Many Cultures Influence The Taste Of Mexican

Do you love and crave the wonderful flavors and aromas of Mexican foods? Many people do today. However, many of the different dishes that we may consider as Mexican foods are influenced by outside sources. These sources came from a great many other cultures as the new world was being discovered by those who came into the country from faraway places by way of the oceans or by trekking over land from closer destinations.

Interestingly, you can go to different locations in Mexico and the same dish will have a different taste, aroma, and flavor. This is really nothing unusual since if you visit various southern States, even the southern fried chicken recipes will vary in ingredients, flavors and aromas. It is the same for many different types of foods recipes with the same title all over the world. The reason for this is that most people will use what they have on hand while creating meals for themselves and their families. Although, there are many fundamental ingredients useful for making different types of Hispanic foods, many Mexican foods are influenced by many other cultures.

The Fundamentals of Mexican Recipes

Basics included some local wild game, which was not abundant. However, their diet did include from time to time such meats sources as wild turkey, deer, ducks, and rabbit. Other foods include various types of delicious fruits native to the area as well as honey, vanilla, cacao or chocolate, salt, corn, beans, squash, avocados, tomatoes, and fish. However, various strong native herbs, spices, and chilies are included to add zest and flavor to many different foods.

The meat from cactus was also useful for creating a base in many of the main dishes of traditional Mexican foods. They also made use of lard in their many recipes rather than butter or margarine, since it was rendered while cooking the fat off animals. This bit of lard included in their recipes is one of the main ingredients that enhance the flavors and aroma of their many different dishes.

Delicious Ingredients Added to Mexican Recipes

As time passed along many different types of cultures of people have made their own special impression on the variety of ingredients that are useful today for making a delicious family meal, a side dish or even party foods and desserts. For instance, others food sources included pork, beef and lamb, garlic, coriander, wheat and other herbs and spices. However, many other cultures have added their own special spin on these types of recipes down through the years.

Mexican Cooking Utensils

Long ago, Mexican foods were made in clay or earthen cookware. It is the use of these more natural cooking aids and tools that help give authentic Mexican food its wonderful aroma and taste. Cooking Mexican foods in metal is another modern addition to the changes that many of these recipes have seen as the years have passed. Although, cooking in metal cookware can create some wonderful tasty dishes and treats, it cannot replicate the original tastes of this type of food since; pottery is the initial or fundamental component. You may not choose to use authentic Mexican pottery cookware unless it is marked as safe for food and lead free. Any pottery cookware that is not safe should be marked as for decorative use only.

Mexican Barbacoa and Traditional Mexican

The word “barbacoa” is Mexican in origin and refers to a whole animal or a cut of meat cooked slowly over an open fire. Traditionally a barbacoa referred to a fire pit dug into the ground but today it can mean any kind of barbecued or even steamed meat.

Slow-cooked cow head, or “barbacoa de cabeza” is a famous Mexican food in the north of the country. Most Mexican barbacoa recipes do not use marinades or sauces while the meat is cooking, although sometimes a sauce is added when the meat is ready.

In pre-Mexican times, fish, turkey, beans and game were cooked over open fire pits for many hours. The Spanish introduced sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and cattle, and these were cooked in the same way.

Barbacoa in the United States

A barbacoa is usually made with cow head parts, such as cheeks, in the United States. Goat meat is more common in northern Mexico and pork is popular in the Yucatan region. In central Mexico, lamb is the most popular choice for barbacoa.

Recipe for Beef Barbacoa

This is a South Texas style recipe, since a chuck roast is used rather than a cow head or cow cheeks. The combination of chili, oregano, garlic and black pepper enhances the flavor of the meat and the slow cooking makes the beef so tender it literally falls off the bone.

Transferring the beef from the hot oven into a paper grocery bag mimics the traditional barbacoa effect, in that steam and heat work together to make the beef tender and delicious.

You will need:

  • 3 lbs bone-in chuck roast
  • 1 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

How to make it:

Combine the oregano, pepper, garlic, salt and chili powder and rub the mixture all over the chuck roast. Put some soaked wood chips close to the heating element of a water smoker, then put three quarts of boiling water in the water pan. Smoke the beef between 225 and 275 degrees F for four hours, checking the water level in the smoker halfway through the cooking time and topping it up if necessary.

The beef should have an internal temperature of between 160 and 170 degrees F when it is ready. Put the chuck roast in a baking pan and seal aluminum foil over the top. Bake it for an hour and forty five minutes at 325 degrees F, then take the foil-wrapped package out of the oven and put it in a big paper grocery bag or two overlapping medium ones.

Fold the bag over to make a seal, and then leave the beef in there for forty five minutes. Take the meat out of the roasting pan and shred it into small pieces. Serve with hot flour tortillas, salsa and guacamole.

Traditional Mexican Foods

Traditional Mexican foods are typically prepared by those who have a well stocked kitchen including all of the best tools needed to make the tasty meals the country is so well known for. In addition, although some of these tools are no longer commonly found in kitchens having been replaced by the more modern conveniences of today, they are still used by the many who want to lend an air of authenticity to the cooking process.

Traditionally, comals, or flat skillets, were made from clay but as modern stoves grew hotter, the clay became impractical. The comals of today are made of cast iron or steel and should be seasoned before using by baking in the oven after coating with bacon grease or lard. Some brands come already seasoned for the cook’s convenience.

Do not wash your comal with soap and water after using it to cook tortillas or toast peppers but instead, wipe with a clean cloth and carefully dry over a low flame.

The often used Mexican chocolate tool somewhat resembles a baby’s rattle and this wooden tool with its long handle is used like a whisk for whipping chocolates. A Tortilla press is another must have tool for Mexican cooking and it is used to press down or flatten balls of dough for making none other than corn or flour tortillas.

Tortilla presses are usually made of metal and can be found in different sizes.

Now that you have an idea as to some of the tools, you can use to make traditional Mexican foods why not try your hand at making a spicy, smoky beef stew from the Michoacan region of Mexico?

Smoky Michoacan Beef Stew Recipe

What You Need

  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 to 3 pounds beef stew meat, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large white or yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 large tomatoes (about 1 pound), diced
  • 2 small to medium chipotle chilies, seeded and chopped
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 1 can green beans

How to Make It

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and seasonings and blend well. Add the cubes of stewing meat to the flour, toss, and coat well. Set the pieces of coated beef aside on a plate.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat and add the coated pieces of beef. Brown each piece completely and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium low and add the minced garlic and chopped onions. Cook until the garlic is soft and the onions have turned translucent in color.

Add the diced tomatoes, the chopped chilies, and the beef stock then cover and simmer over low heat for 1 to 1/2 hours or until the beef is cooked through and tender.

Add the green beans to the pot and cook for another 15 minutes.

Serve your hot Michoacan beef stew along with bowls of beans or rice.

Serves 4 to 6.

Enjoying Traditional Foods In Modern Times

Mexican cuisine has been evolving for centuries with influences that reach halfway around the globe that have also withstood the test of time. One of the most flavorful and recognizable in the entire world, Mexican foods consists of a few unique ingredients along with some of the most commonly used items in all types of cuisine.

Corn, rice, and beans are three of the most traditional as well as inexpensive ingredients used in Mexican cooking and they have remained an integral part of the entire Mexican food experience. These foods along with a variety of peppers and spices such as Mexican oregano and, of course, dried chilies combine to create some of the most aromatic dishes ever created such as carnitas.

Carnitas, which translates into “little meats” in Spanish, refers to pork meat that is browned, braised, or roasted and is a dish that has been enjoyed for many years. Carnitas dishes are well known and may vary by region throughout the large country of Mexico and the pieces of pork are often served along with refried beans, salsa, and tortillas.

Traditionally, carnitas were cooked only in copper pots over a low flame to ensure even heat distribution and cooking but you can use any kind of pot with a thick, solid bottom for making all of your carnitas recipes.

Cheddar Cheese Carnitas Recipe

What You Need

  • 3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 2-1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 4 tortillas, warmed
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup avocado, diced
  • 1/2 cup black olives, diced
  • Sour cream for serving

How to Make It

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat the olive or vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the 1 inch pieces of pork along with salt and pepper to taste until each piece is browned on all sides. After browning, place the pork in a casserole dish with a lid that fits securely.

Leave about 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet before adding the onions and cooking over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the minced garlic and the finely chopped jalapenos to the skillet and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the onions, garlic, and jalapenos to the casserole dish along with the chicken broth. Stir to mix well and add the lid.

Bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until the pork is tender stirring the casserole only once during cooking. If the liquid cooks away before the pork is done, you can add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water to keep everything from burning.

Add the carnitas mixture to the warmed tortillas and serve along with toppings including shredded cheddar cheese, diced avocados, tomatoes, black olives, and a few dollops of sour cream or the toppings of your choice.

Vegetarian Traditional Foods

There are plenty of authentic Mexican food recipes, which would suit a vegetarian. Most of the Mexican food staples are vegetarian anyway, and that includes beans, tomatoes, chili peppers, and corn. Beans, vegetables, and cheese feature in a lot of traditional Mexican foods designed for non-carnivores and rice and tortillas are a tasty starch staple served with them.

You can convert a lot of beef or chicken recipes too, by using tofu or beans to replace the meat. There are a lot of appetizers, which are already meat-free, including nopalitos, molletes, and most salsa recipes.

Molletes are sandwiches and they can be savory or sweet. They are made with a bolillo, which is a crusty bun, which is stuffed and then broiled or baked. Sweet molletes are made with sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Savory ones contain cheese and beans. Nopalitos are cactus paddles, which are diced and added to appetizers or salads. Salsa is nearly always meat-free and it can be served with totopos, which are Mexican tortilla chips.

The Place of Meat in Mexican Food History

The indigenous people of Mexico had access to beans, corn, papayas, squash, avocados, sweet potatoes and cactus paddles but limited access to meat, although they did fish a lot (those in the coastal areas, at least) and eat wild turkeys.

Until the Spanish introduced pigs, sheep, goats and cattle to the indigenous people of Mexico, they did not have these animals. The Spanish also introduced black pepper, rice, wheat, cilantro, cheese, olive oil, and lettuce.

Modern meat-free Mexican food is widely available in Mexico although you will find it harder to find vegan food. This is because most meat-free Mexican food recipes include eggs, cream, or cheese. Burritos are usually filled with one ingredient only so you can choose one with beans, cheese, or rice. Tacos can be vegetarian, as can quesadillas and tamales.

Vegetarian pozole, gazpacho (a chilled soup), huevos rancheros, and chilaquiles are other options. Chilaquiles are made with corn tortillas soaked in a red or green sauce. They can contain chicken or fried eggs. Chiles rellenos, which are stuffed chili peppers, are served without meat during Lent. As you can see, there are plenty of easy Mexican recipes you could make if you do not eat meat or poultry.

Recipe for Mini Vegetarian Tortilla Quiches

This Mexican food recipe combines cheese, corn, onions and more and flour tortillas are used instead of pastry. These little snacks are perfect for lunch or supper and you can liven them up with as much hot sauce as you want.