Who dares to be the brave soul willing to provide a definition of Mexican food? And I say brave because that person would have to consider a huge swath of territory, taking into account a number of states and the various localities and traditions within them. It isn’t just the cuisine, for Mexico itself is a mosaic resulting from the mixing of indigenous cultures, European colonizers, and several waves of immigration from around the world, making it very difficult to define. That said, we’re stepping up and attempting to be brave, and as humble as we can be, to share this very general overview of six gastronomic regions in Mexico.
Baja California Peninsula
One of the most eclectic parts of the country, where seafood, including the famous Baja fish tacos, converges with the wide range of gourmet proposals that have emerged from the wine producing Guadalupe Valley. The largest city, Tijuana, has created the concept of BajaMed food, a fusion of Baja California cooking with Mediterranean styles and some Asian elements due to the growing Chinese population in this border town.
Ahh… the meat! The jewel of the north, grazing on the fruits of our land. This region of Mexico is particularly known for its premium cuts of meat, as well as barbacoa, machaca, and chilorio, and always accompanied by flour tortillas and the typical frijoles borrachos (drunken beans) cooked with chorizo and beer.
In the tropics, the sea dominates. The states of Sinaloa, Jalisco, Nayarit, and Guerrero are all known for their ceviches, aguachiles, fish “a la talla,” marlin empanadas, and much more. And it’s very important to accompany any of these dishes with a cold beer, you know, to avoid dehydration in those steamy climes.
The central part of Mexico is made up of a diverse range of states, cultures, and cuisines. Let’s begin with one shining star, that is, the capital and biggest city. While the dining options in Mexico City are practically infinite – from all over Mexico and the rest of the world – we can safely say that it is most famous for its tacos. Carnitas, campechanos, barbacoa and, the king of tacos, pastor (which, by the way, cannot be found with its perfect marinated flavor in any other region of the country).
This gastronomic zone also includes the state of Hidalgo, famous for its empanada-like pastes and its mixiotes, slow-roasted meat wrapped in agave leaves and seasoned with chiles and spices. In Guanajuato, visitors should not miss the “miners” enchiladas. And finally, Puebla, the city of angels that has given the world one of the country’s most outstanding culinary treasures, a range of moles with the classic poblano chile.
On the eastern side of Mexico, Veracruz offers several signature dishes influenced by its Afro-Carribean roots such as red snapper Veracruz style and rice “a la tumbada.” A little further south, the state of Tabasco is known for their fried fish empanadas.
In the south eastern end of the country is the beloved jungle jewel. This region of Mexico is characterized by its Mayan influence, which imparts special touches to its cuisine. There you will find the famous cochinita pibil, which is prepared in an underground oven called the pib, lime soup, papadzules, and various dishes made from suckling pig, as this is an area where pork is raised.
Mexico is undoubtedly a difficult country to define simply when discussing the food. The various landscapes offer a wealth of ingredients making it a food lover’s paradise.
Note: If you are wondering why Oaxaca has not been mentioned here, it’s because this state is so near and dear to our hearts that we feel it deserves its own special entry in our beloved gastronomic column. Until then!