If you think Mexican food means eating chimichangas or throwing cheese and cream on every dish, you really need to read this post!
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The other day I was looking at my Pinterest boards and I suddenly realized that it’s amazing how much Mexico has influenced other cuisines from all over the world.
However, I have also noticed there’s a belief that throwing some chili powder and cheese on a dish makes it Mexican, but that’s not very accurate at all.
As always, I am here to enlighten you and share some very surprising facts about the best kind of food there is- Mexican food!
10 Surprising Facts About Mexican Food
There are a few Mexican dishes that are famous, like tacos, guacamole, tamales, and enchiladas. It is true that those are very popular in Mexico too, but they are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to real Mexican food.
There so many dishes and ingredients, it’s almost impossible to know them all. In fact, authentic Mexican cuisine is very different from all the Mexican-inspired food that you normally get in any place that is not Mexico.
To give you an idea, take a look at this list of surprising facts about Mexican food.
1. Mexican cuisine is a rainbow
Every single Mexican dish is a mix of Native American and European ingredients and flavors with hints of African and Middle Eastern influence. This makes for an explosion of flavors that is truly surprising. It definitely takes a lot more than chili powder and cheese to cook like a Mexican.
2. Mexican cuisine is infinitely varied
There’s a whole lot more than just tacos in Mexico. The country is enormous, and so is the variety of food. There is a completely different kind of cuisine in every region.
For example, black mole sauce and tlayudas are typical of the southeastern province of Oaxaca. And in the Yucatan peninsula, you will find dishes like cochinita pibil and panuchos, which are traditional there.
So which is the most Mexican kind of food? Honestly, it depends on where in Mexico you are!
3. Mexican cuisine was influenced by immigrants
There many traditional dishes and ingredients that were adopted in Mexico after each wave of immigration.
For example, pastry-making and confectionery turned popular after two French invasions in the 19th century. Later, the arrival of more French and Italian immigrants brought other new ingredients, such as pasta and strong cheese.
In the central province of Hidalgo, Cornish settlers brought their traditional pasty, which later became the Mexican paste. In the coast, Caribbean influence is also noticeable in the local cuisine, with plantains and coconut oil.
In the 19th century, Chinese immigrants made rice a popular food and Lebanese arrivals made great contributions to Yucatan cuisine.
As you can see, Mexican food is really a melting pot of nationalities.
4. Mexican cuisine has a lot of vegetables in it
The main ingredients of Mexican cuisine are not cheese and meat, but vegetables. Ancient Mexican dishes were mostly veggie-based, and that has not changed too much.
Many typical dishes require corn, chili peppers or beans, and there’s also a whole parade of widely used vegetables that you probably have never heard of, such as quelites (lamb’s quarters), quintoniles (amaranth greens), huauzontles, romeritos, chayotes, cactus, and verdolagas (purslane), just to name a few.
Most of these are wild greens, and they are eaten cooked in spicy soups and stews.
5. Mexican cuisine has given many delicious gifts to the world
Mexico has contributed greatly to all the world’s cuisines with ingredients such as corn, tomatoes, avocados, cacao, beans, chili peppers, and vanilla. Would you be able to live without chocolate or vanilla? I didn’t think so. You’re welcome!
6. Mexican cuisine has some strange ingredients
You might be surprised to know that Mexicans eat flowers.
For example, flores de calabaza (squash blossoms) are great in soups and quesadillas. Flor de izote (yucca flowers) and gasparitos (coral tree flowers) are cooked in soups, stews, and even tamales.
Other strange ingredients are native mushrooms, like huitlacoche (corn smut), which is used as a filling for quesadillas.
And finally, the most terrifying ingredients of all are insects. You read that right! Mexican appetizers include roasted grasshoppers, maguey worm tacos, escamoles (ant larvas caviar), or ahuautle (salty mosquito-eggs). Hungry, anyone?
On a note, I have personally tried some of these insect dishes and they are pretty good, and a great source of protein too!
Flowers are also delicious. Squash blossoms taste like sweet spinach, and yucca flowers and coral tree flowers have a soft flavor that goes well with chili heat.
Grasshoppers taste like salty chips, worm tacos are creamy, ant larvas do taste like caviar, and mosquito eggs taste like ground shrimp. Surprising, right?
7. Mexican cuisine requires special utensils
There are several exclusively Mexican kitchen tools that are required to make authentic Mexican dishes.
A molcajete, for example, is not a dish. It is a small mortar that is used to grind spices or ingredients for salsa. Another is the molinillo, which is good for making frothy chocolate. There is also the comal, a flat pan which you need to properly make and heat tortillas.
These utensils have been used in Mexican kitchens for centuries to this day. Other traditional tools are almost no longer in use, like the metate, which was a large stone mortar that was used to grind corn to make flour.
8. Mexican cuisine represents an entire culture
Food is extremely important in Mexico. People and families define themselves by the dishes they make and eat, and everybody has a traditional food they love. Food is present in movies, books, and songs.
I especially recommend the book “Like Water For Chocolate”, by Laura Esquivel. It will help you understand Mexican people’s relationship with food, and it’s also a fascinating novel.
9. Mexican cuisine is a world treasure.
In 2010, Mexican Cuisine became a part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. The only cuisines on that list are French and Mexican. That’s how amazing Mexican food is.
10. Mexican food is best outside of a restaurant
Until recently, there was no such thing as high Mexican cuisine. Fine and authentic Mexican dishes are served in establishments across the country, but there is no Mexican restaurant on this planet that can compete with homemade food cooked by a Mexican mom or granny.
The best and most authentic dishes are made by ordinary people in little eateries or humble homes. Recipes are passed down across generations as part of a family’s heritage and dishes are gradually transformed and embellished. This is what makes Mexican food so special.
Feeling hungry yet? Run to nearest Mexican restaurant. Or better yet, come over to my beautiful country and enjoy the most colorful and delicious food in the world!