The Mexican table and Mexico cooking are filled with an assortment of foodstuffs and is know for many of spicy Mexican food. Sauces, soups and stews are common and expected, while preparations range from a quick-fry to slow roasting.
Good ingredients in Mexico cooking certainly count for a lot, but the Mexicans are also gifted cooks and seem to know how to give a dish that extra zing that makes it special. A simple salsa Mexicana is taken to new heights with a touch of cilantro and lime, while a complex mole sauce is always heavenly thanks to over thirty carefully-chosen herbs and spices which are added in and left to slowly simmer in the pot. Whether it's humble tacos de pollo or a regal cochinita Pibil, the Mexican kitchen is filled with honest, flavorful food which is prepared in a host of interesting ways.
Main food preparation (or Mexico cooking) in Mexico, often referred to as mestizaje, is mixing. Corn, a staple for over 4,000 years, is the backbone here. The kernels are softened in water and lime and then ground and fashioned (most commonly) into tortillas. Protein-rich beans and an infinite variety of chilies round out this holy trinity of Mexican cookery. The Spanish liked what they saw in Mexico and added a few things of their own, among them domestic animals, sugar and cheese. Mexican cuisine is further enhanced by an incredible array of fruits and vegetables which seem to taste better in Mexico than anywhere else: tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, avocado, coconut, pineapple, papaya and prickly pear cactus, to name several of the best. Herbs and spices also flavor the pot: cinnamon, clove, anise and cumin are all frequently-used spices, while cilantro, thyme, marjoram and the pungent epazote are popular herbs.
What are key Mexican food ingredients for Mexico cooking?
Corn: most commonly used for tortillas, the warm, flat rounds which accompany or enhance many a dish. Also used for tacos (tortillas stuffed with chicken, beef, fish or cheese) and tamales (steamed and stuffed with meat or vegetables).
Chilies: used both fresh and dried, it's the white veins and seed pods that are the hottest part and pack a punch. Mexicans like to distinguish between heat and flavor, something that can be lost on the untrained palate. Popular varieties of chilies are jalapeno, poblano, serrano, guajillo, chipotle, pasilla, habanero, ancho, mulato and cascabel.
Beans: they run the gamut from lentils to kidney beans and fava beans and are found in many soups and stews. Small beans are often served refrito (refried in lard, tasty but heavy) or de la olla (boiled and served in a light broth).
Tomatoes: the essential ingredient for a tasty salsa Mexicana and also used in sauces for both fish and beef dishes. Tomatillos are small green tomatoes encased in a stiff husk -- they're more tart and often used for a kicky tomatillo salsa which is laced with spicy chilies.
Fruit: mango, papaya, coconut and pineapple are all eaten fresh as well as used in sauces and desserts. Nopales (prickly pear cactus paddles) are sauteed and eaten as a vegetable of sorts but can also be found sweetened in desserts.
Special ingredients: flor de calabaza (squash blossoms) are used in everything from soups to sauces. Huitlacoche is a small, dark fungus (!) which grows on a corn stalk and is surprisingly creamy and delicious. Crepas de huitlacoche (huitlacoche crepes bathed in a dreamy cheese sauce) are a singularly Mexican treat. Romeritos and epazote are two pungent herbs which add a special zest to fish, beef and chicken dishes. Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are used in sauces, most commonly in pipian, which is used to top many chicken dishes.