Everyone knows that the best food in Mexico is on the street. The internationally acclaimed Mexican taco gets all the press but there are hundreds of other delicious bites to be found on the sidewalks of Mexico. Here’s a primer on a handful of delights that go beyond tacos.
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Crisp on the outside, tlacoyos are thick corn patties filled with creamy ricotta cheese or beans (refried or fava). Ancient in name and popularity, tlacoyos can be found all across the country in their ubiquitous football shape and with a consistency somewhere between a tortilla and corn bread. They are generally served with raw onion, nopal cactus and cilantro on top, along with grated cheese and salsa.
Flickr/Nicholas Lundgaard (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Gorditas are Mexico’s answer to pita bread, although infinitely greasier and more flavourful. Made most often with corn dough that has been mixed with double-fried pig skin, these little babies are not for the heart healthy. Different regions stuff them with different things, but most often beans or meat. In many places around the country you can find them made sweet; corn dough is mixed with pinole (a powder of toasted corn mixed with brown sugar and cinnamon) or piloncillo (brown sugar).
Named after a type of pre-Colombian Indigenous sandal, huaraches have a tendency to be massive. Long and thick oval-shaped corn tortillas are slathered in an endless list of ingredients: grilled meats, stew-like fillings, or even mole, and dressed with avocado, grated cheese, cream and salsa. In Mexico City, near Mercado Jamaica, there is an entire street dedicated to their making. Some are as big as a dachshund, as restaurants compete for eaters’ attention.
Flickr/Ron Dollete (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Tlayudas are Oaxacan in origin. This streetside delicacy is thought to be one of the dishes that survived Mexican’s colonization by the Spanish and remains strong in the memories and taste buds of Mexicans.
A thin, crispy tortilla is pressed out as big as your head and the left to dry slightly only to be reheated with a little asiento (unrefined pork lard) and then layered with refried beans, cheese, meat (in Oaxaca, tasayo is the most popular) and sometimes cabbage or lettuce. Served flat or folded, one tlayuda is a meal unto itself.
Had enough corn yet? Try esquites – roasted corn either on the cob or shucked into cups with layers of mayonnaise, cheese, chili powder, and lime. On a chilly night in Mexico, there is nothing that will warm or fill you so fast.
Flickr/Alanna Risse (CCby2.0)
And let’s not forget a superstar street food: the tamale. Tamales come in all shapes, sizes and preparations, but in central and northern Mexico you will generally find them steamed in a corn husk and in Mexico’s south, in a banana leaf. There are even tamales canarios made from rice flour with just a hint of sweetness
While tacos will always be a crowd pleaser in Mexico, there is much to discover if you let your taste buds lead the way.