All you need to know about Iberian America

My Impressions of Mexican Food

After almost 5 years here in Mexico, I've tried a variety of food in the country.

Plenty of food items that I would have a harder time (read: impossible) to find in Mexican restaurants (even if ran by Mexicans) in small town Iowa and other items that have always been very familiar to me as I've eaten "Mexican food" back home since I was a little kid.

As I wrote in this article here, I actually enjoy Mexican food made by Mexicans (and only Mexicans, not Taco Bell) back home than the Mexican food you find made in Mexico.

Which isn't to say that Mexican food in Mexico is crap. It tastes great!

Only that, based on my food preferences, I like the food back home a little bit more due to better taste and bigger portion sizes (not to mention other benefits like free chips included at the start of the meal, customer service is much better, I don't have to remind the cook to not poison my food with anything too spicy, etc).

Still, as I hinted at already, one major benefit to Mexican food made in Mexico is that you tend to get more variety of things to try than you would in a small town of Iowa (even if said Mexican restaurants of small town Iowa are run by Mexicans).

That's usually because, for whatever reason, Mexican restaurants ran by Mexicans back home all seem to agree on a collective list of food items to offer and rarely anything else: quesadillas, tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, flautas, etc.

Of course, this is Iowa we are talking about and not California or Texas.

....Probably things are run a little bit differently in states with more Mexican heritage folks.

Anyway, I figured to finally put together an article with photos of different food items I have tried in Mexico and my thoughts on them.

Are they even worth trying?

Which ones are delicious, which ones are OK and what tips do you need to know before trying food here?

Obviously, whatever tips I'll give are based on my food preferences but let's get those out of the way now:

Quick Tips

Tip 1: Don't forget to tell the cook or waiter "sin picante" or "sin chile" if you don't want your food ruined with anything too spicy. In my experience, they'll understand either expression but "sin picante" seems to work better.

Tip 2: Don't forget to ask the portion size of the food. This is rarely an issue as most food items are of normal portion size but I have found myself sitting down at a table to have the food delivered to me and it comes out with the portion size meant for a child. In such a scenario, you'll have to ask for seconds because you won't believe how fucking small the food is. What's more surprising is how some places can offer such small food but yet you have Mexicans fat as fuck everywhere. Must be that coca cola....

Tip 3: Going back to spicy salsa, I do recommend you at least get "a portion on the side" of some salsa to experiment with. Just make sure it isn't placed on the food. Some places naturally give you salsa on the side and others will try to dump it on  your food. Nothing wrong though with just having some on the side to experiment with. Also, most Mexicans will tell you that green salsa is less spicy than red salsa. It might be just me but I find red salsa to be less spicy.

Tip 4: If not sure if something will be spicy or not, ask your waiter. You can still tell him "sin picante" and they'll  get rid of anything spicy on it. But if you feel like experimenting with something spicy but not too much, ask him "how spicy is it?" Granted, some Mexican might have a different standard for what is spicy but others (especially if they have experience with foreigners) might keep in mind that his standard is different than yours. Still, just asking "how spicy is it?" can't hurt.

Tip 5: If new to Mexico but on a budget, don't forget to try the "menu del dia" at small mom and pop restaurants (especially if outside of touristy areas). They tend to be a little bit cheaper usually from what I've noticed.

Tip 6: As I wrote here, a few Mexicans might try to rip you off on the prices by overcharging you. It happens to me maybe once every 3 years because I find most Mexicans (compared to other nationalities like Colombians or Dominicans) to be more honest on average. Still, keep an eye open so you don't get ripped off (and know to learn Spanish so you can stand up for yourself better obviously).

Tip 7: As I wrote here, don't be afriad to "Americanize" your food. For example, I always try to get street food spots to put french fries in my gorditas even if Mexicans don't do that. It usually comes at an extra cost of like 5 pesos or sometimes comes free of charge (even if I don't mind paying the simple 25 cents more). While I get new tourists to Mexico would prefer something more "authentic," I don't mind "americanizing" the food to my tastes because I've had enough "authentic" food for years now. No need to prove to anyone how "authentic" my food is nor am I competing to be the next Anthony Bourdain. I'll customize what I eat so I can enjoy it and would recommend you do to if you don't feel like having an "authentic" meal and prefer something tastier to what you like.

Tip 8: Will the food make you sick (especially street food)? Well, I've written on this topic here, here and here. All I can say is that, for the most part (especially after having worked in food service in the US), you'll find that locals in countries like Mexico have much lower standards for sanitation when preparing your food. Having said that, the food has only gotten me sick two times in my 7 years in Latin America: one time in Nicaragua that you can read here and in one time in Mexico as you can read here. But I also rarely get sick so your mileage will vary.

Anyway, that's all I got to say for now regarding tips. Nothing else comes to mind at the moment.

If you got any tips or anything to expand on the tips listed, mention them in the comment section below and I'll include them here if I find your comment to be accurate.

But let's move onto the food now!

Obviously, this isn't going to cover ALL of Mexican food items out there but it'll cover anyhow the food items I eat more often and can most commonly find being sold in street food spots as I tend to live fairly cheaply.

On top of that, almost all of the food items will have personal photos I took instead of standard stock photos.

Much better to see how the food actually looks when purchased by a real person at not overly fancy places instead of how it looks when presented to look as nice as possible for a professional photographer at a restaurant that charges 10 bucks for water?

Anyway, given how long this article here, check out the "Table of Contents" below to help  you navigate it if you don't want to read the whole article (or do! -- I wouldn't mind).

Tacos de Pastor

Perhaps this is the first food item I bring up given my time in Mexico City and how you can find "tacos de pastor" on so many corners of the capital.

Here's a photo I took of some here.

Personally, I quite like this food item because it's some of the cheapest tacos you can find in the city.

While I don't find "pastor" to be overly tasty, I like the taste anyhow.

It's not amazing but it's fine in taste. Nothing bad.

The main appeal of "tacos de pastor" is that it is cheap as fuck compared to other tacos out there.

While the tacos themselves are small as fuck like you can see in the photo above, they are still very cheap.

Back when I first began living in Mexico City 5 years ago, you could get 5 tacos de pastor for 25 pesos in areas like Roma Norte.

While I haven't lived in Roma Norte in a while, I'm pretty confident the days of "5 for 25" are over in those areas.

However, where I live right now in the south of the city, I can get them for as low as 4 pesos a taco at one specific spot but the rest in my area still sell at 5 pesos a taco.

You'll get the options of red or green salsa and I always prefer red salsa.

However, in my experience as I have gotten used to extra spiciness over the years, I find your mileage will vary when it comes to red salsa (what I always get).

Some places have red salsa that is just a tiny bit too spicy and others have red salsa that is just right.

I could personally show you who has the best red salsa for tacos de pastor in my experience.

There's one place in this small open air food court spot outside Metro Copilco that is always popular and has THE BEST red salsa I could find anywhere.

However, their tacos come at 5 for 35 pesos last I checked.

Expensive?

Yeah, that extra 10 pesos or 50 cents does damage.

But worth it for their red salsa!

Anyway, for the tacos de pastor, they'll often add some small chopped up onions and this green shit (cilantro? or whatever it is...) on top of it. Worth it.

And a small pineapple thing.

Definitely get the pineapple thing.

Big Tacos

Now, to be fair, not all the tacos of Mexico City are small.

Here's an example of some BIG AS FUCK tacos.

I purchased these often in Pachuca de Soto.

Tacos like these used to cost as low as 17 pesos when I first began living here in Roma Norte of Mexico City.

However, they'd be more expensive than that in Roma Norte these days.

One thing to keep in mind is that, for tacos of these size, keep an open eye for places that include extra ingredients.

Be it places that add bacon or french fries.

Bacon isn't too common but it's not terribly rare to find a place putting french fries on your larger tacos (even outside of touristy areas).

Be it french fries or potatoes even as with those tacos of Pachuca shown above.

The french fries really do it.

Let's move on.

Gringas

Ah yes -- the gringas.

Quite frankly, I don't know why they ever gave this food item "gringa."

Why is this food item called a gringa?

I have no idea!

But you can look at it here.

I only had this food item once and it was enough for me.

While I didn't hate it, I did wonder to myself "why the fuck did I buy this?"

My memory of it was that it reminded me a lot of a taco de pastor (it consisted of pastor itself to be fair).

But, from what I remember, it basically involved the cook taking 2 tortillas, throwing some pastor in between and maybe adding a few other items to it.

But, for the most part, it didn't strike me as being much different from a taco de pastor.

Which, as a side point, is one major difference between some gringos and Mexicans.

It often can come across to some of us that the food items here are not always that far from each other.

But, to the Mexican, he can come up with a million reasons for how they are different from each other due to the most nuanced details that few who are not Mexican give a fuck about.

The gringa, in my experience, is one of such cases.

It felt more like a "sandwich of a taco de pastor" given the extra tortilla they threw on top of it but nothing more.

I truly did not see much difference in taste from this compared to the taco de pastor and never again bought another gringa.

Quesadilla

Back home, the quesadilla is different in that they throw A SHIT TON of cheese in the fucking thing.

So much so that you can see how it is different.

Down here in Mexico, I can appreciate the difference a little more even if they don't overdue it with the amount of cheese like they did it back home.

And, quite frankly, I'm not sure which is better: bomb the fucking thing with too much cheese or keep it normal in quantity of cheese?

You be the judge. I actually don't mind. Both have their appeal to me.

....Actually, now that I think about it, bombing the thing with too much cheese does sound better.

Having said that, not even Mexicans can agree on the amount of cheese to include!

I say that because, if you are familiar with Mexico City, you'll notice that it's standard to NOT EVEN INCLUDE cheese in the QUESADILLA!

I wrote more about this topic here.

But, to summarize, you actually have to tell the cook in Mexico City to include cheese for your quesadilla.

To remind him that a "quesadilla" has "queso."

What the fuck?

Did someone drop these cooks of Mexico City on their head?

It's only a problem really for this specific city from what I've noticed.

Anyway, if you get a quesadilla in Mexico City specifically, just don't forget to have the quesadilla be "cheese only" or "combinado."

Without the cheese, it literally does become a taco basically.

....Which is ironic to say because plenty of tacos in Mexico City include cheese also but I digress!

Also, for those curious, here's a picture of some quesadillas that look green and a bit different. A place near me serves these. First time ever trying "green quesadillas" back then but I actually like them this way more nowadays because they taste better to me.

Flautas

This is one of my favorite food items in Mexico.

For one, the flautas always come with lettuce, cheese, cream and whatever else.

It actually has a lot of the food ingredients that we gringos typically just puts on tacos back home.

Plus, it is hard shelled!

You can see them here.

All around, it makes for a great food item and one of my favorites.

Of course, your mileage will vary as to where you buy it from.

For example, there's a common restaurant in Mexico City that I haven't been to in a few years but I used to go to for flautas every so often.

I forgot the name of the place as I haven't been there in a while and they aren't around the areas of Mexico City that I live in.

Still, for those who know what I'm talking about, it's some common restaurant around parts of the city that has a sign of some light brown skinned, middle aged woman who could pass as your mom and always has a stern look on her face.

....Maybe you know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, while I'm not sure if they still do this but they used to have some promotion where you could eat as many flautas as you wanted.

I used to go there with people I knew and we'd eat at least 20 to 30 flautas together.

They were not always the highest quality flautas (a tiny bit soggy from what I remember) but still good enough for the price!

And a competition really to see how many we could eat.

If you want higher quality flautas anyway, go to this place called Casa de Toño.

Their flautas only cost like 55 pesos last I checked, their red salsa is spicy but not overly spicy with decent taste and their flautas are usually made very well (with decent customer service and they never mind taking a 500 peso bill as payment with change ready for you ALWAYS).

In fact, the flautas you see in the photo above are from them.

Tacos Dorados de Pollo

This is another classic example of "how is this different from another food item?"

In this case, the "taco dorado de pollo" is basically a flauta.

Now, to be fair, I know some Mexican out there will somehow come out of the woods to explain some nuanced differences in history and food preparation to show how it is different.

But I don't give a fuck.

It's not different from a flauta except in portion size.

Flautas tend to be bigger and "tacos dorados de pollo" tend to come in such small portion sizes that it is actually one of those food items in Mexico that you need to ask seconds of.

You can't have "tacos dorados de pollo" as a meal unless you are getting AT LEAST 8 of them.

That's how small they are.

They're like tacos de pastor -- too small and you need to keep this in mind (especially if you are hungry).

Alambre & Fajitas

This is another example of two food items that are basically the same.

In Mexico, I can't remember the last time (if ever) of a place offering "fajitas" on their menu.

But some offer alambre!

Both food items are basically the same where you do the following:

1. Place a bunch of tortillas on the side.

2. Cook a shit ton of meat with some vegetable items of whatever is included (like peppers or whatever they offer).

3. Don't forget the cheese.

Then give that to the customer to basically make their "customized" taco.

If we're being honest, both food items are basically "make your own" tacos.

That's what they are!

Here's a photo of an alambre that I took anyway (I'd have a pic of a fajita but I've never came across any in Mexico City to take pics of despite knowing that probably someone sells them somewhere).

They both give you tortillas.

And, instead of putting the food items (the meat, the cheese, etc) onto the taco, they give you those food items separately and expect you to put the food items on your tortillas yourself.

The other main difference is that the alambre and fajitas include more food items than what they'd usually give you if you ordered a taco in Mexico.

While tacos in Mexico can come with cheese depending on the place, they don't usually give you all the other vegetable food items with the tacos that they do with alambre or fajitas.

In my opinion, that's really the main appeal of the alambre of fajita is that you get more shit to throw onto your tacos to make them tastier.

Usually at a higher price anyway than if you ordered tacos but worth it anyhow.

It just seems weird to me that Mexicans prefer to call this a different food item (alambre instead of "make your own taco") and why they can't just include those extra ingredients in the tacos themselves.

Still, it's very tasty nonetheless!

Queso Fundido

I'm taking cheap shots here, ain't I?

Complaining about food items in Mexico that look too similar to each other and then bringing up the "queso fundido."

Too easy of an example to bring up!

Now, to be fair, I've only had a queso fundido once in my life.

I tried it once and, similar to the gringa, I thought to myself "why did I waste money on this?"

It wasn't because it tasted bad.

It tasted fine.

Granted, as you can see here, it didn't come to my apartment delivered looking very appetizing.

But I credit that to the fact that it was delivered and not eaten at the restaurant itself (the place on Uber Eats had good ratings so I figured it must be OK).

And was it OK?

Yeah, the "queso fundido" was fine.

I made sure anyway to add "pastor" to the queso fundido as I realized in my search for a queso fundido to try that a lot of these places don't add meat to it.

Just the cheese!

Why the fuck would I just have cheese?

I'm not a vegetarian!

Kill an animal for me and deliver it to me for sacrifice!

Anyway, the queso fundido is basically a small bit of cheese (with meat if you pay for it) and a bunch of tortillas to throw your cheese (and maybe meat) onto.

So, similar to the alambre or fajita, it's basically a "make your own taco" or "make your own quesadilla."

In fact, without the meat included, it would be a quesadilla basically!

A tortilla with cheese!

Granted, I'm sure there are some nuanced differences that the Mexican will bring up but most of us foreigners don't give a shit as it tastes very similar (those who say they do give a shit are either Anthony Bourdain wannabes or those just trying to bend over backwards to be nice to your feelings).

It's literally a smaller quesadilla without any of the grease that you'd get with a street food quesadilla.

I'm definitely glad I noticed how a lot of the places were not going to add meat to it and chose to have some pastor with the queso fundido.

Or else I'd really be let down as to the quality of it.

All around, it's not the worst food item.

The "queso fundido" is another typical example of something that resembles very much other food items in Mexico but, despite the lack of creativity, still tastes good.

It's not something I'd ever order again -- even as an appetizer -- because it just wasn't that impressive.

Tasty but not overly exciting.

Gorditas

Moving away from a lack of creativity, the gordita is a food item where you can more noticeably see the difference in taste and appearance.

Here's a picture of it.

As you can see, it includes french fries.

That's not typical of gorditas in Mexico but I've had plenty of luck in getting street food spots to include the french fries for either free or for a small amount like 5 pesos.

Which, for 5 pesos more for all of the french fries included, it's basically free anyhow.

In Mexico City, a lot of gordita places will sell it including chicharron mostly commonly or they might include beef or something.

And they always include lettuce, cheese and usually cream.

Now, if they don't include cream (which isn't always the case), the gordita isn't going to be as tasty but it's workable.

But it needs cream in my opinion.

Otherwise, it tastes "too dry" so to speak and just isn't as pleasant to me.

Of course, some Mexicans might get around that by adding salsa (red or green) and you can try that too.

I've done that as well but only with the salsa I have at home because I'm much more hesitant to try the red salsa of any stranger as I find the red salsa at street food spots to be hit or miss.

Sometimes they are too spicy that they make the food not so enjoyable anymore or they work well.

Anyway, I have a bunch of red salsa at home that I save from my orders at Casa de Toño so I just use that like you can see here.

If they don't include cream anyway to the gorditas, obviously the salsa is a good alternative if you have something that you know won't kill the inside of your mouth.

But hopefully it does have cream!

When it does, I love gorditas.

Without the cream? Eh, they're OK. Nothing to write home about.

Tostadas

This is another one of my favorite food items in Mexico.

Tostadas are often cheap as fuck at only like 20 pesos a piece if you buy them in the street.

You can usually get two of them for 40 pesos more or less and that'll be good enough for a solid meal.

As a side point, some Mexicans will joke about how the tacos of Taco Bell are basically tostadas.

Actually, I can't disagree with that too much.

Basically, they are some hard shelled thing with a bunch of meat, lettuce, cheese and cream thrown on top.

Salsa too if you want.

Here's a picture of some.

Quick note: While those tostadas don't look as tasty as other ones I've tried, it was the only photo I had. Those were still tasty though!

While the shell isn't bent upwards like a hard shelled taco of Taco Bell, I can kinda see where the Mexican is coming from when he says this is a tostada.

The only thing I'd say is that it is bit ironic for said Mexican to be claiming that it is a literal tostada when, as we have covered already, there are plenty of food items in Mexico that are SO SIMILAR to each other with EXTREMELY minor differences that no foreigner would give a fuck about but yet they somehow claim they are different food items and deserving of their own names.

Be it the chilanga quesadilla vs. a taco.

The alambre vs. the fajita.

A paste vs. empanada as we'll cover soon.

Queso fundido vs. a quesadilla or taco.

So on and so on.

Regardless, I do see where the Mexican is coming from by saying that a taco from Taco Bell is basically a "bent upwards" tostada.

And, perhaps for that reason, I find the tostada to be so much tastier given the extra ingredients it has that I'm used to having on tacos from back home.

Anyway, I quite like the tostada as you can tell.

The only thing I dislike about it as that it's not uncommon for you to take a bite into the thing and then parts of it crumble and random things like lettuce fall everywhere.

Obviously have a plate ready for shit to fall down.

Try not to eat it in front of a laptop also and be mindful of shit falling everywhere.

It's very tasty anyway and one of my favorite food items.

Torta

When I first started living in Latin America, I was going to countries that were not Mexico.

In fact, I'm pretty confident that somewhere I learned that a torta is basically some dessert type item.

Here's a description of what I mean where apparently "torta" can mean something different in other countries.

"Torta is a culinary term that can, depending on the cuisine, refer to cakes, pies, flatbreads, sandwiches, or omelettes. Usually, it refers to: cake or pie in South America, much of Europe, and southern Philippines. flatbread in Spain."

Or that's my impression anyway.

In Mexico though, I've always heard "torta" to mean basically a sandwich.

It was a confusing thing for me when I first arrived here but got used to it.

And that's all it is -- a sandwich basically.

A very big sandwich anyway as the portion size tends to be big.

At first, I remember thinking that I'd need some chips to go with it but I've never been able to eat the chips after having a torta.

The torta might look normal sized and might need a side item to enjoy but the torta itself will be fine enough for you.

Here's a picture of one.

Volcanes

This is basically an appetizer that you can see here.

It's two hard shelled things with a bunch of meat and cheese thrown in between.

The size you see of these volcanes is pretty small actually compared to some volcanes that you see out there.

There's another place near me that serves volcanes and they are literally 5 times the size of the volcanes you see in the photo above.

In that case, it's questionable if volcanes are "appetizers" with such a size.

But, when served in a small portion size like the ones you see above, that's obviously not a real meal and would be better to eat as an appetizer.

Perhaps similar to a tip given before, this is one of those food items where (based on my experience alone) you should be mindful of asking the waiter how big they'll be before ordering them.

And, as long as the hard shelled things aren't burnt (which some places serve as such because I guess the cook didn't know how to make them), then they are quite tasty.

One of my favorite appetizers in Mexico (assuming the portion size isn't crazy big and not burnt).

Pambazo

I tried this food item for the first time ever only a few days ago as I write this.

Here's a picture of it.

It's basically a torta (sandwich) that consists of chorizo and, if I think right, small cut potatoes?

With some other food items they threw in like lettuce, cream, etc.

When they first described it to me, it didn't sound very tasty as the bread didn't look that appetizing but I was wrong.

I liked it.

And it was very cheap -- only 30 pesos (was originally only 25 but they increased it to 30 pesos because I asked for extra chorizo as it looked like they were giving a small portion of chorizo).

They also do something to the bread that gives it extra taste as you can see they dipped it in something or whatever.

Worth trying without question.

Might go well too with a small bag of chips or some side item because the sandwich was not overly big but enough to leave you not hungry in of itself.

Burritos

While I rarely find any place offering burritos in Mexico, I also don't go looking for them necessarily as I don't care for burritos much.

Either way, sometimes you find them in both touristy and non-touristy areas.

One day out of the blue, I decided to try one in Mexico that you can see here.

Personally, I thought the food was Ok but not overly exciting.

It seemed a bit dry and felt like it needed more.

It consisted of beef and cheese.

But nothing more.

Just not that tasty as I had hoped.

But, thanks to the salsa from Casa de Toño mentioned before, I was able to redeem it.

Not much else to say on this item.

Chilaquiles

This is basically a bunch of soft chips mixed in with whatever sauce and some meat (chicken or beef usually) that you can see here.

A lot of people I've heard say that this serves more as a breakfast item.

Even other Americans seem to catch onto that.

Personally, I think it can work fine as a lunch or dinner.

Fills up nicely.

And is generally always tasty.

As long as the chilaquiles are not overly spicy, then I quite like them.

But you'll find it to be hit or miss.

Some places have chilaquiles that are spicy enough that you need more than a generous amount of water or black tea on the side and other places serve it with a sauce that isn't anything that'll kill the inside of your mouth and ruin your meal.

Just depends on the place and how they serve it.

And it doesn't matter so much how touristy the area is.

You'd think touristy areas would serve it without the extra spice but I find that doesn't matter.

Sometimes I have more luck getting chilaquiles in non-touristy areas also.

So it just depends.

Enchiladas & Enfrijoladas

Next, we have enchiladas and enfrijoladas.

Both of these food items are basically the same with a very minor difference.

It's hard to describe what they are made of without looking it up on Google and I'm just going here based on what I've tasted trying them.

Basically, they come across as very soft tortillas that are wrapped around some meat (chicken, beef, etc) and then a bunch of salsa thrown on top.

For the enchiladas, expect a red or green salsa usually.

For the enfrijoladas, expect some bean type sauce or whatever thrown on top of the food.

Cheese included if you want it.

Sometimes a few other random ingredients thrown in depending on the establishment but that's basically it.

Both are tasty but I prefer the enfrijoladas.

Here are pictures of both (first the enchiladas and the second is the enfrijoladas).

Papadzules

Here are some papadzules.

While they don't look that appetizing, they actually were tastier than they look.

Basically, these are enchiladas but with eggs inside them.

From the Yucatan area supposedly.

Worth trying?

For breakfast, I would say so!

They were tasty enough.

I wasn't overly excited about them but I found they tasted well enough to try.

Mole

In Mexico, you have a certain sauce that you see people use on various food items known as mole.

It combines chillis and other ingredients.

One of the more well-known things to try in Mexico.

You can have enmoladas (known also as enchiladas de mole), pechuga de pollo con mole Poblano and many other foods that people put mole on.

Personally, I've tried it with enchiladas and pechuga de pollo.

Here are pictures of both delivered to my house (the pechuga doesn't look very appetizing either but you have to forgive that as it was delivered instead of eaten at the restaurant and it did taste much better than it looks).

As a bonus, I am glad that the place that served me "pechuga de pollo con mole Poblano" gave me "arroz a la mexicana."

Much better than the white rice.

Anyway, when it comes to the mole sauce itself, I liked it but in limited amounts.

It had an odd mix of "sweet but slightly spicy" taste to it.

Not overly spicy whatsoever.

But a slight spice to it with some odd chocolate type taste to it also.

I liked it anyhow.

Just the right amount of spice. While I don't always eat anything too sweet, I enjoyed it anyhow.

Sopes

These remind me as some type of weird mix between gorditas, tostadas and huaraches.

You can see it here placed on top of a gordita.

And here's a picture of a better looking sope from Casa de Toño.

Basically, it reminds me of the huarache because it has some bean type thing on the bottom as you can see.

But it kinda looks like a tostada to some degree if you compare it to the photo above.

Though the material you throw the junk on top looks similar to the material that comes with gorditas.

Tasty but I don't see much reason to eat this.

Instead of a sope, I'd rather have a gordita or a tostada.

Pan Arabe

You can see the pan arabe here.

There's a place near me that sells 2 pan arabes de pastor for only 35 pesos total.

When I first tried it with the one in the photo above, I liked it a bit surprisingly.

They added some extra taste to it that I'm not sure what it is but some kind of liquid that makes it taste better.

All around, tasty and worth trying.

The only thing I'd say is that the price seems a tiny bit elevated for the amount of food you get (in compared to other food items described on this list like the alambre for example).

Still, it's worth buying if you aren't on a backpacker budget.

Nothing more to say.

Huarache & Agua de Horchata

Since I don't have a picture of the agua de horchata separately, here is a picture of both the huarache and agua de horchata.

In my experience, some places serve a shit huarache and others serve it well.

I find it to taste MUCH better when you add the vegetables (con verde) which I think are cilantro if I'm not mistaken.

Otherwise, it's not as tasty or worth trying to me.

One thing to mention is that I never learned properly how to eat the damn thing I think.

It's quite large and I never looked at other Mexicans trying to eat it.

Sometimes I'd like bend it and eat it like that or whatever else.

Not sure if that's how you are supposed to do it but I originally found this type of food to easily have pieces fall off to the side (be it the meat, the cilantro, etc).

Then you have the agua de horchata.

Easily one of my favorite drinks made in Mexico.

Though, as I wrote here, I think I one time vomited because of drinking it but never had problems with it since.

Pastes & Empanadas 

As far as I am aware, I don't think empanadas are a type of Mexican food.

When I first began traveling around Latin America, I found them in many other countries and so I'm not sure who invented it.

I can say anyway that Argentina make them the best.

Then I arrived to Mexico and eventually moved to a state called Hidalgo for a brief period.

While there, I tried something called "pastes."

At the end of the day, both pastes and empandas are basically the same thing.

I remember getting into a minor discussion with a former Mexican girlfriend about this where she disagreed.

She explained the nuances of it!

How it's different because of x, y and z.

And, to the foreigner, I didn't give a fuck.

Do they look similar?

Do they taste similar?

YES AND YES.

Therefore, they are the same.

After all, just look at them in these two videos here.

THEY LOOK THE SAME.

And they taste the same!

While I don't have any pics of empanadas, I do have some of pastes that you can see here.

Basically they are meat filled pastries (just like empanadas oddly enough).

Leave it to the Mexicans to invent a type of food that resembles TO A T another type of food and claim it is different because of some slight nuance that nobody else cares about it.

....But can I complain?

No!

It still tastes great!

The empanada or the paste is basically a snack but, being honest, I sometimes treat it like an actual meal too.

But it's more of a snack really.

Pan de Muerto

This is basically some sugary type of bread that you find Mexicans eating more and more of around a special day called Dia de Muertos.

You can see it here.

Honestly, I don't like it too much.

It tastes OK but it's more of a personal preference as I tend to enjoy sweet foods but not too much of them.

I prefer more of a bitter taste.

Still, if you are new to Mexico and happen to be around for the Dia de Muertos, try it out!

Here's an article I wrote on trying "pan de muerto" for those curious.

Tacos de Barbacoa

If cooked right, this is a type of taco I prefer: barbacoa.

More expensive but it tastes better!

As of this writing, there happens to be a spot literally right outside my house that sells tacos de barbacoa every Sunday.

The taco in the photo above happened to come from that place today.

Funny enough, it was my first time eating there and the cook was surprised to see a gringo stop by (there's no gringos in the area of Mexico City where I live) and was pretty nice.

It's similar to what I wrote here about how places that don't get any gringos can sometimes have MUCH nicer locals than the touristy areas.

It actually sometimes feels a tiny bit weird regarding how nice the locals can be in said non-touristy areas (almost like you feel you are getting some odd special treatment that I appreciate but is different anyhow).

The dude even ended up giving me a small free taco (along with the 3 that I ordered).

After taking a bite of it, he asked me "if it tastes good" and "I like tacos, yes?"

I said yes to both.

But to be honest, the meat wasn't cooked well enough as I had hoped but it tasted fine and who can complain about a free taco?

They also gave me a SHIT TON of vegetables (some green pepper looking thing that I have no idea what it was) and the usual cilantro and onions with red salsa.

They were extremely generous with the amount of vegetables and salsa that they gave me (much more than I could've used on the tacos provided).

Anyway, when it comes to tacos de barbacoa, they are known (as far as I have heard) to be from the Mexican state of Hidalgo or at least very popular over there.

For those curious about food from Hidalgo, there were other items I tried but never took a picture of that I wrote about in this guide to Hidalgo's capital (Pachuca) that you can find here.

"Barbacoa" is actually a solid example of how each Mexican state has certain food items (like with the paste even as that came from Hidalgo) that you won't find as commonly in other states.

Mexican food is actually a lot more diverse than what this article you are reading lets you believe as you'll find special food items in each state that are worth trying (some are nasty though but let's not get too negative here).

Chile en Nogada

Finally, we have this food item here: chile en nogada.

This is basically a sweet-flavored stuffed pepper that is eaten around September time more commonly on Mexico's Independence Day (September 16).

I wrote more about my experience trying the chile en nogada in this article here.

Personally, I quite liked it.

Very delicious.

And a bit different from the other food items in Mexico that many of which seem very similar to each other as I already mentioned.

Having said that, the only other thing I'd say about this food is that I wouldn't try it frequently because it's too sweet for me.

I liked it!

Very delicious.

But I'd have to share it with someone (split it in half) because I truly don't like eating too much sweet flavored foods all at once.

It makes me feel like I'm going to vomit for some reason.

Too much sweetness and I need some black tea to drink with it.

Give me something more bitter.

Still, it's delicious either way. 

Chile Relleno de Queso

Recently tried the "chile relleno de queso" for this article.

Since I couldn't find anyone offering it near me in my neighborhood, I again had to resort to Uber Eats to deliver it to me.

Ended up paying a tiny bit more than what I normally would thinking that this would be like the Chile en Nogada where you might want to pay extra to get something nicer (not sure how hard it is to cook it but I thought it might be so I imagined they'd need a fancier chef with a higher salary).

So I ended up paying around 15 bucks (close to 300 pesos) versus all the other places asking for 130 to 200 pesos (literally the most expensive Chile Relleno I could find on Uber Eats in my area and at the hour I ordered it).

And, despite paying more, the "Chile Relleno" was kinda crap in my opinion.

Here's a picture of how it came out.

It's almost like the chef vomited on my plate.

For one, the packaging was shit and some of the orange liquid leaked out of the box.

Second, I'm half-confident that it was microwaved and the cheese wasn't very tasty.

The chile itself wasn't as bad as it looks though. It was actually kinda tasty.

Also, while I tried to find a "Chile relleno" full of meat like chorizo (as apparently those exist), I couldn't find any when I was looking on Uber Eats.

Wish I did!

This is a type of meal that -- despite it coming out kinda shit -- really wasn't terrible (at least not as terrible as it looks).

If prepared better and with some type of meat like chorizo, I could really see this being a solid meal.

I guess it just goes to show that paying more doesn't always equate to getting more.

A lot of the street food you see in this article was cheap as fuck but still very delicious without any problems.

So it is what it is.

Is it a solid meal anyway?

All around, I didn't have a great experience trying it (bad luck on my end) but I can see how someone could enjoy it considering the ingredients and if cooked better.

I'm not going to hate it because I can recognize the difference between just having a bad chef and having something that isn't very appealing to me personally (like Pozole which we will get to next).

Pozole

This is basically a type of Mexican soup that includes, from what I remember, at least the following: pork, garlic, tomato, hominy, etc.

It's not terrible.

But, if I'm being honest, I don't like soup that much.

Not a fan of soup at all.

For that reason, I'm not likely to ever eat pozole.

Though, for purposes of this article, I did order some pozole tonight so I can try it again and give a more updated view on how I see it.

It was called "Pozole Rojo de Jalisco" and the ingredients are as following: "se sirve con aguacate de 40 gramos y chicharron de 10 gramos. Carne de 120 gramos, maiz de 300 gramos y caldo de 425 mililitros."

You can see what it looks like in the photo below (the pic doesn't show all the ingredients as it was delivered to me and they put some side ingredients in other packaging that came with it that I hadn't put into the soup yet for the photo below).

Anyway, if you like a soup style dish, I can see why you'd like pozole.

While I don't like soup much, what I had was tasty and the chicken cooked well.

They did add some weird vegetables inside it that I wasn't a big fan of but it didn't ruin the meal for me.

All around, it was OK. Not something I'd try ever again but it wasn't a bad meal (I'm just not into soups much).

Sopa Azteca

If I'm not mistaken, I think this is also called "tortilla soup" but it is also known as "Sopa Azteca."

Basically a soup with cheese, cream, tortilla chips, a little bit of chicharron, some green vegetable thing and whatever else.

While I'm not big into soups, I actually enjoyed this one a bit more than any other soup I've tried.

I'm not sure if I'd eat it ever again as I don't usually go for soup but it is something I wouldn't mind trying again.

Here's a picture of what I had.

Sopa de Lima

Oddly enough, this doesn't come from Lima, Peru!

Actually, the "lima" just means lime.

Anyway, it's another soup I tried for the purposes of this article as you can see it here.

The soup anyway consisted of a very small amount of chicken, garlic, lime, tomatoes, onion, etc.

All around, it was OK.

I didn't care for it much and I wouldn't try it again but the taste was fine.

Flan

Originally brought over by Spain to Mexico, this is a classic you'll find Mexicans enjoying across the country.

We all know what flan is so not much explanation needed.

Here's a picture of one I had recently.

Churros

Though I don't usually eat anything too sweet, churros are my preferred sweet snack to enjoy in Mexico.

Very cheap!

I've bought them for as little as 1 peso each in the street and the one you see in the photo below was only 4 pesos.

Sweet but it's not a huge thing to eat like the Chile en Nogada.

Quick snack to enjoy and nothing about it that I dislike.

For a good churro in Mexico City, you can buy them off the street if you want something really cheap or you can get the best churros I have found at a place called "Churreria El Moro."

Molletes

Similar to the pambazo, I found the mollete to be nicer than I expected.

I say that because I only tried it recently a few months ago and I always thought that it was quite small.

Perhaps I thought so because, in my time going to other restaurants, sometimes the mollete that I saw other customers eating always seemed very small in portion size.

However, to my pleasant surprise, the mollete that I ordered not too long ago was pretty normal sized as you can see here.

I actually considered buying a burrito with it because I wasn't sure how small it was going to be but I'm happy that I didn't as it wasn't necessary.

One of which is chorizo and the other is chicken that I took home with me.

And not only was it decently sized beyond what I expected but it tasted pretty well too.

Recommended.

Tamale

The tamale was likely the very first Mexican food I ever had in Mexico if my memory serves me right (or one of the first anyway).

It started back almost a decade ago when I took my first trip to Mexico (and was also my first trip to Latin America) that you can read about here.

I was walking with a group of other Americans and we had some street food where someone was selling tamales.

In short, I hated it.

I fucking hated tamales.

It literally almost made me throw up.

Why?

Well, it wasn't the taste nor did it give me food sickness.

It was just something about the texture of the food that, for whatever reason, I hated in the moment and my body almost ejected it back out of my mouth.

After that moment, I had some more tamales in Guatemala not too long after and got used to the food.

Since Guatemala, I never had a tamale again as far as I can remember.

While I don't hate tamales anymore and can get behind eating one again, it's just not a type of food that I care that much about.

If I ever get around to eating another one (and maybe I will for this article you are reading now), I'll post a pic of it below.

Anyway, in order to make sure I don't suffer again from eating that shit, here's a video of what a tamale looks like for those curious.

Elotes & Esquites

Being from Iowa, you'd think I'd like the elotes and esquites, right?

Correct!

It's actually one thing I like about Mexico is that they serve these corn based snacks all around the city.

I remember my first time trying an elote outside of a Walmart years ago that was close to Cuatro Caminos metro.

A girlfriend of mine was walking with me out of the Walmart with groceries and she encouraged me to buy one for us.

I did.

And liked it!

Have had them since.

But what is the difference between the two?

Well, from my foreign understanding, the main difference is that esquites is served off the cob and in a cup while elotes are served on the cob.

Unfortunately, I don't have much to say about it nor do I have a personal photo of either one (will buy some later and post a picture at some point in the future). 

All I can say is that I'm a fan of it!

Here's a video of both of them for those curious.

Dorilocos

Next, we have the "dorilocos."

This is a street food snack that is popular in Mexico and can be found around Mexico City.

This food very much reminds me of when I was in high school where we all ate something called a "walking taco."

But this is not a walking taco (in fact, it doesn't taste as nice in my opinion).

Basically, you get a bag of doritos and fill it with other chips like cheetos and then add things like hot sauce, cream, lettuce, corn, peanuts, other vegetables, etc.

Honestly, it's not the worst snack in the world but not something I care for much nor would usually buy.

Having said that, I obviously don't have a recent photo of it right now (but will make sure to buy one later for purposes of this article).

Until then, here's a video of what "dorilocos" looks like.

Machete

Similar to other food items mentioned here, the "machete" is typical of more common Mexican food in that it represents another food item quite strongly: the quesadilla.

Here's a picture of one I ate not too long ago.

It very much reminded me of a quesadilla.

On top of that, when I was looking into new foods to try, I read online that the "machete" was supposed to be SO HUGE that I would have to basically be starving to eat the whole thing.

Not true!

It's definitely bigger than a quesadilla but the one I purchased in the photo above was easy to finish without having to be THAT hungry.

Anyway, it consisted of chicken, lettuce, cheese, cream and red salsa.

While being very similar to a quesadilla, I quite liked the "machete" A LOT more than actual quesadillas.

Much tastier and highly recommended.

Tlacoyo

The "tlacoyo" as you see in the photo below was a bean style tlacoyo.

It very much reminded me of the huarache and, if I had to guess, is probably some cousin of it.

Despite being similar to the huarache, I found it stood on its own and was also very tasty.

It involved bean, cheese, cream and supposedly "nopales" but I didn't find any "nopales" on it.

Anyway, it was delicious.

I probably wouldn't eat it as a meal in of itself unless they put some type of meat on it (like chicharron).

However, if I was to have an appetizer to split it in half with someone, I'd pick this as something suitable for that.

Tlayuda

Not really sure how to describe this type of food beyond sharing a picture of it.

The one you see in the photo above included chicken.

While it was a little bit burnt as you can see, it wasn't terrible in taste.

But, even if not slightly burnt, I don't think I would ever find this type of food overly appealing.

Mostly because the other ingredients didn't work well together in my opinion (WAY too much onion).

It had so much onion that I'm almost surprised they don't call this thing a "Cebolladilla."

While not a terrible thing to try out, the food itself was just not overly tasty nor memorable. It wasn't bad to try but not something that would make me overly excited to try it again.

Molcajete

For those who don't know, there's some black object thing made out of volcanic stone that is used to serve food with in Mexico.

It's known as a molcajete.

Basically you put take the molcajete when it's hot as fuck and thrown in whatever type of meat you prefer, cactus stuff, onions, cheese and salsa with tortillas placed on the side.

The meat I chose when trying this out was chorizo.

And, because I usually prefer eating at home, I had this food ordered to take home with me.

For that reason, they basically gave me each food item (the meat, the onions, the cactus thing, the molcajete, etc) separately for me to put it all together myself.

Though, because I was taking it home, they obviously gave me a molcajete made out of plastic and not volcanic stone.

You can see it below here.

Note: The picture above is a tiny bit incomplete. I didn't add the salsa nor all of the meat just yet but it gives you an idea of what it would kinda look like.

While making it, I tried to follow instructions and photos online as to how to "reconstruct it" and put it together like you'd normally see it in a restaurant.

Above is how I made it (right before placing the onions and the salsa inside).

Honestly, the food itself was very tasty (never tried cactus before and didn't know I would like it).

The chorizo and cheese were done well.

Obviously, my "putting it together" doesn't make it look as appetizing as what you'll see in photos and videos online done by professionals.

Still, I tried!

Worth it?

Well, the food was only worth 4 bucks.

And, while I enjoyed it, I did think to myself in the end that this is more of a type of food that you eat in a restaurant instead of taking out. 

That way the presentation looks more professional instead of having you put it back together.

Even while putting it together, I wondered to myself "why am I putting all of this into the molcajete when I can just throw it onto the tortillas to begin with?"

Really just seems like extra steps to eating.

And, on top of that, I didn't see much difference between this and tacos.

Sure, in Mexico, tacos often come with cilantro and this didn't have cilantro.

But it has the tortillas, cheese, meat and salsa.

And it has onions (though they aren't chopped up).

So just replace the cilantro with cactus stuff.

A "cactus and meat" taco?

Basically!

Another one of those "basically just a taco" meals in Mexico (despite the very nuanced differences that only a few and few foreigners could care about).

Having said that, it was tasty and I would eat it again but only if I was eating it in a restaurant while sitting down and not taking it home with me.

On the surface, it feels like this is more of a "presentation" food really.

Meaning that the presentation of it is a large part of its value.

Like when you order a fajita back home and it comes with sizzling and making lots of noise and all that smoke and you feel like you are getting A REAL MEAL HERE.

If I ever ordered a molcajete in a restaurant (and assuming it came out like I see online), then I'd imagine it'd be a nice presentation also that you don't get with every meal.

Otherwise, I'm not sure why I'd eat this again and not just go for a taco (unless I REALLY REALLY wanted to eat a cactus again).

Anyway, it was worth trying, was very tasty and I would probably order this again but only while sitting down in a restaurant.

Salbutes & Panuchos with Cochinita Pibil

Both from Yucatan area.

And they both look basically the same.

Taste wise?

Very similar.

Main difference, from what I understand, is that the salbutes don't have refried beans inside the tortillas.

While I normally like beans, I kinda like the panuchos more.

Both came with cochinita pibil on top of them.

For those who don't know, cochinita pibil is a traditional Yucatec Mayan slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

Also something I strongly recommend you try in Mexico!

Anyway, when it comes to the salbutes and panuchos, they fill you up FAST to my surprise. 

Ain't no fucking joke.

They look small but they fill me up quick.

Here's a picture of them.

Anyway, over the last month, I've been trying new foods from Mexico that I've never had before.

At this point, I'm basically just getting delivered to my house any "regional" food that is from somewhere else.

Some of the foods are OK tasting (not worth trying again) and some, like the food you see in the last photo, are FUCKING AWESOME.

Will definitely have this again.

Tonayan

As I combed though old photos of things I've eaten or had to drink in Mexico, I came across this photo here and figured I'd mention it.

....What is it?

Well, it's a type of alcoholic drink made in Mexico called Tonayan.

As you can read here, it supposedly has some dog piss in it (not sure how true that is).

"El tonayán es una bebida alcohólica mexicana. Es un destilado de caña de dudosa calidad, siendo su composición 70% alcohol (metanol), 20% tinte para cabello castaño claro, y 10% orina de perro. "

And can apparently make you blind if you drink too much of it (apparently to be fair).

"Esto es en realidad un mito a medias, pues al igual que el resto de bebidas alcohólicas de mayor calidad, degustar un trago de Tonayán o consumir algunos vasos preparados con dicho licor no te dejará ciego; sin embargo, su contenido etílico es tan alto que los expertos de la salud alertaron en 2017 que su consumo excesivo y por largos periodos de tiempo si podría causar efectos adversos como hemorragias cerebrales, las cuáles derivarían en una posible ceguera."

I had it once.

It's the cheapest alcoholic item you can find in Mexico (or that I have seen anyway).

Last time I bought it, it was like 30 pesos or something for a whole liter.

Cheap as fuck!

Worth it?

Well, it didn't make me go blind.

It didn't have much of a taste to it though (wasn't very strong).

Personally, I wouldn't drink it regularly because I don't know how true the "dog piss" rumor is but it wasn't terrible.

More of a "alcoholic homeless person" or "cheap college student" drink.

A little bit of a story about that here where a homeless man in Mexico City tried to help me find cheap liquor past the hours the city would sell it to me.

Anyway, if you are new to Mexico and want to try something alcoholic that all the fresas and fifis would cry in horror at, go for Tonayan!

....And if your vision goes bad afterwards, don't blame me!

Mexican Vodka Brands

Since we're not on the topic of liquor and alcohol, might as well go into vodka, right?

Of course, given this is Mexico, we could discuss mezcal and tequila.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of mezcal or tequila. I don't mind it but it's not my favorite to drink.

More into vodka, brandy, whiskey or rum.

And, when it comes to Mexican vodka, I'm a bit of an expert.

I've probably had more Mexican vodka in my life than your average Mexican that you know personally.

....And that's no fucking joke!

Especially if we are talking about cheap vodka brands like the few you can see here: Oso Negro and Zaverich.

Between the two, Oso Negro tends to have a worse reputation among Mexicans for being VERY nasty tasting.

In my experience, it is a bit nasty but -- in case you didn't know this -- the nasty taste tends to "become normal" and not so noticeable after you've had about 50 bottles of it.

....It gets better, I promise!

Between the two though, I strongly recommend Zaverich.

It tastes SO MUCH BETTER when you mix it with black tea (and probably other mixes also).

It's less likely to leave you with some "burned throat" taste or whatever you want to call it.

Both of which are, from my knowledge, Mexican brand vodkas!

The thing about Zaverich though -- in case you want to buy it -- is that you'll have better luck in any 7-11, Circle K, Chedraui, La Europea, etc as of this writing in 2022.

So What Mexican Food Do I Like the Most?

Finally, let's wrap this up by mentioning what are my favorite foods out of all of the ones mentioned in this article.

Basically, in no particular orders (depends on the day), my favorite Mexican foods are the following:

1. Fajitas/Alambres

2. Flautas

3. Tostadas

4. Gorditas

5. Enchiladas/Enfrijoladas

6. Salbutes/Panuchos

And which ones would I probably not try again?

1. Gringas

2. Queso fundido

3. Burritos (not actually sure how Mexican or tex-mex this one is but regardless I do see it sold down here in non-touristy areas).

4. Pan de Muerto

5. Tonayan

6. Sopes (I don't dislike sopes but I don't see the reason to eat them when you got better food items that seem similar and better like tostadas).

7. Tamale

8. Pozole (it was tasty as I said but I just don't like having soup).

9. Tlayuda

Anything Else?

As I said, this list is just a very basic introduction to Mexican food.

You will find so much more diversity when you compare foods from different states of Mexico like you would in any country.

Certain food items that are just more common in certain areas and not as common elsewhere.

Either way, this list includes primarily foods that I happen to have pictures of and have eaten more commonly while in Mexico.

Actually, they reflect more the types of food you find in the street because I tend to eat street food more often than anything else.

Anyway, I will agree ahead of time that obviously this list, like I said, could include so many more food items from other states but I'm only writing on anyway what is available to me in the streets down here of Mexico City.

Over time before I get traveling again, I'll make sure to update this list with more food items that I can find out there.

And, on top of that, if there is some dish in Mexico not mentioned here that you really like, let me know in the comments.

Perhaps I'll get around to trying and post a picture of it here (just make sure it's not fish or soup based because I never eat fish and I've had enough soup after trying pozole).

Would love to hear it and maybe I'll get around to trying it out.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

Follow my Twitter here.

Best regards,

Matt 

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