How many Mexican corn dishes can you think of? Everyone knows tortillas, but if you don’t visit Mexico, you might just miss out on a whole host of other delicious foods that are made from the country's number one ingredient: corn. Here, Mexican food blogger Jorge Aguayo talks us through some must-try dishes.
Earlier this week, I attended the first #50BestTalks round table in Mexico City, where chefs, media representatives and restaurateurs discussed regional cuisine and our country’s culinary diversity. During the event, Alicia Gironella (above), chef and founder of El Tajin restaurant in Mexico City, spoke passionately about corn, emphasising its versatility – did you know there are more preparation methods for corn than for rice? It’s precisely this ancient staple that ties together all of our regional cuisines.
There are at least 42 types of corn cultivated across Mexico, which means your tortilla will taste different depending on which variety it’s made from. After chef Alicia’s comments, I decided to investigate a little further and share with you a few of the more interesting corn-based dishes in Mexico – some spicy, some not-so-spicy, but all very tasty. Here are the corn-based foods you should try during your visit to Mexico:
This traditional dish is prepared across the country in different states such as Puebla, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Morelos and Oaxaca, and although it has different variations, the base of the chileatole is corn and chilli. You can find it like a beverage, a soup or as a main dish – it’s always spicy and is served warm.
In Puebla you can try one of the most popular appetisers, filled with potatoes or beans and topped with cheese and sauce. You can find them every day in almost any restaurant. What makes this dish special are the avocado leaves they grind along with the beans to make the filling, giving the tlayoyos a unique taste.
A traditional dish from Yucatán, this is a perfect appetiser made out of corn dough topped with chicken or pork meat. The meat is usually marinated with chilli, garlic powder and orange juice, giving it a salty flavour with a sweet pinch.
This well-known appetiser from central Oaxaca is itself a variation of traditional tortillas. It’s large, a bit rough and lightly toasted. The tlayuda dish is prepared with a variety of toppings either over it or rolled up inside. Ingredients include beans, lettuce, beef, corned beef, pork sausage and varieties of salsa. The dish is at hand for every local, as it can be found in street stalls, in small restaurants or in homes.
A drink that can be enjoyed in the State of Michoacan, ‘black atole’ can be found in street locations, markets, and on the tables of Michoacan homes. It is surprising that almost every element of the corn plant can be used for our consumption, and in the case of cob hair, can also make a tasty drink full of nutrients. Preparation is simple: the cacao shells and cob hair are toasted and then ground with a flat grinding stone similar to a pestle and mortar, and then incorporated into the dough mixture with water, cinnamon and brown sugar.
This traditional Mexican drink has been consumed since pre-Hispanic times in Chiapas state. It was associated with elements of love and partying and it’s a refreshing and nutritious option that can be found both in markets and restaurants. It is made from corn, cacao, achiote (a local spice), chilli, pine nuts and cinnamon, and these ingredients give it its characteristic reddish-orange color.
Yes, we Mexicans think about food many times a day, and thanks to that we’ve been very creative with our corn dishes.
¡Buen provecho! Enjoy!
With thanks to BBVA, Official Banking Sponsor of Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants 2014