Mexican food is often misunderstood as simple, fast, cheap and unhealthy. Most of the restaurants in North America that advertise themselves as Mexican are in reality Tex-Mex. It wasn't until recently that people began to learn the difference.
The varied ingredients and complex cooking techniques make Mexican food one of the most diverse cuisines in the world. So much so that in 2010, Mexican cuisine was declared as representative of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO
“I’m very excited about the possibilities for that cuisine, and I think we should pay more attention to it, learn more about it, and value it more,” the late Anthony Bourdain once said about Mexican food.
Biggest Misconceptions about Mexican Food
All Mexican Food is Spicy
Even though a lot of recipes include chilies in the ingredient list, adding them is not always about heat. Chiles (and salsas) add depth to a dish, so choosing the right one is an important task.
The goal is keeping a subtle balance between all flavors. The chili complements the rest of the flavors in the dish, and does more than pump up its heat.
Taco Shells & Sour Cream
Contrary to most “Mexican” restaurants, you won’t find those crunchy taco shells anywhere. They are a Tex-mex staple along with chili beans and sour cream.
The closest alternative may be flautas which are rolled corn tortillas stuffed with beef, chicken or potatoes and then deep fried. Crunchy tostadas are similar as well. They are flat-ish deep fried tortillas that work as a vessel for toppings ranging from seafood to shredded chicken topped with lettuce and cream.
That leads us to sour cream, an ingredient almost impossible to find in any shop in Mexico, not even major supermarkets. Instead we use crema, which is similar to creme fraiche, but with a distinct tangy note.
It’s all About Tacos
Even if we could try a different taco recipe every day for months without repeating a single style, there’s more to Mexican food than filling a tortilla and rolling it up. There are also endless varieties of dishes whose base is corn masa (dough). Those dishes include tamales, atole, esquites, tostadas, pozole, tlacoyos and chilaquiles. There are refreshing drinks with cocoa seeds or annatto seeds ,like the Oaxacan Tejate or Tascalate from Chiapas.
Mexican cuisine is also composed of classic soups, stews, sweets and snacks that do not involve tortillas in any way.
Mexican Food is Not Vegetarian Friendly
Contrary to popular belief, not all Mexican food has beef or chicken in it. Aside from the simple quesadilla, tlacoyo is a patty stuffed with fava beans or cheese. It is topped with boiled cactus, and sprinkled with queso fresco. Such dishes can easily be found at any Mexican lunch and are completely vegetarian without changing the original recipe.