It’s easy to think of Mexican food as one cuisine. In reality, while there are common themes, each region has its own excellent specialities. Here are a few regional highlights.
In Baja, the sea is all around, so it makes sense that mariscos (seafood) and pescado (fish) dominate menus – the fish taco is an eternal favourite. Northern Baja is home to Mexico’s wine industry, and drinking wine with your meal is far more common here than elsewhere in the country.
Dining in the north, where the land is too dry to grow produce, tends to revolve around grilled meat: the asado (barbecue) is king. Cabrito asado (roast kid) is the classic dish, often served in gargantuan portions and accompanied only by tortillas and salsa. These basic ingredients combine into burritos and fajitas, dishes that have travelled north of the border to become what most of the world thinks of as “Mexican food”.
With fertile valleys and highlands that receive enough rain to sustain agriculture, central Mexico has the widest range of local ingredients. This is the land of the avocado (and therefore guacamole) and the birthplace of tequila. Mexico’s second city, Guadalajara, excels with its birria, a soupy stew, while coastal towns dish up tasty camarones (prawns). Further south, Oaxaca claims the country’s finest tamales, stuffed corn-meal dough cooked in banana leaves.
Influenced by the flavours of the Caribbean, an abundance of tropical fruits and the all-powerful burn of the habanero chile, Yucateco cuisine is a world apart from that of central Mexico. The most celebrated dish is cochinita pibil, pork marinated in a recado made from garlic, chiles, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, oregano and vinegar, then wrapped in plantain leaves and grilled.