With its vibrant flavors, hearty staples, and diverse regional dishes, Mexican cuisine is beloved worldwide. But how exactly is authentic Mexican food prepared? Mexican cooking employs various traditional techniques and ingredients that create rich depth of flavor.
One key technique in Mexican cooking is marinating meats before cooking. Chicken, steak, pork and other proteins are marinated using:
- Citrus juices like lime, lemon, or orange to tenderize and add bright flavor
- Spices like chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic and onion powder to infuse flavor
- Oil to keep the meat moist and well-coated
- Soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce for added depth of flavor
Meats are marinated anywhere from 30 minutes up to overnight depending on the toughness of the cut. The acidic marinade helps break down fibers and infuse juicy flavor.
Dry roasting vegetables and chilies over high heat is another essential technique in Mexican cuisine. Tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers and chilies are cooked directly on a comal or griddle until softened, charred and smoky. This intensifies their sweetness and gives salsa, moles and other dishes incredible depth of flavor.
Grilling meat is hugely popular in Mexican cooking. Beef, chicken, pork, fish and shrimp are grilled over a wood or charcoal fire, adding irresistible charred flavors. Marinating the protein before grilling ensures maximum flavor. Grilled meats are used in dishes like tacos, fajitas, burritos and more.
From crispy tacos to chile rellenos, pan frying is used to create delicious Mexican dishes. Items are fried in hot oil until golden brown and crispy. Corn tortillas are also toasted on a griddle called a comal. The high heat of frying seals in flavor and texture.
Simmering in Sauce
Braising meat or simmering it in sauce is another technique seen in dishes like birria, barbacoa or enchiladas. The gentle cooking tenderizes the meat and allows it to absorb the complex flavors of the sauce. Time and low heat are key for mouthwatering results.
Steaming is used for dishes like tamales where fillings are wrapped then steamed until cooked through. The moist heat ensures flavor is retained and ingredients become perfectly tender. Banana leaves are often used for steaming which imparts herbal aromas.
Working Traditional Tools
Authentic Mexican cooking relies on traditional tools like:
- Molcajete – volcanic stone mortar and pestle for grinding spices
- Metate – a flat stone for grinding corn into masa
- Comal – a flat griddle for cooking tortillas
- Cazuela – an earthenware pot for steaming or boiling
These tools add authenticity and enhance flavor in the dishes. Masa ground on a metate makes incredible tortillas. Salsa ground in a molcajete has deep, robust flavor.
So in summary, authentic Mexican cuisine is prepared using techniques like marinating, dry roasting, grilling, frying, and steaming along with traditional tools. These time-honored methods blend to create the incredible depth of flavor that makes Mexican food so crave-worthy!