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Hot stuff: your guide to Mexican food

We've compiled a must-know list of Mexican cuisine to help you tell your tortillas from your tacos.

by: Louisa Holst | 25 Jan 2007

If ever you should vernture to the land of the sambrero, here's a few basic foods and drinks you will come across. A little advice; make sure your stomach's ready for it..

Mexico’s most famous sauce. It takes its name from a word meaning mixture or concoction. Mole is a smooth sauce or paste that is traditionally spicy and rich, and is usually served with chicken. Made from a combination of ingredients that include nuts, seeds, spices, Mexican chocolate and chillies.

A soft, thin, flat bread made from wheat flour, cornflour or masa flour (a type of cornflour widely used in Mexican cuisine). Tortillas are staple items in most Mexican meals.

An avocado mixture that is made from mashed ripe avocados mixed with lemon or lime juice, diced onions and tomato, and then flavoured with cilantro. Serve it as a condiment to spoon over Mexican food or use it as a dip.

What we would call fresh coriander. A fragrant green herb that is used to flavour many Mexican dishes.

Usually a tomato-based condiment made from finely chopped fresh ingredients and used as a condiment or to accent dishes. If the salsa is freshly made and uncooked, it is called salsa cruda. The cooked and bottled variety is called salsa picante.

A green chilli that is widely used in Mexican cuisine. It has a mild flavour, especially if the seeds and membranes are removed. Available fresh, pickled or bottled in oil.

Mexico’s hottest chilli. These hotter-than-hot little ‘lanterns’ can be green, yellow or orange and have a fiery taste. Often used in fresh salsas made with tropical fruits.

Drinks fit for a Mexican

Distilled liquor made from the agave or century plant. Typically served in a shot glass or as part of the mix for margaritas or other cocktails.

The national drink of Mexico, made with tequila, Cointreau and fresh lime juice, either served mixed with ice or on the rocks in a salt-rimmed glass.

What's on the menu?

Tortilla chips
Corn tortillas that are cut into rounds or triangles and then deep-fried until crisp. They are eaten as a snack, usually served with salsa, guacamole or other dips.

Tortilla chips that are covered with different ingredients and then topped with grated cheese. They are then grilled until the cheese has melted. Nachos are usually served as an appetiser.

A corn tortilla that has been folded and deep-fried to form a crisp shell. A choice of fillings can be served spooned into the taco shell.

A cooked flour tortilla that is wrapped around a filling, then topped with sauce and cheese, and baked.

A soft, cooked tortilla that is folded around a filling, and served without being baked again.

A burrito filled with meat, which is then deep-fried until crisp.

Empanada A small moon-shaped pie that has been filled with meat or fruit.

Beans are very popular in Mexican dishes. Here's a breakdown of the seveal types.

Borlotti beans
Medium-sized speckled beans from the haricot family, that are used in soups and salads.

Pinto beans
Reddish-white speckled beans, also from the haricot family, that are used to make refried beans.

Refried beans
A slightly misleading name as the beans are only fried once, not twice. Refried beans are a Mexican speciality made from cooked pinto beans that have been mashed and then fried, often in melted lard.

Red kidney beans
Red kidney beans are reddish brown beans that are used in all kinds of dishes, especially chilli con carne.

Black-eyed beans
These beans are white beans with black ‘eyes’ that are usually cooked with rice

- Ideas


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