Food review: Initial impressions
There are so many great foods that Mexicans regularly eat that people in the US have no knowledge about. Being someone who enjoys eating and trying new delicious delights, I have begun to try the local cuisine. Here are some reactions, in alphabetical order (of course).
Oh my goodness, yum. This is a sweet concoction not unlike caramel. It is made from sugar and goat’s or cow’s milk, with delicious results. People here mix it with tamarind paste and chili to make candies, or just spoon it warm on top of things. Cajeta crepes are especially divine. Goes really well with a nice dark beer like Indio, Bohemia, or Victoria.
Admittedly, this is not so unique. Refried beans are common in the states, but here they are eaten for breakfast. This is a really good way to get some non-animal protein (but watch out, a lot of brands use animal lard as part of the canning process).
Hard to describe! This is a root, but is passed off as a ...fruit. It is beige, and has a skin that can be peeled off like an onion. Mexicans serve it with lime juice and chili powder, which is a really super way to flavor the otherwise bland taste. The texture is what gets me-like a juicy radish. Apparently it is seasonal.
The brand Jumex makes it with the nectar, and the nectar only. Before coming here I had only had a small glassful one other time, acquired from the eclectic and hit-or-miss store in Northampton, MA called Steals and Deals.
Some would argue this has no place on the list. But hear me out: instead of drinking drip-coffee a fair amount of Mexicans heat up milk, milk and water, or just water, and spoon in this instant coffee. The taste is mild and sweet. A cultural phenomenon and a product of globalization. All the amazing Mexican coffee beans get shipped to the US and other countries, completely bypassing those that have grown it and are closest, physically, to it.
-Nieve de Tamarindo
This would translate to tamarind shaved ice. Slightly spicy and cool at the same time, this turns your mouth red and the corners upwards into a huge smile.
The sacred cactus! This kind of tastes like a slightly slippery broccoli stem. It is a lovely consistency, and really feels quite exotic to eat a cactus. This is tied in with the Aztec myth about the founding of what is now Mexico City, and is on the Mexican flag. I recently bought 11 leaves, de-spined, at the weekly market near my house. Very good boiled or fried.
Wow. This is my new favorite fruit, and a reason to love the color orange. Supposedly it aids digestion, typically eaten at breakfast before the rest of the meal. Soft as butter with a pleasant, mild flavor. The best papayas are bought at outdoor markets.
This is a street food of slightly under-cooked corn kernels in corn and chicken broth, served with chili and lime on top. You can also have it with mayonnaise if that’s your thing. There is a traditional name for it in Spanish, but I don't remember and can't find it online-possibly idiomatic and Mexico-City related. First had it on a rainy day and it is warm, filling, and healthy. If only this was sold in the States, people would be all over it (especially in Amherst!).
The ancient Aztec food! I bought these pre-cooked at the grocery store instead of buying ravioli. With a tiny sliver of chicken inside, surrounded by corn dough (masa). These are heated by steaming or covering with a wet napkin and popping them in the microwave. Best with copious amounts of hot sauce. I am eager to try tamales served at an open-air market, as they are usually served hot.
This is a sandwich on soft, crusty bread. Bought at a little stand near the Taquilla station and served fresh. I bought one with salsa rojo and quesillo, another name for Queso tipo de Oaxaca (see below). The best part about buying street food is the unpretentious nature of the whole event. I ate this reading a book and sitting 5 inches away from the grill, separated by a small glass window. It was really nice being able to take in the Spanish, people watch, and support a local biz.
Like a hard tortilla, these are typically served at breakfast in a variety of ways. People can be seen eating them with sour cream, tomatoes, and avocado on top, or they are served to scoop up refried beans for breakfast. Also good with eggs.
-Queso tipo de Chihuahua
I bought this on a whim, and it was a great decision. Very sharp and tangy flavor, medium consistency. Great with a tart green apple, especially when you are ‘rushing’ (people don’t really rush here). Yellow in color.
-Queso tipo de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Cheese)
This is a Mexican mozzarella with a slightly different texture. I have bought it both from the Mega (grocery store across the street), and the tiangui. Much much better from the tianguis because you get to
a. practice Spanish
b. have a free sample of whatever cheese you want before buying
c. experience fresher and more nuanced flavor
d. support local merchants. Who says in a big city you have to support chains tied to NAFTA? Only the uncreative minds! I have a problem with this because I eat it every chance I get. It is served in a round ball ranging from a small fist to a small head in size. A good way to get your dairy. This also melts really well and will usually be a part of any quesadilla you buy on the street. White in color.