Antojitos y fondas

Good, cheap Mexican food

I’ve written a few articles for Mexxed now, and if you’ve read them then you know that I live in Mexico and have for a several years. So obviously when I go back to the U.S. to visit friends and family, I don’t go out for Mexican food. Aside from good old home cooked American food (which is quite an enigma to people from other countries who think that American food is pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers), I look for Indian, Greek or Thai food; cuisine not easily found in Mexico.

Like Indian, Greek or Thai food in the states, which often bears little resemblance to what is actually served and eaten in those countries, Mexican food in the U.S. isn’t quite the same, even though we are next door neighbors. But I think that is changing, although I suspect some of the best Mexican food, antojitos, which are super cheap down here, are served in expensive, gourmet Mexican restaurants in the U.S.

Antojitos translates (roughly) as little cravings. These are the small, often tortilla-based foods that you can order in huge quantities when super hungry. You can choose your meat or something vegetarian, and they are usually covered in shredded lettuce, green salsa and cream.

Most people have heard of tostadas, hard fried tortillas often topped with chicken. A variant on a tostada is a sope (not soup), which is the same but uses a delicious half-inch thick tortilla. Quesadillas also fall under the category of antojitos, as well as pambasos, highly addictive deep fried sandwiches.

Cheap restaurants in Mexico that serve antojitos (or set meals) are called fondas. Though I’ve never been to one, I’m absolutely sure fondas can be found in LA and Texas – maybe anywhere with a large Mexican population. And though you can probably find them in gourmet Mexican restaurants in New York or Chicago, I’m sure they don’t compare to what I eat for so cheap here in Mexico.

Or do they? If you’ve been to a fonda in the U.S., please let us know!

What to eat when you are sick of tacos

A tortilla is a beautiful thing. So are tacos, but you don't only have to make tacos out of tortillas. Unfortunately humans can't live on tacos alone.

Luckily in Mexico there is a huge amount of really good tortilla-based food, many of which use the same ingredients as tacos but come out totally different.Very similar to tacos are gringas, which use flour tortillas and come with a lot of cheese. The meat can be anything but is usually pastor, seasoned pork that is piled up and cooked on big rotating spits outside taco restaurants.

Huarache means sandal, and the food huaraches are big and about sandal sized. The base is a thick tortilla, which is sometimes stuffed with beans. Anything can go on top, but they usually have meat, cilantro, salsa, beans, powdery cheese and nopales, which are cooked cactus leaves.

A thick, small, round hard-fried tortilla stuffed with meat and drenched in hot salsa is a gordita and they are excellent. As with a lot of Mexican food, the best place to eat gorditas is in a market or a little restaurant.

Quesadillas are big plate-sized tortillas folded in half and cooked with a wide variety of fillings, including meat or many vegetables, like mushrooms or zucchini flower (flor de calabaza – one of my favorites).

Finally, you can try a taco arabe – an Arabic taco, so named because it uses a pita-style wrap and specially seasoned meat that comes on the pastor spit, but is different than pastor.

Seafood in Mexico

Camarones, pescadillas, y ceviches

When you're in a country like Mexico with so much coastline, you can expect to eat some killer seafood.

Shrimp, camarones in Spanish, is widely available. Shrimp tacos are often deep fried (empanizado) and usually include avocado, lettuce, tomato and salsa. Another great way to eat shrimp is in a cocktail (coctel). Full of hot sauce, cilantro, onion and slices of avocado, these are good with beer. Try pouring a little in before you finish it off.An empanada  is stuffed with shrimp, fish or almost anything else and then deep fried. You can also get tostadas, which are a big flat hard tortilla with lettuce, onion, avocado and the seafood on top.

Ceviches are like seafood salads and often include shrimp, fish, octopus or some other seafood. Unlike in Peru, which is the source for original ceviche, Mexican ceviches have cooked fish, rather than raw. You can also order a seafood salad (ensalada de mariscos), and it will be similar but will have more vegetables.

Fish comes in many ways. I like to get the whole fish cooked up so you can eat every bit of meat, picking it off the bones, but if you don´t like the food staring up at you as you eat it then you can order a filete. I'm sure you can guess what the translation is.

Finally, on the beach or in a restaurant, you should always be able to find pescadillas, which are quesadillas with fish (pescado). They should be cheap and ready to be doused in hot sauce.

There's a lot more seafood to eat in Mexico, but hopefully these are enough suggestions to get you started. Provecho!

Real Mexican Tacos

That's right, they are awesome.

Perhaps tacos are the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Mexican food. But what are tacos? When I was a kid, my mom and my friends' moms made them good.

Starting with the hard, upright shell from the box, you put in some ground beef cooked with the special packet of spice that also comes with the box. Or maybe chicken. Then you put shredded "Mexican" cheese from a bag on them, directly on the meat so it will melt a little, and top them off with some lettuce, onions and tomatoes, and if your friend's mom is extra cool, maybe something special like avocado. Now, aren't those tacos?

Sorry, but not here in Mexico.

First of all, typical Mexican tacos use corn tortillas, maybe two, and they are soft, fresh and small – about the size of the palm of your hand. I have never seen the hard shelled ones from the box. Many kinds of meat can be put into a taco, but the most common and cheapest is called pastor – big filets of pork cooked on a spinning stick all day, covered with spices and with a pineapple on top.

There are usually only two vegetables that top off a taco: cilantro and onion. If you are lucky, slices of the pineapple will end up on it too.

Finally the sauce: every taqueria has at least two sauces, red and green. Taste them carefully because they can be extremely spicy. Better places have more sauces in yellow or orange, or chopped tomato, onion and chile. Finally, like almost all other Mexican food, you squeeze a lime on top of it.

These are real tacos, so if you come to Mexico (not touristy Mexico), don't be disappointed if you can't find your upright hard shelled tacos. You'll be very pleasantly surprised. Writing this has made me super hungry so I'm off to get some right now.

Mexican food - what it's not

I spent many years loving Mexican food before I ever traveled to Mexico. For me, I loved getting a big burrito at a colorful restaurant. I loved my mom's tacos.

Even traveling to Mexico might not dispel your conception of Mexican food because in touristy places, they serve what Americans are familiar with. But now that I live in Mexico, and in a part that has almost zero foreign tourism, it's great to discover that Mexican food is even better than I'd thought.

At least where I'm from, the midwest, a regular meal is a big burrito or another flour tortilla based dish, and then a little salad, rice and refried beans.It's pretty rare to find that combination all in one place here in Mexico. First of all, burritos don't exist. Well, of course they do, especially in the north, but they are considered a U.S. import. Same for margaritas. When my Mexican friends in my town want to go for margaritas, they go to Chili's or T.G.I. Friday's.

Nachos don't exist either, at least I haven't yet found a big plate of nachos covered with meat, veggies and quality cheese. You can, however, find the gas-station yellow pump cheese variety, like those featured in Primus' “Jerry was a Race Car Driver” music video.

And, sorry mom, but the hard-shelled things filled with ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes and salsa with the consistency of ketchup aren't tacos either. But they are delicious nevertheless.

Mexican food has a great deal of variety. Also, there are some restaurants that do their best to serve up the real stuff. But if you really want to eat Mexican cuisine, you have to come down here and get off the tourist track.


Tasty Tortilla Soup is Versatile and Easy

Tortilla soup is a versatile and easy to create dish that works well as a main course or as an appetizer. The basic recipe can be varied and adapted based on how hearty you want the soup, and what ingredients you already happen to have on hand. Here's a good “base” for creating your own tortilla soup recipe. Try adding different beans, more vegetables, or other spices to switch up the flavor and consistency of the soup.

You'll Need:

  • 1 dozen corn tortillas

  • vegetable oil

  • 3 cans vegetable broth

  • 2 cans diced tomatoes

  • 2 medium poblano peppers

  • 1 small jalepeno pepper

  • 1 small onion

  • 1 handful fresh cilantro

  • 1 can black beans

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • salt

  • pepper

  • cumin

Turn the oven on 350 degrees and place the cored, seeded poblano peppers and the jalepeno pepper in a roasting pan. Add the whole cloves of garlic and the small onion. Sprinkle it with a small amount of vegetable oil/ Roast this mix for about half an hour.

Next, cut the tortillas in half, then cut the half-circles into strips roughly a half an inch to an inch wide. Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a pan over medium high heat, and carefully fry the tortilla strips until they are crisp, then take them out of the oil and set aside.

In a large pot, mix together the vegetable broth, the tomatoes, and the black beans. When the vegetables are finished roasting, allow them to cool slightly and dice them before adding to the soup.

Add the tortilla strips and sprinkle in salt, pepper, and cumin to taste. Stir the soup frequently and simmer over low to medium heat for fifteen to twenty minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.



    Cumin is a Great Way to Add Spice and Flavor to Many Types of Mexican Cuisine

    Are you getting more confident in your cooking, yet feel that your Mexican cuisine still seems to be lacking a little something? Consider spicing it up with a dash or two of cumin. Readily available and fairly inexpensive, cumin is a spice that can add distinctive, authentic flavor to many types of Mexican cuisine.

    The spice has its origins in India and the eastern Mediterranean region, and today it's one of the world's most popular culinary herbs, used by cooks in Asia, northern Mexico, and many places in between. It belongs to the Apiaceae family of plants, the botanical family that also includes carrots, parsley, asise, fennel, dill, celery, parsnip, and other familiar herbs and spices regularly used in cooking. The part of the cumin plant used in cooking is the seed pod, or fruit. The plant produces fruits with a single seed contained within each one. These fruits are then dried and either used whole or ground into powder.

    Cumin has warm, hearty flavor tones that impart a very slight hotness, or mild “bite” to foods. It's flavor is like nothing else, and it's an indispensable ingredient in many chili powder blends. It's aroma is strong, earthy, and substantial, imparting to a comforting quality to dishes.

    Use cumin powder on Spanish rices and casseroles, beans, and grilled or sauteed meats, meat substitutes, and vegetables. It's great for use on tacos, burritos, and fajitas, and it's also nice in many soups and stews. Try using cumin combined with garlic powder; the spices compliment each other very well.




    When In Doubt Add Some Guac

    I admit that growing up, I never tasted an avocado or had guacamole. I was actually in my mid-20’s and had ordered a sandwich as a Mexican deli and they used it in the sandwich. I but down and hit this awesomely tasting squishy fruit and I was hooked.

    My Hispanic wife was sitting next to me and I asked her what that green thing was. When she told me it was an avocado, I was floored. Since then, the avocado is my go to garnish for anything and everything Mexican.

    It really is one of the most versatile additions to a meal. It can add great flavor to tacos, nachos, enchiladas, and one and on. If you have a blender and few spices, then you can create guacamole and use it as a dip for tortilla or corn chips.

    I add it to my steak and chicken recipes. I have even heard of guacamole ice cream, but never had the guts to try it. The funny thing is that if you would give me the fruit by itself, I think it tastes nasty. It’s consistency by itself is disgusting, but if you add it to a food, it’s magical.

    Most people add sour cream to their Mexican dishes, but not me. The sour cream is too strong a taste in my opinion and takes away from the main dish. Guacamole has a much lighter flavor and lets you taste the spices in the meat, but without being overpowering.

    Try this Easy Tostada Recipe

    Tostadas are a tasty treat that's easy to make at home. A perfect way to use up tortillas that are on the verge of going stale, the tostada's base is a deep fried crispy corn tortilla. The hard, flat tortilla is then topped with a mixture of beans, vegetables, and other flavorful foods. Here's a recipe for an easy and delicious avocado-topped vegetarian tostada; try it out, or let it inspire you to craft your own unique tostada recipe:

    You'll Need:

    • refried beans

    • corn tortillas

    • vegetable oil

    • shredded cheese

    • chopped onion

    • shredded lettuce

    • chopped tomatoes

    • sliced black olives

    • fresh cilantro

    • avocado, sliced vertically into several long, ¼ inch thick pieces

    • salsa

    Fry corn tortillas in hot vegetable oil until very crisp. Place on paper towels to drain off excess oil. Heat refried beans over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Chop the vegetables while the beans are heating. When the beans are ready, spread them in an even layer over the surface of each tortilla. Take care to leave a little space around the edge so that the tostada will be less messy to eat.

    Once the beans are on, add the salsa and fresh cilantro. Add a layer of shredded cheese, then follow this with the lettuce, tomatoes, and black olives. Finally, top each tostada off with several large slices of avocado.

    Serve tostadas as a side dish, crumble them up to create nachos, or make them the star of the meal. Tostadas are versatile, and they're a great choice for letting your creativity as a cook really shine.

    Homemade Tortilla Chips

    I don't know about you, but there have been way too many times I have awoken in the middle of the night craving some homemade nachos. Nachos are my favorite midnight snack because they are so easy to make.


    The problem I have is that I love the homemade tortilla chips that I get at my favorite restaurant and can't stand the manufactured ones I get at the store. Needless to say, there isn't a whole lot of places open at 2 a.m. for me to get fresh tortilla chips so I had to make my own.


    If I don't have a lot of time and need fresh chips right away, I prefer the frying method. Heat oil in a frying pan under medium heat and cut corn tortillas into triangles. Place the triangles in the oil for about five minutes and remove. Simply salt and then top with your favorite nacho toppings.


    This isn't exactly the healthiest thing to eat at night, but it will do in a pinch. If I think ahead of time, then I'll bake the chips instead. You simple preheat an oven to 350 and, once again, cut the tortillas into triangles and place them on a baking sheet. Spray each side with cooking spray and place in the oven for about five minutes or until golden brown.


    This is a great fryless method that creates perfectly crispy chips without all the oil. If you have any large Ziploc bags available then you can place them in there and they'll stay good for a few days before going stale. This is easy and tasty treat for those late night snacks or that quick lunch on the go.