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National Hispanic Heritage Month

Mexico’s Melting Pot of Cuisine

You can tell the story of a country through its most popular dishes. With Mexico, that means getting to know the cooking of 31 different regions.
National Hispanic Heritage Month

The vast country of Mexico is a true melting pot, where the arts, language, and food from the past intermingle with the modern to create a vibrant culture. It’s a country of coastlines, mountains, valleys, and plains that have supported rich agricultural diversity for thousands of years. With 31 distinct states, Mexican cooking can best be described as regional. Each state has distinct recipes and variations. Here are five favorites from around the country.

Chicken Tinga Tacos

The landlocked, central state of Puebla, located south of Mexico City (the oldest capital in the Americas), is one with a rich food scene. Their famous chile en nogada contains all three colors of the Mexican flag: red pomegranate seeds, white walnut sauce, and green parsley that garnish a stuffed poblano pepper. Chicken Tinga, which also comes from Puebla, is made by simmering chicken in a spicy tomato, chipotle, and onion sauce. The highly flavored pulled chicken can be stuffed into sopes, used to top tostadas (crisp corn tortillas), or as we do here, to fill warm corn tortillas. We top the chicken tacos with white onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime for a Poblano classic. 

Tortilla Soup

The southern state of Oaxaca, world-renowned as Mexico’s culinary center, is steeped with complex, regional cooking. Corn, beans, chocolate, and numerous dried chilies come from here. The famous Mexican sauce mole, used for meats and enchiladas, to fill tamales, and more is said to originate in Oaxaca (though Puebla also takes credit). Another Oaxacan classic, a combination of the best ingredients of the region, is this comforting tortilla soup. Here, we steep dried ancho or pasilla chilies in chicken-and-tomato broth and pour the deeply flavored broth into bowls along with crunchy fried corn tortilla strips, creamy avocados, and melty Oaxacan cheese.

Mexican Scrambled Eggs with Salsa

One dish that almost every state can agree on is migas, scrambled eggs mixed with crisped tortillas. This comforting breakfast meal is hearty enough to hold you over to a late-afternoon lunch. Each region or home cook may add his or her own touches. For example, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, or chilies may be stirred into the scramble. Warm tomato salsa or avocado can be served on the side, as we do in our recipe.

Mexican Spicy Shrimp Ceviche with Lime

If there is one thing that Mexico is not lacking, it’s coastline. The country spills into 4 bodies of water: the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, the Sea of Cortez, and the Pacific Ocean. It’s no wonder, then, that the seaside towns overflow with seafood and feature countless fresh, regional fish dishes. The recipe we highlight here, Spicy Shrimp Ceviche with Lime (Aguachile de Camarones), is traditional to the Northwestern city of Sinaloa. This refreshing, spicy recipe is made by marinating the shrimp in freshly squeezed lime juice mixed with serrano peppers and cilantro until the shrimp turn opaque and are “cooked.” They are then mixed with cucumber and sliced red onion, garnished with creamy avocado, and served with salted crackers or tostadas for a zesty combination of flavors.

Mexican-Style Rice Horchata

Mexico is well known for its refreshing drinks. Many of them are fruit based, using the native produce. Pureed fresh fruit drinks (aguas frescas), made with everything from hibiscus flowers to tangy tamarind, are drunk every day and are available almost everywhere, from supermarkets to roadside stands. Another popular drink is horchata, which is made by soaking nuts or grains in water. Our recipe here is a simple rice horchata, which gets its milky-brown-speckled color and sweetly spiced flavor from soaked white rice and cinnamon sticks.

These regional specialities, and many more, combine to create a cuisine that is dynamic, uniquely flavored, and brimming with cultural history and abundance. These dishes are just a start—there are many more delicious Mexican dishes to discover and savor!  

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