There’s no better time to celebrate Mexican cuisine than in Hispanic Heritage Month! This month, Mexicans around the world are celebrating the anniversary of the country’s independence from Spain with reenactments, fireworks and dance performances. We decided to join in with hot tortillas full of beef and salsa, crispy tacos covered with cheese, burritos stuffed with savory chicken and beans, and many more authentic, colorful dishes!
Mexican cuisine has evolved in Mexico over the centuries. Created from ingredients that are native to Mexican soil while also welcoming influences from Spain and the US. Here are some fun facts about how Mexican food became an American favorite.
Colorful Mexican Cuisine Festivals
Food in Mexico is meant to bring families and communities together. They call the ability to cook well “Sazon” and consider it a gift one gets from experience as well as being committed to your diners.
For the Day of the Dead festival, whole villages usually come together to celebrate and eat. In central Mexico, the main festival foods are mole sauce and slow cooked meat like barbacoa, carnitas and mixiotes.
When there isn’t any special event, food is usually consumed at home. “Comida”, which means meal in Spanish, is the main meal of the day. It’s usually chicken broth with pasta or a “dry soup”, which is rice or pasta flavored with garlic, onions or vegetables. Meat cooked in sauce is later served with salsa along with tortillas and beans and a fruit drink on the side.
Mexican Food in the United States
Celebrating Mexican culture is a source of pride and a symbol of ethnicity for Mexicans living in the US and their descendents. The Mexican cuisine offers such a versatile menu that is delicious, savory and makes for a great fiesta. It’s no wonder it broke out of the ethnic borders and took over the entire nation.
The American diner today can enjoy meals like Chili Con Carne and Chimichangas that originated from Tex-Mex. Tex-Mex cuisine (from Texan and Mexican) is an American cuisine popularized in Texas and inspired by recipes of the Tejano people of Texas. From Texas, the Tex-Mex cuisine has spread to the rest of the country. While some ingredients used in Tex-Mex foods are common in Mexican cuisine, other ingredients are not as common in authentic Mexican food. Tex-Mex cuisine introduced such ingredients as shredded cheese, beef, pork, chicken, beans, peppers and spices, in addition to flour tortillas.
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SF Restaurants Specialize in Authentic Mexican Cuisine
If you’re not up to cooking, you can always find delicious Mexican dishes in a local SF restaurant. Here are some that made Mexican food their specialty.
Nachos are tortilla chips covered with melted cheese and served as a snack or appetizer. The original version of nachos are chilaquiles, which are actually more common to eat for breakfast. The original dish is tortilla chips topped with green or red salsa, cream, goats cheese, onion, cilantro, and optional egg or chicken. A close variation of the original can be found in CHICA, a Mexican restaurant located in Oakland, CA. They serve Chilaquiles Rojos and Verdes (either red or green salsa) with a choice of vegetables, topped with two fried eggs, chimichurri, cotija cheese & herbs.
Mole is the traditional sauce in Mexican cuisine. The most popular version is the Mole Poblano. It contains about 20 ingredients, including chocolate used to balance the chilli peppers. Mole is usually served on turkey at Christmas, Easter, Day of the Dead or at birthdays, baptisms, weddings and funerals.
Tamale is a filled cornmeal dumpling usually steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. They are often filled with meat, cheese and vegetables, especially chilli peppers. The preparation of the tamales is a true expression of community cooking in Mexico. Tamales are usually made by women working together since preparation takes a lot of time and effort. Tamales are actually the house specialty in Mexico Tortilla Factory in Newark CA, where they’re served with Carne Asada, Polla Asado, Carnitas and many other options. If you’re looking for a vegetarian or vegan alternative, go to Donna’s Tamales in San Rafael CA. They have a wide selection of vegetarian tamales served with smoked cheddar and beans or spinach and goat cheese as well as vegan tamales with zucchini and beans or pumpkin and pinto.
Burritos are flour tortillas wrapped with chicken, beef or pork along with rice, cooked beans, vegetables, cheese and condiments such as salsa or guacamole. The Mission Burrito is one of the three most popular styles of Burrito in the US. It was actually created in the Mission District in San Francisco where it got its name from. What makes Mission Burrito unique is that it’s larger than other burritos and includes extra rice and other ingredients.
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