Food is one of the things I most look forward to when traveling, whether it’s a place I’ve visited before or am visiting for the very first time. You’ll be hard pressed to find a destination that doesn’t have at least one particular food or dish that will impress and leave you with happy memories, including dreaming about it months later or trying to replicate it. For something new, I thought I would start a series entitled “Five foods you should try in…” To keep it fair, I’m only going to post on places I’ve been since even though I adore Ethiopian fare, I’ve never been to Ethiopia and I don’t feel my opinion would be entirely “trustworthy.”
I’m starting with Mexico, the first country I ever visited outside of the United States. I also think including Mexico is important since many Americans (well, the non-Mexican heritage ones) have many misconceptions about the food.
Pozole in Spanish means “foamy” and is a traditional pre-Columbian soup or stew which once had ritual significance. It is made from a type of maize with meat (typically pork, chicken, turkey, pork rinds), chili peppers, and other seasonings and garnish. It’s a typical dish in various states in Mexico including Morelos, where I first had it. The language school where I took Spanish lessons before starting my 9-5 job had a fiesta one night in honor of Mexican Independence Day and pozole was one of the dishes served. I’m not sure if it’s a dish you’ll love from the first taste, but due to how far back it dates, it’s definitely a symbolic one to try.
I usually don’t stray too much with my beverage selections (usually water, tea, and soda are it for me); however, horchata is one that I make the exception for. It’s a cold drink made with rice, milk, vanilla and cinnamon and while you may think that it sounds more like a dessert drink, it’s not. When eating something spicy, a drink like horchata is actually the perfect complement. It’s also not anywhere as thick or rich as a smoothie or milkshake, for instance, so you can actually eat your meal and not feel stuffed drinking. This is a drink that my Mexican host family often made for me and thankfully it is available at some Mexican restaurants I’ve been to in the United States.
While living in Cuernavaca, Mexico I discovered sopes, a type of street food that resembles an extremely thick tortilla. It features a variety of meat and vegetables which are then topped with refried beans, cheese, lettuce, salsa (usually red or green), and onions. A couple of blocks from where I lived there was a small eatery that made nothing but sopes and being Mexico, prices were extremely cheap. Although I adore the taste of a warm tortilla, there’s something to be said for piping hot corn dough (this is the base). I’ve ordered sopes a couple of times at Mexican restaurants here in Pittsburgh but they haven’t impressed me, especially when a meat, vegetable, and chicken one all taste the same.
Mole is a lot of things but in a nutshell, it’s the generic name for a number of sauces originally used in Mexican food as well as for dishes based on these sauces. The sauce is most well known in the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Puebla, two I’ve never been to but would very much like to visit one day. I’ve had mole on numerous occasions but my favorite was probably the time I had enchiladas in mole sauce. They were simply delicious.
This is a dish from the Yucatan Peninsula and is slices of pork that have been marinated in a sour orange and achiote (a type of spice) sauce. I had it the day we visited the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, part of a buffet lunch at a famous hotel that was on the grounds of the ruins. Numerous Yucatecan dishes were served including this delicious pork one.