Tortillas: flat bread typically made of corn, but sometimes made
Beans: often served as a side dish with any dinner main course
or as an ingredient
Rice: again, often served as a side dish or as an ingredient
Vegetables: varies by region, local vegetables are often included
in dishes; some of the most common being both hot and sweet peppers, chilies, and
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
North Mexico: this area is known for their emphasis on meat dishes
Southeast Mexico: known for their blends of spices and focus on
fish or chicken-based dishes
Southwest Mexico: this region is famous for their moles (pepper-based
sauces) and tamales (corn meal encased meats, vegetables, or cheeses)
Eating in Mexico is a social event so the eating itself will
always be severely delayed. If you're asked to meet at 6:00 at a restaurant,
your acquaintances most likely won't show up until 6:30 or even 7:00. You'll
then most likely wait another 30 minutes for a table and after you finally sit down,
expect to have drinks and conversation for another half hour before ordering. This
essentially means that meeting at 6:00 for dinner won't get food in your mouth until
8:00, if not later. This same time frame is fairly consistent if you get invited
to dinner at a local's house; plan on arriving at least 30 minutes late or you'll
be imposing on the host who still has plenty of work to finish.
Dinning takes so long in Mexico because it's meant to
be enjoyed with family and friends; don't rush this process (instead eat a snack
before going to dinner or eat a late lunch). Trying to expedite dinner can be seen
as a sign that you want to finish dinner and escape your company. The primary motivation
for dining with others is to socialize, not to eat.
Once you actually get to a dining room, wait until your host invites you to sit
and once seated, never place your hands under the table. During dinner festivities,
reserve the toast-making to men. Once you finally get to the food, wait until your
host takes his or her first bite, then feel free to begin. As you close in on finishing
your food, leave a little food left on the plate. Despite the protests of lunch
ladies across the United States reminding
you that there are starving children elsewhere in the world, finishing all the food
on your plate is somewhat rude, especially in a home.
When eating out at a sit-down restaurant a tip of between 10-16% (before tax) is
expected, but some restaurants catering for tourists already include a service charge
in the bill so check before tipping. In bars a tip of 10 pesos ($1) per drink is
Celebrations & Events
Most of the holidays and celebrations strongly associated with foods in
Mexico are local festivals. Perhaps the most authentic of these local festivals
is the Feria del Alfenique, which takes place in the city of Toluca. During
this festival skull-shaped sugar candy is common. These same candies are also popular
during Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead), which takes place October 30,
also known as All Saints' Day.
Cinco de Mayo (May 5) and birthdays and anniversaries are also common meeting
occasions that require an over-consumption of food, including desserts.
Mexicans drink just about every type of alcoholic and non-alcoholic
drink depending on personal taste. Many sodas are popular as are juices, water,
and other non-alcoholic drinks, all of which are popular and accessible.
Mexico has a number of popular alcoholic drinks, including
the one they're synonymous with: tequila. Other well-known drinks include margaritas
(which again uses tequila) and the mojito, which is made of fresh mint, lime, sugar
and either rum or tequila among other ingredients. Lastly, Mexico has a few local
beers, which are popular.
Although water is the world's most common drink, don't ever drink the tap
water in Mexico; it is not known for its cleanliness or purity.
Be sure to also avoid anything with ice as it may have been made from the tap water.
Salads and fruits may have also been washed in the tap water so be careful with
those foods as well. Some people argue it is safe, particularly in large cities
like Mexico City; however illnesses are still very common from the water so avoid
all tap water to be safe.