Gorditas, tamales, tacos, burritos, posole! These are just a few of the dishes waiting for you on the streets of our next featured destination: Mexico City. But what makes Mexico a country so truly beautiful is not the mouthwatering food, colorful murals, or even enchanting dances, but the deep love woven into the communities.
Everybody is family, regardless of bloodline. This love for people is shown in the plethora of social gatherings that pop up like dandelions throughout the week. This is when the whole street will come over for an impromptu barbeque at someone’s house. Barbacoa and laughs are exchanged between the group until children are asleep in the hamaca (hammock), signaling to the mothers that it’s time to head home. It is the people of Mexico that show us that sometimes it is better to have little materialistically but be in warm, family-friendly community than to have a lot and be disconnected from society.
So, have I convinced you that Mexico is the most beautiful country in the world yet? If not, keep on reading!
Comida de la calle (Street Food)
In this country, food is a central part of Mexican culture. In our article on Mumbai, we explored some flavorful and mind-blowing street food. The most delicious and authentic dishes in Mexico are also found on the city streets, put together by the strong hands of men and women alike. According to Cassandra González*, my cousin who currently lives and grew up in Mexico City, the top 3 street foods that every tourist MUST eat while there are tacos, gorditas, and tamales. I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with tacos, but unless you’ve been served freshly shredded carnitas (pork) on a singed corn tortilla with freshly made salsa verde (green salsa), then you’ve only tasted the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great tacos. This finger-licking goodness is served best at street vendors throughout the city, but if you’re looking for a place to sit down and relax, Los Panchos serves amazing carnitas tacos. The pork meat here is cooked for 3 hours in a pot, making the flavors all come together in a way that will leave you begging for more. If you’re walking along the streets of Mexico City, you don’t need search far for the next type of taco I’m going to mention. Al pastor is another name for kebab, and it’s when several types of meat are layered on top of each other to heights of a few feet, marinated, then roasted over a massive fire.
Although it is usually perched outside to attract customers, the smell of the marinated meat is what first draws people in. The al pastor is set at a low rotation over a low fire, ready to be freshly cut off into a double-stacked corn tortilla at the call of a ravenous passerby. El Tizoncito has been feeding the most mouths this delicious al pastor for over 50 years, where Doña Conchita pioneered the success of this famous dish since 1966 when she opened a small taqueria in the heart of Mexico City. Although you can create your taco to be as unique as the stars in the sky, some other popular types of tacos are chorizo con queso (sausage with cheese) and pescado al pastor. A chorizo con queso taco is best served with a topping of cilantro, green salsa, and extra cotija cheese. If you find yourself in a supermarket in need of a few groceries while there, make sure to head to the dairy aisle and grab yourself half a pound of cotija cheese. It’s not only good on tacos but on every dish I’ll talk about in this article. It’s rich, strong, and tastes the best licked off your fingers after sprinkling it over your meal! If you’re one of the millions of pescatarians in the world, you may be thinking, “How in the world am I going to survive in Mexico with all this chicken, beef, and pork??” Well, if I am being honest, it is difficult to be on any diet while in Mexico, but there are a plethora of alternative options, such as pescado al pastor! Pescado means fish in Spanish, and it’s served the same way the al pastor is served. The best place to get pescado al pastor in a fine dining setting is at Contramar. Some popular dishes are their sauteed shrimp in chili adobo and a whole grilled fish served with beans and slathered with a homemade sauce.
The next street food on the list is gorditas. Gordita means “chubby” in Spanish, because of the how the dish is prepared. A filling is stuffed into thick corn tortillas that are pressed together to resemble a pocket. The filling can be whatever you choose, but some common choices are beans, chile verde (pork with green chile), eggs and chorizo, papas con chile (potatoes with green chile), or cheese. Street gorditas will be your best bet, as the corn tortillas are made fresh from masa mixed with cheese and placed on a well-oiled concrete grill. The best thing about this dish is it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, depending on what you stuff inside. Are you walking the streets early in the morning? Ask for huevos con chorizo (eggs with sausage). Relaxing after a day full of fun activities? Have them put in carnitas and beans. I could go on and on about authentic Mexican food, but for the sake of your time and mine, I will talk about one more: tamales. The thought of tamales always brings a feeling of nostalgia and warmth to my heart, as I vividly remember my grandmother’s busy hands working for hours on Thanksgiving morning to prepare dozens of these savory pockets of goodness.
Keep your eye scanning our social media pages (below this article!) for a recipe on how to make these babies from scratch! If you don’t already know, tamales are prepared similarly to gorditas, in that they are corn-based masas with filling. The only difference is that they are then placed in dried corn husks and steamed for hours until the meat and masa are tender! They are usually filled with either beef, chicken, pork, or – for a vegetarian option – just cheese. If you can score a visit to a local home with friendly hosts, your trip is a success! The best tamales are served with hours of laughs, fun conversation, and backyard music. But if not, no worries! One of the best places to get tamales in the city, besides on the street, of course, is Tamales Doña Emi and Atoles y tamales Doña Roge.
¡Dia de la Independencia!
Cinco de Mayo is a widely popular day for those around the world, where drinking, partying, and dancing ensues. But in Mexico, you may hear crickets as the sun drops or a faint fiesta in the distance. That’s right. The 5th of May is widely believed by many to be Mexico’s Independence Day, but it was actually September 16th, 1810 when Mexico revolted against the Spanish in what is known as the “cry of independence”.
The day before is also known as the cry of Dolores, and much celebration occurs on this day as well. These two days are marked by an overabundance of food, drinks, paper decorations, and declarations of “Viva México!”. Mariachi bands fill the streets with festive melodies while confetti sprinkles the crowded floor. Color seems to explode from every direction, and most major businesses are closed. September is only 2 months away, which gives you just enough time to plan your vacation and take a part in this beautiful celebration!
A hidden treasure
The news will always remind the world of the tainted reputation that government corruption and crime leaves in México, but I am here to paint a different picture. A picture filled with beautiful people, tightly-woven families, and, most importantly, food that is absolutely unparalleled. But don’t just take my word for it. Discover this hidden treasure for yourself. Instead of taking months planning your trip, take a few minutes out of your day to scroll through our list of thousands of things to do in Mexico City. And when you’re back, let us know what you discovered! Each adventure is unique in its own way, and we can’t wait to hear about it. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; we’ll be diving into this culture more with our recipe of the week and destination of the week!
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Thank you to my wonderful friend Mikayla Garay and my cousin living in Mexico City, Cassandra González*, for helping me write this article!
*Name changed for privacy reasons
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