My love affair with Mexico began in January of 2012, when I spent about four months in northern Baja volunteering with the Canadian non-profit organization Live Different. The ‘semester abroad’ of sorts felt far too short, but it gave me a taste of a culture vastly different from my own and left me craving more. When planning my next major trip abroad, this time through UBC’s own Go Global program, it seemed only natural to me that I make my way back to the country that
captured my heart.
Since it is impossible to convey the beauty of a culture as rich as Mexico’s in the span of a few hundred words, I have chosen to focus on one of my favourite aspects: Mexican cuisine. It’s far more diverse than tacos and tequila. The food of Mexico is sure to surprise even the seasoned traveler. These are just a few of the delicious discoveries I have made. ¡Buen provecho!
Machaca is very similar to beef jerky and is featured on many Mexican menus as a filling for quesadillas or for burritos. The meat is finely chopped after it is dried and cooked with peppers and garlic before being served in a fresh corn or flour tortilla. Machaca is fantastic because it is so easy to prepare at home. The art of tortilla-making, on the other hand, is something I have yet to master!
This dish is the specialty of Guadalajara, the city I currently call my home. While tortas, or sandwiches, are found throughout Mexico, this version stands apart for its crunchy bread and slightly spicy tomato sauce. The word ahogada literally means drowned, and the dish is completely soaked in the salsa. My first experience with the dish (and every time since) has always been positive, although not even the locals have discovered a way to eat it without making a mess!
Arguably the most famous street food that Mexico has to offer, this tasty creation has indigenous roots and can be prepared in a myriad of ways. Popular tacos include birria (slow-cooked beef stew), adobada (pork cooked on a spit with pineapple), carne asada (thin steak cooked on a barbecue), and tacos de pescado (fried fish). If you are visiting Mexico, remember to be careful about the meat you order for your tacos - it can be made out of anything, so stick to types that you recognize. The same goes for salsa. Just because it looks like guacamole doesn’t mean it isn’t spicy!
A delicacy of the Mexican state of Oaxaca, chapulines are a little different from the average snack. They are small grasshoppers, fried with garlic, lime, chili and salt until they are crispy and red in colour. While most people cringe at the thought of eating insects, I knew that I had to try them (and I have photo evidence to prove it!). While they aren’t available in conventional supermarkets, all it takes is a trip to a globos, or street market.
The society of Mexico is vibrant and ever-changing, yet still grounded in its Mayan and Aztec roots with influences from Spain. As the next semester begins and I continue my adventure in this gorgeous country, I have no doubt I’ll continue to find inspiration in the culture that surrounds me. One thing is certain - this is far from my last trip to Mexico.