Best maize corn is dried in the plant and collected manually
By Roberto Escartín
Piles of corn, beans, cactus leaves, chili peppers and tomatoes, avocados, other vegetables and even grasshoppers coming from different regions of the country can be smelled and seen in San Juan Market, one of the many local hubs where chefs get fresh ingredients to delight our senses. Once they are prepared following a traditional recipe and served on the table, you must have “tortillas” (soft flat bread made from corn and sometimes wheat), which usually are fair yellow but corn can have reddish or bluish tone people are so proud of. The city is a true blender of all the flavors from the Country.
Fresh vegetables are the base of an immense number of dishes, many of them cooked in sauces made with tomatoes or tomatillo, with the spark of dozens of varieties of chili peppers. The most traditional food for a celebration is called mole, a blend of several dry peppers and spice used as an ever-present sauce for turkey or chicken, served with rice, or used to fill “tamales”, the universal food of indigenous Latin America.
Chile ancho relleno y capeado
The richness of Mexican cuisine derives directly from the biological and ethnic diversity of this country —sometimes described as many countries. The region where Mexico City is located belongs to the Central Plateau and through the centuries it has established connections with other areas and received migrants who have enriched the kitchens. That means you can taste different regional cuisines in the capital, plus influences from abroad, mainly from Spain, France and the Middle East. The gastronomic scene in Mexico City constantly evolves and recombines milled by competition among cooks, borrowings and demanding gourmands.
From Northern Mexico arrived the tender fish tacos and dishes prepared with beans and beef, like the celebrated roasted kid, always bite with wheat “tortillas”. A new food trend emerged in Ensenada, where seafood specialities have been decanted to become sublime paired with wine from the Baja Californian peninsula.
The Pacific Coast provides daily fresh fish, shrimp, octopus, calms, oysters, squid and crayfish to the different restaurants, some located in public markets, others in the chic quarters of the city. This slice of Mexican food has become very popular, sometimes with the influence of Japanese and Peruvian food (also directly served in their respective culinary embassies, also hard to avoid) well known as “ceviche” and “tiraditos”.
The Heartland of Mexico was conquered by Spaniards who enthusiastically adopted the local ways and ingredients to create a sort of creole cuisine, widespread because it is the most populated area in the country. This area likes pork very much. Under this category, you can find the popular “pozole” a stew of large white maize, prepared in three different types: green, white and red (like the Mexican flag) but never mixed because each has its own origin and ingredients. Another popular staple are “antojitos”, very elaborated snacks, usually served with beer, tequila or mezcal to enhance a conversation with friends or family.
Red Pozole and its companions: onion, lettuce, sliced radish, onion and cilantro.
In the South and South-west of Mexico flavors are more concentrated, and the use of fresh and dry chili peppers is universal. The gulf coast provides fish and shells and tomato is used in the traditional Veracruz style, adding olives, capers and peppers. Oaxaca has a strong presence in the capital of Mexico and some of the most prestigious chefs have borrowed ingredients from this rich culinary region. Also tamales, black mole, cheese and other dishes from Oaxaca are on the summit of popularity. Chocolate is one of the many ingredients of mole, but when it is a bit sweet and brown, it means that the formula proudly comes from Puebla. More recently, grasshoppers and worms are offered as snacks, in an attempt to bring attention to ancient ways of eating. The Yucatan influence is less evident, but in many places you will find the red condiment “achiote” use in some dishes, being the most spread one “cochinita pibil” or fish “a la talla”. You must visit a speciality Yucatan cuisine restaurant to understand the magic of this rich flavors.
White tilapia marinated in achiote, the red fruit from Yucatan.
Maize corn is used in a big variety of dishes, preparations and presentations. Some of the most conspicuous are tacos (in Spanish meaning a small cylinder), filled with chicken or shredded beef. A common question you are asked is ¿Con Todo?, which is not philosophical but refers to the dressings: shredded cheese, onion, hot sauce, sour cream or more. You can accept the cooks taste or request your preference, usually resting what you do not wish to have p.e. sin crema, por favor. But tacos are a kingdom on their own: From the humble “tacos de canasta” (home-made soft folded and filled, kept warm in a basket), to the popular “tacos al pastor” Middle East influenced and topicalized pile of pork in a red formula and served just cooked to the fathoms; “tacos de carnitas” are the braised pork announced with a hypnotic light bulb, this time you have to choose from guts, meat or combinations. The “tacos de barbacoa”, an underground braised lamb in agave leaves, only prepared by specialists every week-end. A more expensive but nice kind of tacos are those “al carbón”, prepared with beef in front of you.
The home-made “tacos de guisado”, are the essence of working class nutrition because include every available stew, including rice. Many of these tacos are served in street stalls, but also in casual inns called “fondas”, popular among office workers, where you can also have antojitos: the famous tostadas (crisp-fried corn tortillas, topped with refried beans, chicken, lettuce and sour cream); “flautas”, simply long-size crispy tacos; “enchiladas” fried, filled rolled tortillas with a variety of fillings, or “sopes”, little corn-dough flat bowls filled with sauce and shredded chicken. Along with sopes you can also find “tlacoyos”, similar but filled in with beans or chickpeas paste and topped with “nopales” (tender cacti leaves). To complete the family of authentic Mexican food, you can taste the local sandwiches, which Mexicans call tortas, made with French-style loaves, with a wide choice of fillings. The philosophical question comes here to a tautology: the “torta de tamal” or hunger-killer dish many like.
“Nopalitos” salad can be used to top tlacoyos. They usually have serrano chili pepper.
The origin of the name “quesadilla” can lead to endless discussions but it is better to avoid them and enjoy the all-purpose corn dough pastie, fried or cooked on a pan. Classic quesadillas are filled with cheese, but you can also find “rajas” (Poblano pepper deliciously prepared with sour cream), picadillo (ground beef) or squash flowers. As you can realize, the ever presence of Mesoamerican ingredients give Mexico City food the original touch, that can be enjoyed in a dish of “chilaquiles”, the crispy fried corn bathed in a green or red chili sauce, served with beans. When tasting these spicy dishes you should be cautions and then start enjoying every bite because a lot of knowledge and good taste is contained in every preparation. The gods have certainly being benevolent.
In our guided tours you can enjoy an authentic Mexican cuisine lunch or have recommendations to enjoy one.
Awarded restaurant in Mexico. By chef Enrique Olvera.
133 Tennyson st., Polanco.
RSVP +52 55 5545 4111 or 5203 6041
Original creations on Mexican cuisine. By Alejandra Flores & Jorge Vallejo.
55 Newton st., Polanco.
RSVP +52 55 5280 1660
A recreation of original Oaxaca recipes, sauces and flavors. By chefs Ruiz & Galán
513 Presidente Masaryk ave., Polanco.
RSVP +52 55 5280 3574
A design cuisine inspired in Mexican flavors. By chef Martha Ortiz, next door to Las Alcobas.
100 Anatole France st., Polanco.
RSVP +52 3300 3999
Original creations fresh from the market and monthly regional menu. By chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita.
30 Isabel la Catolica st., Centro Histórico.
RSVP +52 55 5521 3295 or 5510 1316
Revival of tasty recipes and favorites, finely attended in a trendy environment, beautiful historic house.
3 Allende st. Centro Histórico. RSVP
+52 55 5521 5576
Balcón del Zócalo
The table of Balcón is full of passion for excellent food by chef Antonio Salinas. Great location.
No. 61 Av. Cinco de Mayo, (Zocalo Central Hotel Terrace)
RSVP +52 55 5130 5134
A gastronomic delight, serving fresh from the morning market place. Awarded creations by chef Lalo.
133 Tonalá st., col. Roma.
Also at 65 bis Alvaro Obregón ave., colonia Roma
RSVP +52 5264 4291
Revival of the best Mexican recipes from grandmother's book, finely attended.
186-A Durango St., bt. Cibeles and Monterrey Ave.,
RSVP by phone +52 55 5525 4920
With Mexican ingredients Helena Reygadas have created masterpieces of cuisine to enjoy with delicious bread in your table.
166 Colima st. colonia Roma
RSVP +52 55 5207 2976
Contemporary vegan and Asian veggie.
Casual and delicious.
120 Puebla st. colonia Roma. Check menu.
Los Danzantes Coyacan
Creating a trendy taste of today's most interesting Oaxaca cuisine in Mexico City. Located in South Mexico City.
12 Centenario Square,
+52 55 6585 2477