An Introduction to Mexican Cuisine
Just like Mexican food, Mexican cuisine encompasses various subjects. Among these are Mexican desserts, Mexican restaurants, Mexican drinks, and for specific ingredients and preparations, Mexican food recipes. This section will outline the details involved with Mexican cuisine, a bit about its history and how it has spread across the globe, the various cooking utensils used in its preparation, typical ingredients, and tips for Mexican cooking hopefuls so that they can learn to perfect their craft.
Mexican Cuisine History
Mexican cuisine has influences from a few countries. In Mexico City (then known as the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan), the average diet was based around corn, chiles, herbs, and spices. These served as the foundation for their cuisine. They also dined on beans, nopales, and tomatoes as specialty items.
During the invasion of Mexico in the 1520s, the Spanish conquistadors introduced animals into the cuisine; among them were chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, and cattle. The people of pre-Columbian Mexico were already familiar with their own animals, including fish and turkey, which were often cooked into their dishes. Mexican cuisine soon had Spanish roots. By this point, other ingredients had been included, such as pineapple, jicama, suash, peanuts, chili peppers, tomatillos, avocado, and several others. Rices and wheat came later, along with the inclusion of many spices, olive oil, barley, seeds and nuts.
Mexican Cooking Utensils and IngredientsMexican dishes (cazuelas) are used for simmering sauces, sometimes with other ingredients. The griddle (comal) is used mainly on tortillas, chiles, and other vegetables for warming and lightly roasting them. Mexican pots (olla) are deep and rounded, used for cooking things like chili con carne, beans, reductions, and similar sauces. The mortar and pestle (molcajete y tejolote) is a bowl and a wide stick used to crush spices and herbs, which helps to bring out the flavor inside of the dishes that they become added to.
Some places use a tortilla press (tortillero) to create their own corn and wheat tortillas between two oval plates. Finally, the hand grinder (metate y mano) is used to combine things placed into it, usually to balance out flavorings, or to create pica de gallo and other salsas.
Mexican cooking uses very simple, but highly flavorful ingredients in preparation. Corn and beans are standard items. Meat was introduced later on. They had bountiful amounts of chiles and spices to add flavor to their dishes. These chiles include jalapeno, serrano, habanero, and ancho. Each has its own layer of heat and spice included. Black beans and pinto beans are quite common, and are used to make refried beans and others. Lard and vegetable oil are the most common fats used in the cooking, and traditionally speaking, lard especially. Tomatoes were considered another staple, along with any vegetables the Mexican natives could get their hands on.
Tips on Mexican Cooking
• Cover your hands when dealing with chiles or onions.
• You can use many spices and flavorings, but do not go way overboard with these.
• Do not be shy about including several different kinds of garnishes for your dishes.
• As a general rule, prepare everything you possibly can homemade, including tortillas.
• Do not skimp out on the drinks and desserts, because these can be as good as the main course!