Known for its varied flavors and spices, Mexican Cuisine is a historical result of the Spanish invasion and the interaction with Aztec culture. Most of the Mexican food we eat today being a combination of those Aztec, Mayan and Spanish food cultures. Mexican cuisine is considered one of the most varied in the world, after Chinese and Indian.
Four Mexican Food Regions
Mexican food varies by region because of Mexico's large size, local climate and geography, ethnic differences among the indigenous inhabitants.
The north of Mexico is known for its beef, goat and ostrich production and meat dishes, in particular the well-known arrachera cut. Northern Mexico is also known for its carne asada (grilled meat), an item that consists of thin beef steak which is marinated by rubbing with olive oil and sea salt or with spice rubs before being cooked on a grill. This dish is traditional in the states of Sonora, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Coahuila, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Durango, and Tamaulipas.
In the Yucatán, the food has a unique, natural sweetness which comes from the use of achiote seasoning. In contrast, the Oaxacan region is known for its savory tamales, celebratory moles, and simple tlayudas, while the mountainous regions of the West are known for goat birria (goat in a spicy tomato-based sauce). Cochinita pibil is a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Península.
Central Mexico's cuisine is largely influenced by the rest of the country, but has unique and tasty dishes such as pozole, menudo, barbacoa and carnitas.
Southeastern Mexico is known for its spicy vegetable and chicken-based dishes and the cuisine has a considerable Caribbean influence due to its location. Seafood is commonly prepared in states that border the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico, the latter having a famous reputation for its fish dishes.
In pueblos or villages, there are also more exotic dishes, cooked in the Aztec or Mayan style with ingredients ranging from deer to iguana and rattlesnake.
The staples of Mexican foods are typically corn and beans. Corn is used to make masa, a dough for tamales, tortillas and other corn-based foods. Corn is also eaten fresh, as corn on the cob and as an accompaniment to other dishes. Next to corn, rice is the most common grain in Mexican cuisine. The use of squash and chili peppers is also prominent. The most frequently used herbs and spices in Mexican cuisine are chilies, oregano, cilantro, epazote, cinnamon, and cocoa. Chipotle, a smoke-dried jalapeño chili, is also common in Mexican cuisine. Many Mexican dishes also contain garlic and onions.
Honey and Cocoa are also important ingredients in some Mexican dishes, such as the rosca de miel, a bundt-like cake, and in beverages such as balché.