Mexican street food – Part One

Aha you say, here is the post we want to hear about! Food! Glorious Mexican food! This post will mostly be about street food, because that’s mainly what we eat on our backpackers budget. Yeah we still have the funds to splash out if we wanted to but we have been enjoying the price, availability and deliciousness (not sure if that’s a real word but I’m going to go with it) of street stalls and market vendors.

Food area of Patzcuaro mercado

Food area of Patzcuaro mercado

The first thing I should note,  which we find very entertaining, is when asked if you would like “vegetables” with your order expect to receive only onion and coriander. These are what is considered a vegetable in the world of street food. If you are lucky there is very occasionally a pickle made from jalapeños, carrot, onion and once pineapple (what a treat!). Tom has also started considering the multiple and varied salsas as a vegetable part of his diet and slathers his food in it, after checking the spice first (always check).

So I’m going to do a run through of all the street foods we have tried to date, the varieties of each and our favourite place where we ate them. There are quite a variety so I’ll try keep them quick and fun. Please don’t judge us too harshly. We try cook for ourselves when we have a kitchen available so we can kick up our (actual) vegetable consumption and we also eat a lot of fresh fruits.

TACOS – a Mexican classic to start with! Upon arrival in Guadalajara our first stop here in Mexico we discovered the world of tacos. First thing to note is that they (in our experience) are never hard shell like you can buy in taco packs in supermarkets back home, and are often served on doubled up tortillas. There are heaps of varieties; some normal like pork, chicken or chorizo and others in more interesting and exotic cuts of meat. It’s a good idea to learn what the different words for the different types of meat are or you could end up eating brain, tongue or stomach. Our favourite quickly became the tacos pastor, delicious spit cooked pork similar to the method of cooking meat for Turkish kebabs back home. In Puerto Vallarta a very skilled street stall chef even sliced off a pieces of pineapple and caught them in the taco behind his back. A crowd pleasing trick which wasn’t always an 100 % success as my sticky pineapple-ed foot proved, but the pork and pineapple combo was a winner in our books. Other types we have sampled are tacos dorado, translating to golden tacos which are deep fried and usually filled with potato or chicken and are sometimes served in a broth, as well as gringas which have cheese in them. So tacos are pretty tasty and readily accessible throughout most of the places we have visited but we don’t eat them as often as expected.

QUESADILLAS – Where tacos are small corn tortillas, quesadillas are generally larger flour tortillas, the size varying depending on the vendor. They always have cheese in them with the meat choices being the same as tacos. We have also seen bigger selections of fillings such as rajas (a type of pepper/capsicum), potatoes, frijoles or mushrooms. The tortilla is folded in half enclosing the filling and is then grilled. Awesome meaty, greasy, carby goodness; our faves are usually chorizo, pastor or bistek de res (beef) and the best so far was in the Patzcuaro mercado.

TORTAS – Now these sound innocently simple because they are basically a filled bread roll. But they taste like so much more mainly due to having a similar filling to the previously mentioned tacos and quesadillas. Chorizo,  pastor, beef or chicken milanesa (crumbed and fried), ham, sausage, cheese or a combination of the above are all mouthwatering choices to fill the torta with. To keep it simple it’s finished with a mixture of lettuce, tomato, avocado, jalapeño, pineapple and/or mayonnaise. Then you get Tom’s favourite: the Cubana type with literally ALL THE MEATS! We have eaten tortas at a few different price points and been served sizes ranging from sandwich size to plate size which needs to be cut in half and is still a two-handed eating experience. These have steadily turned into one of our favourites and we eat them every few days. The best we have had was our first torta experience while in San Miguel de Allende, a chicken milenesa with heaps of avocado and we have been hooked ever since.

Delicious torta

Delicious torta

Our torta being made, nom nom

Our torta being made, nom nom

Your probably noticing a trend here: the filling options stay the same where the vessel that is encompassing the food changes.

Now for some different food options.

It’s terrible but we have also eaten a fair few hamburgers and slices of pizza since being in Mexico. The hamburgers are very easy to find and usually the standard meat patty, cheese and some salad stuff (often just a tiny amount of lettuce, a round of tomato and some jalapeño). Tom loves them, where as I’ll often opt for a torta which is my personal preference. There are more “gourmet” style restaurants where you can get a better burger but that defies the point of this post (although the only photos I have of hamburgers are the more expensive ones so not a great representation). They can also mimic the fillings of the “combinado” tortas with Hawaiian or cubana fillings. Pizza by the slice we discovered in Guanajuato and it was a go-to when we needed a snack. For $10 peso it was a bargain choice. Since leaving Guanajuato we haven’t seen as many places selling these but have recently rediscovered them in Taxco, Cuernavaca and Mexico City.

Tom is happy with his burger and onion rings

Tom is happy with his burger and onion rings

Yum burger!

Yum burger!

We have also tried:

GORDITAS – These were quite often our lunch when we were at school in Guanajuato. A thick corn tortilla which is slit open and filled with your choice of filling. The closest thing I have eaten to these would be a pita as it’s a similar concept. On a cold day in Guanajuato I would crave a warm gordita filled with potatoes and frijoles, they are simply delish. The ladies who would sell them from early morning until mid-afternoon were local celebs famous for their gorditas. All the teachers would eat them and the new students quickly discovered them.

NIEVES – A favourite of mine. Nieves are ice creams sold from shops or from small street carts. For $10 to $20 peso you can get two scoops of delicious ice cream in a range of flavours. The common options are vanilla, coconut, coffee, mango, strawberry or lime/lemon but there are heaps of other flavours we have come across as well. The strangest is a mystery ice cream called pasta, sounds strange right? It’s a creamy, vanilla-ish flavour with nothing to do with the pasta you boil, mix with sauce and eat as an Italian meal. I can eat these at any time of day in any weather. Luckily Tom doesn’t share my super sweet tooth and restrains me from having one per day.

Street cart selling nieves

Street cart selling nieves

I’ll leave the street food options here for now, we have tried a few other things that I’ll save for part two so you don’t get sick of me talking about food for another thousand words in this post. As we travel further around the country we will most definitely sample more as well, hopefully nothing too weird but hey that’s part of the experience right?

Giant licuado (smoothie)

Giant licuado (smoothie)

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