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History of Mexican Cuisine

History of Traditional Mexican Cuisine and Aromatic Ingredients

Enchiladas, tortillas, salsa, flan and tacos are some of the traditional delicacies of Mexico. Mexican cuisine, favored by many of us, has a history of its own and the cuisine that is available today is actually a blend of ingredients and recipes from French, African, Caribbean and South American cuisine.
Maya Pillai
Last Updated: Feb 23, 2018
"I think the great Mexican cuisine is dying because there are fast foods now competing, because there are supermarkets, and supermarkets can't afford to keep in stock a lot of these very perishable products that are used for fine Mexican cooking. Women are working and real Mexican cooking requires enormous amounts of time." - Alma Guillermoprieto (Mexican Journalist)
In 1521, Spanish explorer Cortez conquered Mexico. The Spaniards came in search of wealth. Along with the riches of the Aztec empire they also found a great wealth in form of agricultural crops such as cocoa, peanuts, vanilla beans, squash, coconuts, avocados, tomatoes and corn. The Spanish brought with them fruits including citrus fruits, garlic, cheese, milk, wheat, vine and vinegar and also meat such as pork, beef and lamb. Though the Spanish destroyed the Aztec empire, they were never able to destroy the culture, tradition and the culinary influence of the Mexico.
In the sixteenth century, many condiments such as olive oil, almonds, cinnamon, coriander, oregano, parsley and black pepper were introduced to indigenous Mexicans. Did you know the vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, cauliflower and sugarcane were introduced by the Spaniards? Spaniards brought the potatoes from Peru. Most of the Mexican dishes have adopted the ingredients used in the Spanish cuisine.
According to many food lovers around the world, the finest Mexican cuisine is the Tex-Mex, which is a blend of Texan and Mexican recipes.
Mexico was ruled by Ferdinand Maximilian, former Austrian archduke in the mid 19th century. He introduced French cuisine to the Mexicans, including the French wines. Some of the French-Mexican recipes that are popular even today include chiles en nogado and conejo en mostaza.
Authentic Mexican Cooking Methods
Many of the Mexican recipes use the procedure of frying, grilling and boiling. It may appear similar to the methods that we use today. However, you may not be familiar with the usage of some of Mexican cooking tools such as Molcajete, Metate y Mano and Molino.
The native Mexicans used cast iron pots and ceramic wares to cook and serve. They knew nothing about oven; hence use open fires to cook food. They also used a method of steaming to cook. The meat was hung above a vessel filled with water, which was kept on a high fire. The meat was wrapped in a banana leaf.
"Metate y Mano" was a grinding stone made from stone or rock. This was used to pound the condiments. They also used a smaller tool known as "Molcajete" to crush herbs and also to grind certain condiments.
Mexicans use large wooden spoons to sauté garlic and onions. Ladles are used to stir and spoon out broth and stew.
Native Ingredients of Mexican Cuisine
Remember, Mexicans rarely used meat in their diet before the Spaniards arrived. The staple diet of the native Mexicans was corn and beans. When the Spanish brought the condiments such as pepper, onion and garlic, these were melded into the native recipes. Here are a few ingredients used to prepare an authentic Mexican food.
It is a fact as well as a common belief that Mexican food is spicy and colorful. Mexicans use chilies such as spicy jalapeno, ancho and Serrano to add flavor and spice to their food. The chilies are used fresh, whole, dried or powdered. Chilies add flavor to salsa, mole, soups and sauces.
Though today people use refined vegetable oil as fat for cooking, the ancient Mexicans used lard. Butter is never used in a traditional Mexican food. Lard adds aroma and favor to the masa used for making tamales.
Mexican recipes use variety of beans as a main ingredient. Beans are used to make bean salad, soups, refried beans and so on. Some of the beans used are kidney beans, black beans and pinto beans.
One of the staple and the main source of nutrition is corn. The corn is used to make tortilla chips, enchilada, masa and so on. Corn is dried and then ground to make various Mexican delicacies.
One of the berries that you would find in the Mexican food of today is fresh tomato. They are used to make toppings for a taco and burritos.Tomatoes are not used to make sauce. The red color sauce that accompanies a Mexican dish is usually the one made from chilies.
To add special flavors to certain dishes such as traditional mole, the Mexicans use various spices including cocoa, peanuts and peanut butter. Cocoa is used for seasoning the dish. Many of the dishes of the main course uses cactus as the base.
Flavors of Mexican Cuisine
Remember, both the Spanish and the French recipes influence Mexican cuisine. Some of the ingredients commonly added to a Mexican dish are listed below.
Onions and garlic are found in most of the Mexican dishes. These are sometimes used as toppings for salsa and taco.
Herbs such as oregano are used to add flavor to Mexican dishes with tomato base. Cumin is used to season meat and vegetables.
Various chilies are also used to add flavor to the Mexican dishes. The most favored chili is ancho.
A spice known as "epazote" is used to add flavor to beans and Mexican tea. It is helpful to reduce intestinal discomfort. This spice needs to be used sparingly as it is poisonous. Other spices that add flavor to the Mexican dishes are cinnamon, cloves and anise seeds.
Food lovers around the globe savor traditional Mexican food. The growing popularity of the Mexican food and cuisine is reflected in the opening of Mexican restaurants in most countries around the world.
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