Street food, snacks (bocados), and appetizers
(antojitos or botanos) make up a food category
all their own in Mexico. This category
of foods includes all the variations on the taco, enchilada and
tostada, salsas and dips, tortas (crusty sandwiches), cheeses, ceviche, quesadillas,
carnitas (pork taco), chiles rellenos and other stuffed
vegetables, empanadas, tamales -- and the list goes on and on. In
Mexico, any dish that involves a tortilla or
something like a tortilla will always be considered a snack and won't
make it to the big afternoon comida. In the States, with burrito stands on every
corner and salsa outselling ketchup, many of these foods seems
more than familiar. But, just in case you're not 100% sure what
a hot tamale is when it's not movie-theater candy, here's a quick
run-down of some bocados and antojitos:
the burrito, as so
many know so well, a large flour tortilla is wrapped around a
- A large, gorgeous (these black/green
peppers are spectacular) poblano
chile, is filled with cheese or anything you like, then
dipped in batter and deep fried. Sometimes a sauce is poured on
top. Other variations on the stuffed chile are not deep fried -- for
example, a poblano filled with shrimp and
onions and then baked, is light and sharp.
- A specialty of
northern Mexico where wheat is cultivated, empanadas fill a disk
of wheat-flour dough with something savory or sweet, fold it in
half, seal, and deep-fry until crispy.
- A corn tortilla is rolled
around a meat or cheese filling, quickly deep fried, and served
hot. Enchiladas should not be fried to a crisp -- only until
- Corn tortillas filled with
cheese are rolled into 'flute' shaped tubes and deep-fried. The flutes
are then served with a green tomatilla, serrano, and avocado
sauce, and a red chile sauce. Toppings of cheese and cream cool
off the concoction.
- Especially popular in
central Mexico, corn tortillas are folded in half (as empanadas)
around a filling of anything, from mushrooms to tripe to cheese, and
then deep fried.
- Masa is fried into crispy,
silver-dollar sized boats and spread with all sorts of toppings --
anything from the raw to the cooked.
- Most (but not all!) tacos in
Mexico are soft. Fresh corn tortillas, two-thick, are folded
around something tasty -- perhaps meat, perhaps potaotes with sauce and
cilantro or seasoned with chile. Sometimes the corn tortillas are fried
first to keep them from drying out, and then they are folded around the
tidbit. Sometimes the taco is rolled instead of folded. Pretty
much anything with a corn tortilla and a filling can be called a taco --
even a burrito, which uses a flour tortilla, has a taco name --
taco de harina. So much for crunchy Taco Bell.
- Mexicans have been
making tamales for a long, long time. They were given as gifts to the Aztec
gods during the twelfth month of the eighteen-month year. A tamale is a
parcel of corn dough filled with nearly anything, wrapped in a
package made from a corn husk or a banana leaf, and steamed.
- Thick, meaty
tortillas are cut up (or not) and fried for chips --