Mexican City is famous for its food that’s bursting with exotic flavours and textures. Since the Mayans started cultivating corn, Mexican cuisine has evolved to become one of the richest in the world; so rich that UNESCO named it as an intangible cultural heritage of mankind. Choosing 10 must-try foods in Mexico City is not an easy job! Being a city that lives on its feet and in the streets, street and market food dominates the scene, with even upscale restaurants using techniques and flavours which originated in its market heritage. The best way to experience this rich food culture is with a food tour of Mexico City and my suggestion is to taste as much as you can!
Tacos al pastor
Predating the arrival of Spanish, el taco is still the king of Mexico City's street food! However don’t miss out on tacos “al pastor” (shepherd style), one of the capital’s signature dishes, despite its origins being anything but Mexican. This historical dish, based on shawarma spit-grilled meat, was brought to Central Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the early 20th century. Different from shawarma, tacos al pastor are made with pork, not lamb, and they are served on a corn tortilla. In Mexico City, this traditional food dish is seasoned with onion, coriander and a slice of pineapple. When the craving strikes, I often go to Salon Corona, El Huequito, El Califa, or El Rey del Suadero- which are very good taquerias (restaurants or stalls that sell tacos). For partygoers, Los Chupacabras and Los Orinico are open until late hours.
Cochinita pibil is one of Mexico City's traditional foods and a delicious one at that! This slow-roasted pork dish has origins in the Yucatán Peninsula, where dishes are sweeter and less spicy. Preparation of traditional cochinita involves marinating the meat in acidic citrus juice, seasoning it with seeds of iconic Yucatán spice, achiote (annatto), which imparts a vivid burnt orange color, and cooking the meat while it’s wrapped in banana leaf. All this contributes to the dish’s uniquely sweet and earthy aroma. Cochinita is usually eaten on a corn tortilla, which as we all know is a famous food of Mexico City, with frijoles (beans), vinegar-marinated onions, and some chili Habanero sauce, for the bravest ones! Head to El Turix or El Cardenal to enjoy some of the best cochinita in the capital.
Chile en nogada
Honouring the colors of the Mexican flag, chile en nogada is one of the most patriotic dishes in Mexico City and a popular food among our locals. Puebla chilies are filled with picadillo (a mixture of meat, fruits, and spices) that represents the green on the flag, the walnut-based cream sauce is the white and pomegranate seeds the red. It is not a coincidence that chile en nogada´s season is in September, the month of Mexico’s Independence. From the end of August to the whole month of September, you can find chile en nogada everywhere, though only a few restaurants serve it all year around. To try it, I recommend Hostería de Santo Domingo, located in the center. You will not be disappointed! They serve up some of the best food in Mexico City and their interpretation of this dish is exquisite.
If you have decided to embark upon a proper Mexico City food tour, then I highly recommend barbacoa, a pre-Hispanic form of cooking meat from which the term barbecue derives. Nowadays it refers to slow-cooked meats over an open fire, or more traditionally, in a hole dug in the ground covered with maguey leaves. This meat is known for its high-fat content, tenderness, and delicious strong flavor, and is often accompanied with consomé (the meat’s broth), onions, and cilantro. In Mexico City, this popular food is a typical dish that we indulge in at weekends tianguis (pop-up markets) for breakfast or brunch. The Sullivan Tianguis and the Barbacoa Edison Fonda (homey restaurant), offer amazing barbacoa.
A tamal is a traditional Mesoamerican dish made of a corn-based dough and filled up with meat, vegetables and sauces, steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. In Mexico City this traditional food could be either savoury or sweet so there is a tamal for every palate! A very nourishing meal, it’s typically consumed for breakfast. Usually sold on the street, you will probably hear somewhere a man on a bike selling tamales Oxacaqueños (from Oaxaca), one of the many kinds of tamales and possibly the best street food in Mexico City. With her experience of over 55 years, I would go for Doña Emi’s tamales in the La Roma neighbourhood. Head there early if you want to find any left!
A very rich and traditional platillo (dish) is mole, a sauce with a base of chillies and spices that can have 30-plus ingredients, used usually to accompany meat dishes. There are numerous variations to this recipe depending on the region however the most famous are those from Oaxaca and Puebla (“Poblano”). A pre-Hispanic dish that has evolved through history, this famous food of Mexico City is on every Mexicans´ table during any kind of celebrations. Experts count more than 50 types – it could be green, white, red, or black mole, just to mention a few – so if you truly are looking to sample the best food of Mexico City then try as many variants of this dish as you can to find! I would suggest trying this dish out at La Poblanita and Azul Histórico- two great local restaurants that you may have otherwise missed if following a Mexico City street food guide.
Associated with any large family gathering, pozole is another historical famous food of Mexico City. Although nowadays there are different variations of this hearty soup, it traditionally contains the base ingredients of pork, garlic and large hominy kernels. It is typically served with numerous garnishes including salsas, onions, avocado, radishes, lettuce and cabbage, and it is usually eaten with tostadas (toasted tortillas), cream and chicharrón (pork scratchings). My recommendation is to try it in one of the branches of Casa de Toño where you will taste authentic food of Mexico City.
In Mexico City we are famous for foods such as pan dulces which literally translates as “sweet breads” and are eaten at any time of the day. There is a huge variety to choose from, however, the quintessential Mexican pan dulce is la concha, shaped for its namesake, a seashell. La concha is composed of a sweet, enriched bread roll, and a crumbly cookie dough that acts as its topping, usually flavoured either with vanilla or chocolate. You will find this dish almost everywhere, from food markets in Mexico City to restaurants and eateries across the globe. Locally I would suggest trying it freshly baked from the 90-years old Pasteleria Ideal or at one of the branches of El Cardenal, along with a hot drink.
Despite not being originally from Mexico, churros are definitely associated with the country and have definitely become one of the more famous foods of Mexico City. Typically eaten dipped in hot chocolate or coffee, churros are fried-dough pastries, usually sprinkled with sugar. The city hosts plenty of churrerias (shops that sell churros) however one of the most popular among Chilangos (as those who live in the capital are called) is Il Moro. Its most historical branch opened in the center in 1935. It became the first churreria to open after having first launched as a stall in the Zocalo (the main square) before going on to become the leader of Mexico City street food.
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