. And a lot of them I didn't/don't even know of.
Case in a point: Papaloquelite and huauzontle and huitlacoche (fungus that grows on corn). IKR?!
The function of food for Mexicans is not only to fuel the body. It plays a role in traditions and festivals (such as Día de Muertos), and everyday social gatherings. The preparation itself, which mostly takes hours, draws people together.
To pay homage to this intangible cultural heritage (and to food technology), I the pilgrim, sampled all sorts of Mexican food for a week in Cancun. Plus uhm, two days in Palenque. I can see the aftermath on my significantly wider waistline now, but that's a non-significant issue I shall deal with later.
Here are some of the delights I stuffed myself with:
1. Tacos. The most popular Mexican dish — outside Mexico, I daresay. Wheat or corn (I prefer the latter) tortilla, topped/filled with different kinds of meat (beef, chicken, pork, seafood) plus cheese and veggies. Always accompanied by either guacamole or salsa or pickled onions. I like mine with salsa verde, a kind of salsa made with tomatillos. There's a plethora of traditional varieties in every Mexican state, dictated by the region's main spices and produce.
2. Pollo En Mole Poblano. Mole, from Nahuatl (Aztec language) word mōlli, means 'sauce'. Such term is used for a variety of sauces. The states of Puebla and Oaxaca (Tlaxcala too) claim to be the origin of it. Mole poblano, my fave, is a kind of mole that's composed of a million ingredients — okay, maybe about twenty (including ancho chili or poblano and chipotle and sometimes chocolate) — pound together to form a paste. Added with water and simmered in a pot, it results to a thick, dark-colored sauce. This sauce is poured over turkey or chicken. Had the best in Puebla.
3. Filete De Pescado Empanizado. Ordered at a time when my palate had a craving for subtle flavors. Breaded fish fillet with refried beans (refried means well fried, not 'fried again'), arroz (rice), beans and salad. Not really traditional, but like the milanesa (breaded beef, chicken or pork), it's a pretty popular comida. Especially to niños y niñas.
12. Torta. A Mexican sandwich that uses an oblong white bread/roll and is filled with meat, cheese, caramelized onions and peppers. I like mine with grilled/toasted bread, al pastor, Oaxaca cheese and cebolla asada (roasted onion).
27 MXN at the perpetually busy Tropi Tacos, Palenque.
I remember being asked by Pop Talk host Kuya Tonipet Gaba in the show's third anniversary special (while doing a review of some new Mexican resto in Boracay) if I can eat Mexican food every day. My answer was a quick 'yes'. And I reckon this list is a dang good explanation.
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