Mexican Food vs Chinese Food: A Flavorful Showdown

Mexican and Chinese cuisines are two of the most popular ethnic foods around. From tacos to lo mein, both cuisines offer delicious flavors, but they each have their own distinct qualities.

If you’re trying to decide between grabbing Mexican or Chinese takeout, read on to discover the key differences between these flavorful cuisines.

Ingredients: Spices, Veggies and More

When it comes to ingredients, Mexican and Chinese foods tend to use some different staples.

Mexican Ingredients

  • Chilies – Mexican cooking uses many types of hot peppers, like jalapeños, serranos and chipotles. These add spicy heat.
  • Beans – Black beans, pinto beans and refried beans are Mexican cuisine essentials. They add protein and fiber.
  • Corn – In the form of tortillas, tamales or on its own, corn is a classic Mexican carb.
  • Avocados – Mexicans love their guacamole! Avocados bring creaminess.
  • Tortillas – Made from corn or flour, tortillas are the base for tacos, burritos, enchiladas and more.
  • Cilantro – This fresh, aromatic herb flavors salsas, tacos, soups and other dishes.

Chinese Ingredients

  • Soy sauce – This salty, umami-rich sauce adds immense flavor. It’s used in marinades, stir fries, etc.
  • Rice – Typically jasmine or sticky rice, this grain is served with many Chinese meals.
  • Noodles – Wheat or rice noodles are used in soups, stir fries and noodle-based dishes.
  • Ginger – The zesty kick of ginger balances salty and sweet flavors in Chinese cooking.
  • Garlic – Like ginger, garlic adds aromatic flavor to stir fries, marinades and more.
  • Vegetables – Bok choy, mushrooms, snow peas and more veggies are staples.

While both cuisines have some crossover, their core ingredients differ quite a bit.

Cooking Techniques: Stir-Fry vs. Simmer

Mexican and Chinese cooking relies on some distinct cooking methods.

Mexican Cooking Techniques

  • Simmering – Slow-cooked stews, beans, rice and more are simmered for maximum flavor.
  • Grilling – Meat and veggies are often grilled over an open flame for char and smokiness.
  • Sautéing – Onions, peppers and other aromatics are sautéed before simmering.
  • Frying – Crispy tacos, flautas and churros are made by quick frying.

Chinese Cooking Techniques

  • Stir-frying – This very fast, high-heat searing in oil keeps veggies crisp-tender.
  • Steaming – Dumplings, fish and veggies are steamed to retain moisture and flavor.
  • Deep-frying – Egg rolls, wontons and more are crisped up through deep-frying.
  • Velveting – A marinade tenderizes meat before quick stir-frying.

The hands-on, fast pace of Chinese cooking differs from the slow simmering in Mexican cuisine.

Flavor Profiles: Spicy vs. Savory-Sweet

When it comes to overall taste, Mexican and Chinese foods have their own flavor sensibilities.

Mexican Flavors

  • Spicy – Chilies, salsa, hot sauce bring the heat level up.
  • Herbal – Cumin, oregano, cilantro add fresh, aromatic quality.
  • Zesty – Lime juice and zesty citrus cuts through rich flavors.
  • Savory – Hearty beans, meat and veggies give a savory taste.

Chinese Flavors

  • Savory-sweet – Soy sauce, hoisin offer the perfect balance of salty and sweet.
  • Ginger-garlic – These aromatics permeate many dishes.
  • Umami – Oyster sauce, soy sauce and mushrooms amp up the umami.
  • Spicy – Chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns add tingly heat.

The layered spices of Mexican food differ from the savory-sweet and umami tastes in Chinese cuisine.

Dishes: Tacos or Dumplings?

With such different ingredients and flavors, Mexican and Chinese dishes themselves vary quite a bit.

Popular Mexican Dishes

  • Tacos – Meat or veggies wrapped in soft corn or crispy fried tortillas.
  • Burritos – Large flour tortillas envelop fillings like rice, beans, meat.
  • Enchiladas – Corn tortillas rolled around cheese, chicken or beef with sauce.
  • Quesadillas – Grilled flour tortillas with ooey-gooey melted cheese.
  • Tamales – Savory fillings steamed inside cornmeal dough.

Well-Known Chinese Dishes

  • Dumplings – Soft dough wrappers encase meat or veggie fillings, steamed or fried.
  • Noodles – Lo mein, pad Thai, dan dan and more noodle dishes.
  • Stir fries – Quick meals of veggies, meat and sauce over rice.
  • Soups – Hot and sour soup, wonton soup, egg drop soup.
  • Dim sum – An assortment of small plates like dumplings enjoyed for brunch.

With tacos and tamales on one side and dumplings and noodles on the other, the cuisines definitely differ here.

Your Ideal Meal: Mexican or Chinese?

So with all these contrasts between ingredients, cooking, flavors and dishes, which cuisine suits your taste buds?

If you crave…

  • Bursting with spice – Mexican is likely your match.
  • Aromatic ginger and garlic – Go for Chinese.
  • Weeknight ease – Quick Chinese stir fries win.
  • Cheesy, hearty meals – Mexican cuisine is your friend.

No matter your preferences for time investment, heat level or primary flavors, both Mexican and Chinese foods offer incredibly diverse, craveable options. There’s no going wrong when choosing between these two amazing ethnic cuisines.

Now that you know the main differences, you can make the ideal choice when a Mexican or Chinese food craving strikes. Happy eating on your flavorful culinary adventure!

Share your love
Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *