Food to Try in Mexico
Mexican food is known quite widely around the world, so I am sure you will already be familiar with dishes like burritos, quesadillas, fajitas and guacamole. And if not, it is easy to google the term 'Mexican food' and you will get plenty of results, images and recipes.
There are, however, some lesser known but very exciting products that we discovered during our trip to Mexico, which I would like to share with you here.
The first surprise was cactus. My previous encounter with this plant was in the Canary Islands, where cactus fruit was turned into jam. But in Mexico it goes even further - you can buy cactus in the supermarket and eat it in salads (for example, tomato, cheese and cactus salad) or mix into juices. It has quite a unique taste - there really isn't any fruit or veg I could use as a comparison. Definitely tastes green is what I would say!
I also tried a traditional dish in our hotel's Mexican restaurant we had never heard of before - a corn soup called crema de elote. The creamy soup is reasonably spicy (I can't really deal with spicy food, but I could eat this without an issue) and is poured over corn and cotija cheese. I looked around for a recipe, and this seems quite similar to what we ate. Need to try and make it myself, although our local supermarket isn't exactly known for cotija cheese...
Also, while this soup doesn't have any meat in it, I have to note that Mexico is a paradise for meat-lovers, as the quality is fantastic. At home, I only ever eat fillet steak, as the other cuts end up as appetising and soft as the soles of my boots, but here everywhere we went the meat was delicious, be it the hotel buffet or a small restaurant in San Sebastian.
Crema de elote - Mexican corn soup
We also checked out two typical Mexican sweeties, which were both milk-based. Barra de leche is probably best described as fudge and is very sweet, and cocadas de leche is grated coconut stuck together with a milk-based paste.
The plan was to buy a small bar of each, decide a winner and then stock up, but a) we didn't actually try them until we got back home and b) I prefer cocadas de leche while my husband likes barra de leche more, so no unanimous winner!
Mexican sweets - barra de leche and cocadas de leche
While we were on a bus tour to San Sebastian, an adventurous member of our group asked the bus to stop so he could buy what the people by the road were selling - a bag of weird pods with something like white berries or seeds in them. This is how we were introduced to huamuche (or pithecellobium dulce).
Huamuche really divided opinions on the bus - I liked it, but the lady in the seat next to us absolutely hated it. Again, the taste is not really comparable to anything I know - it's sweet, sour and tangy at the same time.
A part of the tour to San Sebastian del Oeste is a visit to La Quinta 'Mary', a small coffee plantation, producing organic coffee (they call it cafe de altura). They let you try the coffee when you come in and I, a person who only ever manages to find coffee enjoyable with lots of sugar and milk, was surprised to find it wasn't bitter at all without either.
At the plantation shop, you can purchase a few different coffee types, both as beans and ground coffee. If interested, here is their Facebook page, which has some glowing reviews as well as contact details.
And finally, on to something I am a massive fan of - tea. Everywhere we travel, we end up buying some tea as a souvenir and Mexico was no exception. While the local supermarket did not offer any fine loose leaf teas, it did have a very interesting range of herbal teas.
But do be careful - apart from the two lovely teas in the picture below, we also bought arnica tea only to later read on Wikipedia and various other sites that it is poisonous and only for external use. And yet there it was on a supermarket shelf readily available with all the other teas. It's a good thing we decided to google the benefits of arnica before finishing the first cup...
A completely different kind of tea is Jamaica flower tea (Agua de Jamaica), made from a strong infusion of hibiscus flowers and served cold. While I was familiar with hibiscus tea, it was the first time I had it cold, so it was more like a juice really. Apparently rich in vitamin C and, unlike arnica tea, you can actually drink it!
Mexican organic coffee from San Sebastian
Mexican herbal tea
Jamaica flower tea