When I lived in Florida, I had the opportunity to experience the Mexican food and culture, thanks to many of my Mexican friends and acquaintances.
Mexican spicy food thrilled my South Asian taste buds.
Mexican cuisine is one of the popular cuisines in every corner of the world for its rich, spicy, colourful, and incredibly unique in its use of flavours.
Popular Mexican dishes such as quesadillas, nachos, burritos, salsa, and guacamole are now available in multi-cuisine restaurants across the globe.
Traditional Mexican food has a vibrant history and is tied to the heart of Mexican culture.
Interestingly, in terms of spicy level, Mexican cuisine is similar with South Asian food in many ways. Asian and African influences were also introduced into the indigenous cuisine as a result of African slavery in New Spain and the Manila-Acapulco Galleons.
Taste of popular Mexican dishes developed over the years and went through many transformations with time.
Staple native food includes corn, beans, sweet potato, chili pepper, avocados, chia seed, among others.
Influences on Mexican food
Before the colonisation of Mexican indigenous community, who were hunters, they would roam around, hunt animals and gathered plants.
During the colonisation period, Mexican cuisine was heavily influenced by Spanish cuisine. Prior to that, Mayan and Aztec cultures had shaped Mexican culture and cuisine.
One of the earliest culinary influences on Mexican food was of the Mayan Indians.
The Mayan Indians lived in the Yucatan area in Southeast Mexico. Since the Mayan Indians were hunters, their food basically included animals like raccoons, deer, rabbits, armadillos, rattle snakes, iguanas, spider monkeys, pigeons, turtles, frogs, turkeys, and even several insects.
They also ate tropical fruits, beans and corn which are important parts of Mexican cuisine till today. Mayans would often eat corn tortillas with a bean paste.
Aztec empire introduced salt, peppers and chocolate in Mexican cuisine. They also popularised duck and turkey.
In 1521, with Spanish invasion, Mexican food went through changes again. A wide range of new food items were added over the years during this period. Spanish soldiers combined their imported rice, beef, pork, chicken, wine, garlic and onions with the native foods of pre-Columbian Mexico, which included tomatoes, beans, chocolate, corn, vanilla, avocado, papaya, pineapple, chili peppers, squash, sweet potato, peanuts, fish and turkey.
Many new dishes emerged from this era such as lomo en adobo (pork loin in a spicy sauce), chile rellenos (large, mild flavoured chilies stuffed with cheese, beef or pork), and the quesadillas or the very popular guacamole, which have been a part of the traditional Mexican food ever since.
Mexican food staples
Corn has been a main staple in traditional Mexican food for centuries. Corn is used is many recipes and can be found in every Mexican household.
Elote, one of the popular dishes, is made with grilled corn on the cob, chili powder, Mexican cheeses, and other seasonings.
Beans and peppers
Mexican weather is favourable for beans and peppers to grow locally. Beans and peppers have been part of Mexican diet from time immemorial.
One common dish that involves both corn and beans is fresh, homemade corn tortillas served with homemade frijoles (beans).