Authentic Mexican Food?

See also my Post :“Cultural” Appropriation of Cuisines? for another aspect of this.

“Confirmed authentic” Thai food (in Western Australia).
I’m not sure who confirmed it nor am I sure what is being used to gauge its authenticity.
The question I ponder is “Can such a thing (authentic) even exist outside of its centre of origin”?

What is authentic Mexican (1) food?

  1. or any culture for that matter

In my mind it is the food cooked in the homes, by the people. Restaurant food is one aspect of a cultures food but it is a distorted aspect. Just as I don’t eat at a café or restaurante every day for every meal nor does a Mexican eat barbacoa (or tamales, or mole, or birria or, or, or, and so on) every day (1). Eating “on the street” however is a typical daily experience in México and this comida callejera has a long history in Mesoamerica.

  1. you might eat at a fonda every day but that is at its very essence the same as being invited into someones home (and some fondas are actually in peoples homes). Fondas are typically only open for breakfast and lunch.

The bones of Mexican cuisine now support the bodies of the cuisines of other cultures.

The ingredients of Mesoamerica have penetrated the globe to such a degree that in some places the cuisines would not exist in the manner we know them (take Italy and the tomato for instance) and some ingredients (such as the chile) have been so ingrained into the cooking of a particular culture that the newer generations actually think that the plant came from their country (1).

  1. By the 18th Century the chile was so ubiquitous in China that one botanist named one of the five domesticated varieties of chiles Capsicum chinense because he believed it originated in China. “The cultural symbolism surrounding the chili has even tied the pepper to Mao Zedong as revolutionary imagery, and it continues to be used in Chinese pop culture as a symbol of regional and national identity” (Dott 2020). The first Chinese written mention of the chilli was in a book by Gao Lian, a collector and connoisseur who lived in Hangzhou, in 1591, who remarked not just on its spicy flavour but its aesthetic appeal.

Other Mesoamerican foods made their way into the Revolutionary art of China

This does raise an interesting question as many of the cuisines that rely on Mesoamerican ingredients (tomato, corn, potato etc) as staples of the cuisine (and in many places, of the diet) are considered to be authentic, and in many cases “traditional” cuisines. How can they be? These ingredients only entered their cultures after 1500AD; only 500 years ago. In the grand scheme of things this is not long at all. How can we then frame these particular cuisines authentically?

Mexico has played with these ingredients long before it was known as México and even longer than before Malinche was lambasted for being the whore who destroyed México (1).

  1. an unfair and unwarranted accusation mind you. See Post La Malinche for more information on one of the most powerful women chronicled in the history of Mesoamerica.

The street and cafe/fonda/restaurant scene in México is both imaginative and artistic. The food evolves with the imagination of the cook. It also brings us to the notion of “authentic food”. Does authenticity even exist? (1) In this PC world as it exists today the keyboard warriors of political correctness would have you believe that it does not (2) (3) and that believing there is such a thing is an illusion of sorts and that attempting to create an “authentic” version of a cultures cuisine is in effect a form of gentrification (4) and that a cook not from that culture is a form of cultural parasite who is in effect attempting to continue the colonization of that culture through a form of whitewashing. (Sánchez Prado 2020) (5). Rick Bayless usually cops it in the ear for this. See Post “Cultural” Appropriation of Cuisines? for a little more on Rick (and Diana Kennedy who, rest her soul, never seemed to catch the same grief that Rick did/does).

  1. https://www.eater.com/2019/12/3/20974732/authentic-food-definition-yelp
  2. https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/why-authentic-food-is-bullshit
  3. https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20210131-does-authentic-mexican-food-exist
  4. https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/restaurants/the-authenticity-trap-of-mexican-food-in-america-7538626
  5. https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/why-authentic-is-the-most-insulting-word-in-foodie-culture

I call bullshit on the “wokeness” of these complaints. Is this what they call virtue signalling? I have found the people of a particular culture/background only too happy to share the recipes of their homelands and are pleased with your efforts (regardless of the result). It is about the sharing. As for “authenticity” I have heard it being described as an attempt to recreate a memory of a place once visited. The description focussed on white people and how they reduced a culture to a “romantic indigenous ideology” and was again a cultural whitewashing and the gentrification of a culture so it was framed with an entirely negative and somewhat racist outlook. The podcasters were cross border Latinx people who discussed Mexican food in particular (they also thought however that the jalapeno chile originated in China soooooo).

Authentic Mexican Food. Somebody better tell the Mexicans what that is. (It’s a pity there’s no font that denotes sarcasm)

My first introduction to the culinary frankensteinism of México was the guajolota. A fairly simple dish if you think about it. Whack a tamal in a bread roll. BAM. That’s it. Now you possess a carbohydrate rich brick that has no doubt existed since the bread roll was introduced and they were no longer required to wrap their tamales in corn tortillas (which I’m certain occurred). A guajolota is typically eaten with a nice steaming mug of atole (a hot, thick (or not) corn based drink – often compared to gruel, which does it no justice)

First you need the perfect bread roll. Bread, via wheat, is an import to México. The Spanish and the French played a large part in the cultura del pan of Mejico.

The conditions required for the perfect guajolota…

  • Que no pase de 25 varos. If you’re paying more than 25 pesos you’re getting screwed (I’m paraphrasing a little here)
  • Bolillo crujiente recien horneado. A freshly baked, crispy roll is essential (bolillos or teleras being the preferred rolls)

  • El tamal debe abarcar el tamano del bolillo. The tamale should fill the bolillo.
  • Masa bien cocido, no aguada. The masa dough must be well cooked, not watery. (nothing quite as gross as a squishy bread roll. Tomato, I’m looking at you here)
  • Calentito pero que no te queme al morder. It is best eaten warm (when cold it is literally a brick). Not too warm though. You don’t want to be burning your mouth. Hot pizza anyone?
  • Con mucha carnita. Self explanatory.
  • Con mucha salsa, seco no nos gusta. Make sure there’s plenty of salsa. A dry guajolota? No me gusta

The Simpsons : Season 3 – TREEHOUSE OF HORROR II
(if it was in Spanglish) or (according to Google Translate) ¡Oh cosa asquerosa y maldita! ¿Qué demonio de las profundidades del infierno (or perhaps Mictlan?) te creó?

Next there’s the concha. My favourite pan dulce (sweet bread). These sweet breads are a legacy of European baking practices imported into México during the 18th century. This can really be said of any wheat based bread as this grain was not present in México prior to the Spanish. They are named conchas due to the shell like pattern of their topping. They are quite sweet (although not at all cloyingly so) and it is this sweetness that has been co-opted to create a multitude of savoury/sweet combinations. They are also best eaten fresh. Day old conchas are a travesty (don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to eat it, no toques mi concha)

Tricked you. This is actually a blanket (also very cool)

This sweet breakfast roll has been mexicanned even further

Hey. If Americans can make donut burgers why can’t Mexicans make concha burgers

In all honesty, this does not appeal to me.

And then there is, of course, Mexican humour

Another pan dulce.

Pan de Muerto

Pan de Muerto (“Bread of the Dead”) is a traditional Mexican sweet bread that is commonly made during Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) and is a key element of the ofrendas (altars) made by the families remembering their dear departed.

Pan de muerto at different events hosted by the Friends of Mexico society (FOMEX) in Western Australia. FOMEX is a group of expat Latinos (many come from countries outside of Mexico) who get together to celebrate Mexican holidays and to share their culture with non-Mexicans.

I have found Mexico to have quite the sweet tooth.

Abraham Padilla from Il Mercato Gentiloni : The culinary encounter between Mexico and Italy : Saltillo, Coahuila de Zaragoza, Mexico

“La Rosca Muerta” by chef Alonso Domínguez.

A perfect combination between the fabulous rosca de reyes and the majestic bread of the dead.

Rosca de Reyes via Coya’s Cafe on Facebook

Rosca de Reyes. This pan dulce (sweet bread) baked for Three Kings Day (5th-6th January), is decorated to resemble a crown with the candied dried fruit for the jewels. Traditionally a small porcelain figurine that represents the infant Jesus is wrapped in wax paper and baked into the bread. According to the tradition, whoever finds one of the figurines in the piece of Rosca that they cut is obligated to make Tamales for everyone else to celebrate “Dia de la Candelaria”, which is another Mexican holiday celebrated on February 2nd.

And if the baby Jesus isn’t your thing. How about baby Yoda?

Or we could just go savoury instead.

Pan de Muerto pizza.
Claims are made that Marco Castillo the owner of Casera Pizza in Merida Yucatan is the originator of this dish (and that the dish originally – and jokingly – began as a meme)(1)(2)
  1. https://netnoticias.mx/de-interes/pizza-de-pan-de-muerto-desquicia-las-redes-sociales/
  2. https://www.radioformula.com.mx/vida-y-estilo/20191018/ya-no-hay-respeto-asi-es-como-se-ve-la-pizza-de-pan-de-muerto/

A combination of the most famous of the tacos, the al pastor, and the Pan de muerto.

Pan de pastor muerto
El Ring Taquero on Instagram

Pan de Muerto burger “La Muerta” at the Bacon Bar in Col Narvarte CDMX
https://www.chilango.com/comida/hamburguesa-de-pan-de-muerto-con-tocino/
Holy Cow Burger & Beer Joint

They’ve been making burgers with doughnuts (donuts) for quite a while now so why not use a pan de meurto?

Mop Donut Burger

Why stop with burgers when you can pan de muerto sushi?

Pan de muerto sushi has also emerged, created by the Sushin González restaurant (1).
As a way to honour the Day of the Dead offering, this sushi has cinnamon, panela cheese, quince paste, pastry cream, orange and rice (and sounds quite delicious)

  1. in the CDMX at Coahuila #105 Col Roma Norte 06700 Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico

On the subject of sushi

Ronald Guerrero, chef at Culichi Town just outside L.A., says Mexican sushi was born spontaneously, when a sushi chef in Sinaloa created a new roll using a piece of grilled skirt steak. “It all started when a customer at a sushi restaurant in Sinaloa asked the chef for “something different” one day. That led the sushi chef to procure a sizzling piece of carne asada from the taqueria across the street and create a sushi roll with it.”(1)

  1. https://www.vice.com/en/article/kbxgnn/las-mexican-sushi-is-a-magical-bomb-of-cream-cheese-and-grilled-meat

The rolls include cooked shrimp, cilantro, American cheese, and bacon. There’s mozzarella, chipotle sauce, and cream cheese — known endearingly in Mexico as “queso filadelfia”, some are deep-fried

These types of sushi are a take on the traditional rolled type sushi originating from Japan.

Traditional and non-traditional at the same time.

Authentic?

Who cares.

Look what happens when an enterprising Mexicano gets a hold of it though.

Culichi Town sushi brings to mind another issue doing the rounds. That of “Cultural Appropriation” (capitalised as to some this is a sticking point that is a source of fatal offence). I was going to do a little more on this aspect of the culinary world in this Post but it requires more than the paragraph I was going to write. I have dedicated a few Posts to this. Check out the following……

Then of course there’s this….

I guess it’s all in the wording.

I once saw on a menu in a restaurant a “deconstructed vegetable stack”.

???

So you mean a plate of vegetables???

Anyhow, I digress.

Although street food may substitute for a meal generally it is thought of as “snacking” food. And what could be more of a snacking food than…..

or maybe you know them in this form……

These are basically the commercial version of a day old tortilla. Fresh tortillas are not as good for making totopos (a word that can also refer to a whole crispy tortilla) and in México they have taken the snacking on a corn chip to the next level (and several levels further)

Oaxacan totopos.
Photo by Putla Oaxaca via Facebook

First take your bag of chips and cut it open. Do this carefully as the bag is also the bowl. Then cover the chips with what ever you want. There do not appear to be any rules. A typical garnish for such things might be a dash of your favourite salsa (I’m a Tapatio man myself) and a squeeze of limón.

Tostilocos

Fresh ingredients might be added and the whole lot slathered in salsa.

Or not so fresh ingredients might be added and, like I said, “No Rules”. Why not add gummy bears? Why not indeed.

Dorilocos

Same story

It’s hard to describe Dorilocos using words. The recipe starts with Nacho Cheese Doritos, which are then topped with a variety of ingredients: cueritos (pickled pork rinds), small batons of jicama, cubed cucumber, grated carrots, peanuts (most often described by the vendors as japonés, the ones with the crunchy, soy sauce-flavored shell), gummy bears, lime juice, chile powder, salsa Valentina or another hot sauce, and chamoy, an addictive sweet-salty-sour sauce made from pickled fruit. It’s outrageous.

“Classic” dorilocos (4 portions)

Ingredients

  • 4 bags Doritos Nacho
  • 1 cup cubed jicama
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 1/2 peeled and cubed cucumber
  • 1/2 cup chopped corns, chopped
  • 1 cup of cacahuates Japoneses (Japanese peanuts)
  • Juice of two limes
  • Chamoy (to taste). See Post Chamoy for more information on this ingredient
  • hot sauce (to taste)
  • Chile powder (to taste)

Method

  1. Carefully cut open your bag of Doritos. The bag becomes the bowl so be careful. I like to cut along the seal that runs up the back of the bag
  2. Fill with the ingredients, in the order of your preference.
  3. Garnish with lemon juice, sauces and chilies in powder.

Beyond Dorilocos and Tostilocos, there are dozens of variations: Tosti Elotes (with kernels of corn), pepihuates (a sort of Clamato-based cold snack soup filled with those peanuts japonés), Los Crazy Chips (barbecue potato chips drenched in salsa and Clamato), papilocos (potato chip–based), and more.

Traditional? No.

Authentic. Por supuesto!

In the U.S. of A you might find it called a “Frito Pie”

To you that one day it occurred to you to say: And if we put some French fries on top of the tacos? I don’t know who you are, but I want you to know that I love you very much.

“Authenticity” in the restaurant scene.

This whole process of “authenticity” also transfers over to the restaurant serving the food. Is the restaurant authentic? How can you tell? Below I offer the advice of two American (U.S.A) websites and one from my hometown in Australia (of which I find all three quite cringeworthy). Statements in BOLD were made by the particular authors of the websites involved and the attached notes (not in BOLD) are mine.

There aren’t any corn tortillas. Somewhat inaccurate. Wheat flour tortillas are common in the cuisines of Northern Mexico.

The corn tortillas aren’t gluten-free (Because authentic Mexican corn tortillas are made only from masa harina and water). Technically true (although they can be made from fresh ground masa – and aficionados will find fresh masa tortillas have a different flavour profile to those made with masa harina)

There’s only one option for salsa and it’s very bland (While we’re at it, if you ask for hot sauce and you’re given Tabasco sauce instead of Valentina, Cholula, or another authentic hot sauce, that’s a red flag.) I’m a Tapatio man myself but many restaurants make their own in house salsa (this of course is a given with pico de gallo). If, with my meal, I am delivered two jars with spoons in them, one containing salsa rojo and one verde am I in a “more authentic” restaurant than one that merely slaps a bottle of Valentina on the table?

You don’t spot any cilantro. Technically not Mexican. Cilantro (coriander to the Aussie) is however one herb that Mexicans have adopted as their own. It can be found in nearly every savoury Mexican dish

You can get your taco in non-taco forms. Often called a “walking taco” this might be the equivalent of the Dorilocos/Tostilocos shown above. Mexican? Yes. Authentic? Who can tell.

Chips and queso is a menu option. What?? No papas a la francesa?? A la chingada!

The most popular dish is fajitas. Technically true and untrue. Fajitas are strongly associated with the Tex-Mex but they were a dish initially created by Mexican labourers.

They’re trying too hard with the decorations (That might mean splashes of traditional folk art, some rustic furniture, and maybe some hand woven baskets. What it probably isn’t going to mean is tons of piñatas hanging from the ceiling, posters of bullfighters on the walls, and sombreros everywhere you turn. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, think about what makes a place feel authentic to your own everyday culture, rather than the decor that represents festivals or exaggerated stereotypes.)

There’s anything other than soccer on television. Mexico does love its football. I might also expect a telenovela to be playing. Mexico does love both drama and chisme.

The staff all speaks English to each other (in an authentic Mexican restaurant, you’re going to hear lots of Spanish. You’ll hear it between servers in the front of the house, you may hear it between cooks in the back of the house, and if it’s a super authentic place, you might hear it between customers as well.) This might be somewhat truer in el otro lado but, outside of the Americas? This is kind of racist really and Mexicans will eat anywhere the food is good.

There are endless flavors of margaritas. This is typical of restaurants that want you to get pissed (Australian for drunk). I remember one restaurant in my hometown (Acapulco Annies) that served 1 litre margaritas in little bitty bins.

You could also get 1 litre Pina Coladas.

There’s plenty of American soda. Mexico is a World leader in the consumption of Coca Cola so expect to find this I guess.

They have only one salsa. Hopefully you should find a variety of fresh and cooked salsas (as well as your Tapatio and Valentina type bottled salsas although some restaurants I have eaten at only supply their in house made salsas)

There are random Spanish words on the menu (At an authentic Mexican restaurant, you’ll see the Spanish names of just about every dish on the menu. But Thrillist reports that it’s a major red flag if you see random Spanish words on the menu. “If you can buy a Mucho Taco Grande, if there’s anything named like that, it’s a bad sign.) Sounds very “Taco Bell” to me.

You can’t order corn tortillas. This is a red flag to me as well. Many Australian Mexican restaurants offer flour tortillas but have a “gluten free” option available. WTF? In my opinion flour tortillas should be mainly for Tex-Mex and for the cuisines of the Northern (border states) of Mexico. Corn tortillas (using either masa or reconstituted masa harina) are of course gluten free and should be the primary vehicle for cocina mexicana.

The tortillas don’t taste fresh (A great Mexican restaurant will make all its tortillas by hand, or buy handmade tortillas from “a respectable tortilleria.”) Bollocks. Most Mexicans don’t even hand make their tortillas anymore. You’ll visit your local tortilleria and grab a bagful. These tortillas are made from fresh masa but can they be considered “hand made”?

A tortilleria in Mexico.

Your beef is crumbly. Minced (or ground) beef is not typically found in Mexico. Their chorizo is a different story though, it will be crumbly (if not still in its skin)

The tacos looks like a salad (Cosmopolitan also reports that if you order a taco and it arrives covered in lettuce and tomato, you probably aren’t eating at an authentic Mexican restaurant. “Authentic tacos come with a little onion, cilantro, and lime,” the publication explains, “not wilted lettuce and tomato.”) Wilted lettuce and tomato is an issue with poor stock control and cooking practice. Lettuce and tomato are not anathema to tacos and the “little onion, cilantro, and lime” statement is true (for some tacos and according to the diners taste preference)

Mexicans like to salad the crap out of things so this statement is dubious at best.

You can order tacos in a hard shell. Yes and no. Although Old El Paso taco shells are not to be found in Mexico there are plenty of “hard” taco versions.

Everything comes covered in cheese. Grated yellow cheese is not common in Mexico. Your dish however might contain quesillo (queso de Oaxaca), cotija or crumbled queso fresco which “covers” everything

There’s no cilantro. Cilantro (coriander leaf) is loved in Mexico. This is probably the truest statement made. Indigenous cooking might not contain cilantro but possibly something more Mexican such as papalo or epazote.

You see fajitas on the menu. Bollocks. Fajitas are a borderland dish typically under the Tex-Mex banner but the dish originated in Mexico and was created by Mexican labourers crossing the border seeking work. The word “fajita” has more than one etymological root. It is said to be derived from the cut of meat used the faja (skirt or belt – although this cut is normally called the falda, or sometimes arrachera); This has also been used to describe the shape of the (diaphragm) muscle which is said to be “a long band, which resembles a sash”. This also leads to another definition which comes from the way this meat is cut, “like a long strip, something that in Spanish reminds of a faja (belt)”.

Image via @DannyBate4 on Twitter

See Post Mole de Olla for a deeper exploration of Mexican cuts of beef (and pork). Their butchery process is different to that of Americans (from the U.S.A), Australians and Europeans.

The restaurant offers low-fat options. Bollocks again. Mexico has tonnes of low-fat options, pico de gallo for instance. Mexico gets busted for using (and loving) pork lard but this ingredient is not everywhere (and is actually healthier for you than other oil based products – ie butter and margarine

You see lettuce wraps or taco bowls on the menu. Lettuce itself was an import to México so it is fair to say that lettuce wraps are not traditional.

This is an image of a Chinese dish called san choy bow. It’s not a taco (but it kind of is)

You can’t order any Mexican drinks. I do judge a restaurant on its agua de jamaica. Amongst my friends from FOMEX (See Post FOMEX The Friends of Mexico) I am known as the jamaica man (See Post Recipe : Agua de Jamaica). Horchata is also a favourite (see Post Horchata) but it is not overly common (or popular for that matter) in Australia.

The margaritas are huge and in strange flavors


The waiters are dressed up in costumes. The cheesier places do like to put on a (cheap and badly made – probably in China) Mariachis sombrero and sing happy birthday at the top of their lungs. I’m not a fan of this. The most cheesiest Mexican restaurant in my home city will do this but they do not wear costumes as such (usually just a playera with the restaurants name printed on it) so I’m not sure where this particular caveat arises from.

The restaurant calls itself a cantina. A cantina (in México) is a type of bar. Traditionally these were men only establishments that barred the entrance of women and children (and in some place dogs and people in uniform). You would go there to drink and eat botanas (small snacks). This is quite similar to the tapas bars of Spain.

A selection of botanas at El Pilón (Calle 36 esquina con 27 colonia Jesús Carranza; Merida, Yucatan)

You see excessive decorations. If its cheesy sombreros and piñatas this might be a try hard attempt (decorations bear no relevance on the quality of the food though so don’t be turned off by them). Mexicans tend to like brightly coloured decoration so this “rule” is kind of shite really.

Australia’s input to the argument.

It is fairer to say however that this is a single example from a single restaurant in Australia. This restaurant is what I would term Cal-Mex and they lean strongly towards Donald Trump in their tongue-in-cheek aesthetic. A large picture of Donald Trump peering over “the wall” directly above a poorly patched hole (that I assume the illegals pour through). There is also a repeating loop of Ex president Trumps more intolerant and racist ramblings playing when you visit the bathrooms. In an attempt to be humorous (and I freely admit that Australians have a fairly dark and inappropriate sense of humour) they (in my mind) have missed the mark on this one and I find the racism offensive. I, however, do not have the right to be more offended than the victim nor do I have the right to be offended on the behalf of the victim. Most of the Mexicans I know have a similarly dark sense of humour and if I am being provocative amongst this group it is the non-Mexican partners that comment rather than the Mexicans themselves.

According to an Australian “expert” these are the signs of authenticity you should seek when trying to determine whether or not the restaurant is “authentic”

1. Look for Color (this bugs me from the get-go. Color is American. Colour is the Queens English – well the King now I guess. This has nothing to do with the food. It is the OCD speller in me being pedantic. Was this written by an American? Did they just cut and paste this from somewhere else?)

Authentic Mexican cuisine is colourful, natural, fresh, varied, and delicious. Mexican dishes are highly nutritional and visually appealing. This way, you can easily spot authentic Mexican food: bright green, yellow and red peppers; avocados, yellow corn; and fresh, juicy watermelon. Mexican food follows a colourful diet. They got “colourful” right. Why not color then? Spellcheck? It also mentions peppers. Peppers? This again is American. In Australia peppers are referred to as capsicums or chiles (chilli). One of Australias problems with Mexican food is a lack of knowledge about the food itself.

2. Look for Salsa

Bright red salsa is probably a top-rated sider amongst everyone in a local Mexican restaurant, and it is one easy giveaway to know if it’s authentic Mexican food. It is made of tomatoes, which are healthy! Salsa is more popular than mayo and ketchup nationwide in America! So the richness of the salsa determines the authenticity of the dish.

True Fact. Salsa outsold ketchup (tomato sauce for us Aussies) as far back as 1992. George Costanza even bitched about it on the T.V. show Seinfeld at the time.

The “richness of the salsa determines the authenticity of the dish” WTF?

When we talk about salsa we are talking about many things. Not all salsa will be tomato based. We have fresh, cooked and bottled salsas. Which is the “authentic” salsa they are speaking of? All the following salsas are Mexican and I would expect to find all of these (in one form or another) in a Mexican restaurant (or street side taqueria for that matter)

3. Look for Cornmeal

One great way is to find out if a recipe has cornmeal. Cornmeal is used in most Mexican dishes, including tortillas and burritos. A lot of veggies and cornmeal: two ingredients that are great for your body.

This is another example of dumbing something down in an attempt to teach. It fails miserably. Tortillas ARE NOT made from cornmeal (which I know as polenta). They are made from masa (ground nixtamalized corn) or masa harina (“flour” made from ground nixtamalized corn). This is a truly basic error. Australians are not idiots. They will however learn nothing if the information is incorrect. You want cornmeal? Go to an Italian restaurant and order polenta.

4. Colourful Veggies

Mexican food is quite nutritious, thanks to the wide assortment of vegetables used in their recipes. Vegetables in all colours are used – following the rainbow diet. These vegetables add more nutritional value to Mexican dishes.

True story. Fresh fruit and vegetables are quite nutritious. Making Mexican food some kind of colourful unicorn has naught to do with authenticity though.

5. Look for Seasonings

With seasonings such as paprika, cumin, chilli powder, onion flakes, coriander, pepper, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper, and salt, there’s always a heatwave in Mexican food recipes!

Mexican food is seasoned. Can’t argue with that really. Cumin as a spice is often horribly overdone and is more representative of the cuisines of Northern Mexico and the cross-border Tex-Mex style of food. Saying that “there’s always a heatwave in Mexican food” is also quite erroneous. I could cook you 3 meals a day, different meals everyday, for a year, each containing chile or a combination of chiles and not expose you to a heatwave (at either end of your digestive tract). The stereotype of Mexican food melting your face off because of its chile content is a wholly inaccurate trope. Entirely possible but totally stereotypical. They also gloss over hundreds of different ingredients when they say “chilli powder”. There are hundreds of varieties of chile (more if you include the dried version of any particular chile i.e. the ancho and the poblano – which are the same chile – one fresh, one dried – but they are used very differently and have different levels of picante). Also, many of the spices mentioned (pepper, oregano, onion, garlic and cumin) aren’t even Mexican.

So.

What is authentic?

I like this definition.

What is really meant when we use the world ‘authentic’ is that the dishes and recipes are as close to what is accepted as traditional in its country of origin. Of course, the best way to do that is to visit the country of your preferred cuisine. Italian food will always be more ‘authentic’ in Italy, because there are regional variations that you are less likely to find in Italian restaurants in other countries. Outside Italy, restaurants mostly tend stick to the staple dishes that ‘foreigners’ recognise as Italian. (1)

  1. https://www.interleo.com/what-do-we-mean-by-authentic-food/

References

  • Abarca, Meredith. (2004). Authentic or Not, It’s Original. Food and Foodways. 15. 10.1080/07409710490467589.
  • Dott, B. R. (2020). The chile pepper in China: A cultural biography. New York : Columbia University Press
  • Ibarra, Alexandra H., “Eating Real Mexican: Identity, Authenticity, Americanization, Health, and Food
  • Culture in the United States After 1900″ (2022). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5917.
  • https://doi.org/10.15760/etd.7788
  • Pilcher, J. M. (1998). Que vivan los tamales!: Food and the making of Mexican identity. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
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Websites

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