It's hard to travel around Mexico without trying the food. Anyone who tells you that it isn't too interesting or that there isn't much variety has most likely never really tried Mexican food. Every region has their own specialty and even though some of the dishes are more common than others (enchiladas, tacos, pozole, etc...), each region has their own variation on each dish.
I was once recommended that if I wanted to try the food of that particular city or town, that I should find a market. A traditional Mexican market sells fresh fruits and vegetables as well as has a section of stands where you can find everything that is typical of local fare. The colors of freshly cut red carnations, engulfed by the smells of dried chili peppers and onions and around the corner from the burlap sacks of rice and beans can be an intoxicating sensation and a gourmet's dream.
Food stands are usually grouped into one section and can consist of a large grill, a choice of soft drinks and the steamy smell of green onions and strips of meat grilling. Each stand has a specialty, where you can get your food in one stand and a juice or a milkshake in another. You can also go to a restaurant and find these dishes so whatever your fancy, Mexico can offer a little bit of everything.
Jalisco is a state that is so rich in the food department that it is pretty much impossible to name all the wonderful dishes that come from this region. There are, however, several staple dishes of Jaliscan cuisine that have become synonymous this area of the country and only a few of which I'll be mentioning here.
There is the ever popular, "torta ahogada" which in Spanish means "drowned sandwich." The "torta" is another typical food in Mexico (a sandwich made with a bread roll called "bolillo" and which can usually be stuffed with anything from scrambled eggs to breaded pork and almost always has tomato, beans and jalapenos) but in Jalisco, they "drown" them in a spicy red sauce and usually garnish them with onions. They are normally served on plates or in bowls and the bread is called "birote," a bit more salty, crusty and dense than bolillos. These are normally filled with "carnitas," pork fried in lard.
Birria is another dish you just can't pass up. Traditionally, this is made with goat meat, basted with a chili pepper marinade, wrapped in maguey leaves and placed in earthenware, where it cooks over hot stones in a hole in the ground for about 4 or 5 hours. It can be eaten in tacos, pulled, with a bit of salsa or in stew.
A hearty dish to try is the pozole Tapatio. This is a stew with hominy and depending on the region, it is prepared with a red, white or green broth. Pozole from Jalisco, however, is either red or white. It includes pork or chicken and can be garnished with lettuce, onions, radishes, salt, lime, avocado, cheese and oregano.
Another soup dish is the Carne en su Jugo. This is a broth that has beans and pieces of beef in it, garnished with bacon. Add finely chopped onions, cilantro, salt and lime and you've got yourself a very tasty meal.
If you feel like you need something sweet to finish off your meal, try a Jericalla. The story goes that a Spanish nun was working in a Mexican orphanage in Jalisco, where there were many undernourished children. In order to get the children to eat protein, this nun created a custard dish using milk, eggs, sugar and cinnamon. She had accidentally left it to bake too long and it burned on top. She tried it anyway to see if it was edible and it was an absolute hit. It caught on with the children and was so popular that it was quickly being served all across the state. This delicious custard (still served a little burned on top) was named after the region of Jerica, Spain, where the nun was born.
Mexican culture is intrinsically linked to its food. Dishes that are so a part of everyday life has its history and can date back as far as pre-Colombian times. If you are interested in learning a bit more about a region as culinarily as rich as Jalisco, land of the mariachi, tequila and the Mexican cowboy (the charro), try any one of the dishes above. You won't be disappointed.
Typical Dishes From Jalisco
- Fumiko Nobuoka