KEYWORDS : Bus TRAVEL, tourism, backpacking, Mexican history, culture, monuments, churches, Mexican food & drink
When I travel to a particular country, apart from its attractions, its people, of which I glean from travel guides, photos etc, the most important thing of which I think about, is food. Culinary delights, aroma & taste, subtle and sharpness of meat, fish and vegetable dishes. And places where the locals drink and eat.
Mexican food is essentially made from Maize (Mais) flour, the basic ingredient for making tortillas, tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas etc.. When Spanish conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo, in the year 1517 set sail from Havana(Cuba) and reached the shores of Yucatan, first at the Cape of Cotoche and then at the coast of Compeachy, he and his companions saw large fields of maize and plantations of cassava-root, and observed that the natives made their bread from the flour of these two.
Hernan Cortez, the conquistador of Mexico, whom Bernal Diaz accompanied in 1519, saw much similarity between Spain and the newly discovered country, its mountains and lakes, its temples and palaces. An abundance of all kinds of fruits and vegetables, its teeming markets reminded him of Seville and Salamanca. So he named the country New Spain and so informed his Spanish king.
Although Spaniards left a lasting legacy in the construction of buildings, churches and plazas, I did not find any similarity with Spanish food. In all the places we visited, I tried to find a place where we could have real chili con carne or Menudo (pork tripe made with Spanish chorizo, blood sausage and chickpeas (garbanzo), but failed to find it. In fact, Mexican use kidney beans(frijoles) instead of chickpeas.
Crunchy taco shells, filled with seasoned grilled beef, topped with grated cheese and crispy lettuce leaves, with guacamole and hot sauce (moles) are delicious, to eat in the morning or at noon. Cod fish fillet or grilled tuna tacos, with guacamole, coriander leaves and sprinkled with lime juice are a treat. Spicy vegetable burgers with beans, with lettuce leaves is another delightful taco dish. Mexican food, outside Mexico, is known for its tacos and tortillas, burritos and beans(frijoles).
Soft warm tortillas filled with beef and beans, meat balls (albondigas) with soft cheese and grilled peppers, or vegetables with chili, beans and tangy sauce, is another filling for a burrito. All freshly made and tasty.Chicken & Tortilla soup and sour cream chicken or beef enchiladas are worth trying. In many dishes, cold rice, frijoles, topped with guacamole and chili sauce are served, as is Mexican chorizo or stretched beef, fried and then chopped to serve as a filling for tortillas or tacos.
But Mexican chorizo is nothing but fat, so is stretched beef and I do not like cold rice. I enjoyed Nachos (tortilla chips) dripping with melted cheese, fresh tomatoes and beans, topped with guacamole and jalapenos.
Fajitas (fah-hee-tus) is yet another dish made with grilled marinated beef fillet, thinly sliced and wrapped in a warm tortilla, together with fried onions, bell peppers, topped with fresh cheese, hot sauce, sour cream and sprinkled with fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves.
Tamales are another meal, prepared with a mixture of
corn dough (masa de mais) and filling is made with chicken or pork, olives and some other ingredients, wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk
and then steamed. The corn dough becomes firmer when steamed, and the
tamale can be unwrapped and eaten.
Similar dishes are made in Greece and Turkey, in Indonesia and India, Thailand and other south east Asian countries, with rice and bananas, fish etc. The earliest tamales
were simple, made with beans and squash and roasted over a fire and was basic food of the Peons (labour class and poor Mexicans).
Mole sauce the Mexican national dish, originally associated with Puebla and Oaxaca cuisine is made with left-overs of any meat, bird, poultry, together different kinds of chilies, peanuts, almonds, old dry fried bread, plantains, lard, cane sugar, bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon and cloves. This concoction is kept boiling until the ingredients are reduced to a thick aromatic and sweet smelling sauce. This mass is then blended until smooth and served with warm tortillas dipped into it.
In Spain La Salsa Española is also made with left-overs of any meat, ham, chorizo, dried fried bread, and the ingredients are kept boiling on low fire, adding more left-overs, until the pot is quite full. Then the mass is blended until a thick smooth sauce emerges, which is poured over grilled lamb, beef and pork and poultry dishes, eaten with thick chunks of fresh baked country bread (pan de pais), washed down with red wine.