Anyone who has ever tasted a good Mexican dish is familiar with the rich palette of flavor that explodes in your mouth. The ethnic dance of spices, herbs, meats, and vegetables are enough to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. In truth, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy a good Mexican dish. But for something we all love so much, it’s surprising that we know so little about it. Things like it’s origin, history, and even preparation styles are all absent from the collective conscious of most Mexican food fans. Well, it’s time to change that. In today’s post you will learn about the true origin of Mexican food, some of the traditional preparation methods of your favorite Mexican dishes, and even some bizarre Mexican food items you probably did not realize existed. So if you want to learn more about the awesomeness that is Mexican food, check out today’s list: 25 Things you might not know about Mexican food. And if you are a food junkie and want to learn about some of the spiciest foods you’ve ever eaten, check out 25 of the world’s spiciest foods. Warning, this list is not for the spice intolerant people out there.
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Mexican cuisine is more ancient than you might think; many of Mexico’s more traditional recipes hail straight from the Aztecs and Mayans.
However, it is the Spaniards who influenced Mexican food as we know it today. The traditional Mexican foods (inherited from Mayan and Aztec recipes) were changed as the Spanish colonized Mexico, bringing their own cooking ideas, methods, and ingredients.
In the 1520s, the Spaniards imported to Mexico plants and animals that no Mexican had ever seen. These included horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and chickens. Among the condiments that were introduced were olive oil, cinnamon, parsley, coriander, oregano, and black pepper. The Spaniards also introduced nuts and grains such as almonds, rice, wheat, and barley; and fruit and vegetables including apples, oranges, grapes, lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes (brought from Peru), and sugarcane (from whence comes sugar).
Tortillas are the staple food of Mexico. They are made of corn or flour, and the preferred variety differs from one part of the country to another. Tortillas are used in many dishes and can be soft or crunchy.
Between 1864 and 1867, Mexico was ruled by the former Austrian archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, who was kept in power by French troops. Though Maximilian’s reign was brief and tragic, French cooking left its mark on many Mexican-style dishes. French-inspired Mexican dishes include chiles en nogada (stuffed chilies in walnut sauce) and conejo en mostaza (rabbit in mustard sauce).
During colonial times, experimentally minded Spanish women and members of Spanish religious orders invented much of today’s more sophisticated Mexican gastronomy. Nuns pioneered such traditional Mexican fare as the candy called cajeta, fritter-like buñuelos, and the egg-based liqueur rompope.
In 1519 when the first Spanish conquistadors entered the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán (where Mexico City stands today), they found the Aztec emperor Montezuma quite fond of a drink concocted from vanilla and chocolate and sweetened with honey. This was a native Mexican-Indian dish probably invented by the Maya, which would later find worldwide acceptance in various forms including the milk shake.
Also from the colonial period comes such fare as lomo en adobo (pork loin in a spicy sauce), chiles rellenos (chilies stuffed with cheese, beef, or pork), guacamole (avocado, tomato, onion, chili, and coriander), and escabeche (marinades).
Some Mexican dishes, especially those originating from the Yucatán and Vera Cruz, also have a Caribbean influence. Other Mexican dishes, such as bolillo, have a French influence. Bolillo is a popular Mexican bread.
Fajitas were actually brought to prominence by Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo, who named her restaurant after herself—Ninfa’s. The dish was so simple in its appeal that other restaurants tried to steal her special recipe by sending spies to her restaurant.
Mexican food found in the US is usually called “Tex Mex.” The name came from the fusion of flavor from Texan, Mexican, and American cuisine. Burritos, fajitas, and quesadillas are some of the most popular examples of Tex Mex.
Northern Mexico likes its dishes with meat, while Mexico’s southern states prefer chicken and vegetables as the main ingredients. Both regions, however, tend to use the meat as a relish, instead of the main ingredient.
Quesadillas are one of the mainstays of Mexico’s street stands, and are considered quintessentially Mexican. It turns out that they, like Mexicans themselves, are hybrid creations, half indigenous and half Spanish. The corn tortilla, with which quesadillas are put together, is Native American; the cheese, as well as the pork and/or beef that may accompany the cheese, is Spanish; in terms of the garnish, the hot sauce made with chili pepper is indigenous, but the shredded lettuce is Spanish.
Even though Mexican food is mainly known for being spicy and heavy it’s actually quite healthy; it’s high in vitamins and minerals and low in fat. Some dietitians consider it the perfect blend of the important food groups: meat, dairy, grains, and vegetables.
Last but not least, if you thought that only Asians specialize in using some of the grossest animals in their cuisines you will find it interesting to know that some traditional Mexican food recipes include ingredients such as iguana and rattlesnake.