Dissecting A Mexican Menu Of Traditional Favorites
Finally, you’ve arrived in the land of tacos and tequila. As the flight crew opens the door, the warm, tropical air greets you with a welcoming embrace. Delighted to officially begin your Playa del Carmen vacation, you can’t wait to catch some sun and take in the Caribbean views from the sandy shoreline. But first, you’re famished and look forward to sipping on a cold beverage and delving into some tasty Mexican cuisine.
Boasting hundreds of excellent dining establishments, Playa del Carmen, the city has become a foodie heaven. Top culinary masters from around the country proudly showcase new flavorful creations, while perfecting traditional dishes.
If you’re embarking on an inaugural trip to Mexico, a nation rich in history and culture, you’re in for a treat. Not only will you experience the diverse natural beauty of the region, but also its divine gastronomy. Without delay, here’s a breakdown of our top 10 list of authentic dishes. Since there’s so much fantastic fare to choose from, this list will help in navigating the menu on your next Mexican getaway.
The Shining Stars On A Mexican Menu
On account of its prime seaside position, you can find an abundance of scrumptious seafood dishes. A perfect lunch at the beach, ceviche is a light and tangy plate that couples well with a bucket of ice cold cervezas. Strips of white fish (pescado) cured in lime and salt are combined with colorful ingredients such as cilantro, tomatoes, onion and avocado. Other versions can be made with prawns (camarones) or a mix of seafood (mixto.) No fork needed, just a side of tortilla chips to enjoy this citrusy snack. You can sample ceviche at many central Playa del Carmen eateries including Lido Beach Club, Cassa Ceviche, and El Doctorito.
Obviously, a list of Mexico’s cuisine champions wouldn’t be complete without enchiladas. To begin, tortillas are filled with meat, cheese, beans, potatoes or seafood. Next they’re rolled, then covered in a chile pepper sauce. Typically, enchiladas are bathed in a savory red or green salsa. However, La Cueva del Chango on 38th Avenue in Playa serves a delightful chile pasada sauce on their variation. Nativo on 30th Avenue near Constituyentes is another great spot to try chicken enchiladas. This bustling, thatched-roof restaurant serves theirs covered in a rich mole sauce. (This silky, dark brown salsa is made with up to 60 ingredients, including nuts, various chiles, and even chocolate!)
Without a doubt, Mexican cuisine reveals many palette-pleasing surprises. Another fine example of this is pozole, a hearty white hominy soup topped with shredded lettuce! Who would have thought crispy iceberg lettuce would go well sprinkled over hot soup? Yet, this specialty is a hit and soothes the soul on a rainy day. Along with pork and chicken, the white corn kernels (hominy) add a stew-like dimension to the broth. In addition to slivered lettuce, radishes, cilantro, diced onions, and a squeeze of lime are tossed in to complete the entree. You can dip your spoon into a bowl of satisfying bowl at Pozoleria Mi Abuelita’s on 30th Avenue and Calle 22.
4. Chile Rellenos
A staple in a Mexican cookbook, chile rellenos, meaning “stuffed chiles” are packed with flavor. Poblano peppers are filled with cheese or a ground meat and raisin mixture, then coated in a light egg batter. Oftentimes, they come smothered in a mild red salsa while other versions feature a creamy, walnut sauce. In any case, your tastebuds will shout “gracias!” Head to Carboncitos on Calle 4 for the best in town.
Fried tortilla chips in salsa for breakfast? This traditional morning meal will subdue your skepticism the moment you delve into this tasty dish. Drizzled with thick cream, and garnished with avocado, cilantro, raw onion slices and crumbled cheese, chilaquiles are better when drenched in sauce. Whether you go for the red or green salsa, add an egg, chicken, or strips of steak, you’ll become a fast fan of chilaquiles.
Similar to the concept of pizza pops or perogies, empanada stands can be found on every other street corner in Playa del Carmen. A thin circle of dough made from corn masa is stuffed with a variety of ingredients including chicken, ham, cheese, beans, potatoes or beef and vegetables. Afterwards, the edges are pressed and folded, then fried until they are golden brown. Common toppings include pickled red onions, cream, shredded cabbage and a spicy salsa.
Tamales are by spreading a thick, corn-based paste on dried corn husks. Next, fillings of meat, beans, cheese or fruits are added, then wrapped in the husk forming an envelope. Finally, the tamales are placed in a steamer until the dough is cooked through. To consume, be sure to remove the corn husks and enjoy! Throughout Mexico, it’s customary to offer tamales at events during holidays, for instance at a Christmas Posada (staff party) or on New Year’s Eve.
These delicious little corn meal disks are layered with refried beans and served with toppings such as steak, chicken, chorizo, milanesa (a breaded veal, beef or pork.) Garnished with shredded cabbage, pickled red onion, cream, crumbled cheese and salsa, you can sample sopes at La Coronela on 1 Sur between 5th and 10th Avenue or Las Quekas on 35th Avenue near Benito Juarez.
This rich and cheesy entree made of beef, chicken or shrimp and bell peppers is baked in a traditional stone bowl made from volcanic stone. The mouth-watering mixture is served with warm soft tortillas and a roasted tomato or tomatillo salsa. Dig into the melted Mexican cuisine crowd-pleaser at La Parrilla on 5th Avenue and Constituyentes.
It is a sin to visit Mexico without sampling its most widely-known culinary treasure. Eating at a local taqueria is a national pastime and a fun, casual dining experience. Being such a popular and economical menu item, you won’t have a problem finding a vibrant taco joint, as there are plenty in every corner of the city. Two of our favorite taco stops are El Fogon and Taquerias El Ñero on Benito Juarez Avenue.
Indeed, the tacos al pastor are a Mexican masterpiece as far as flavorful creations go. Pastor is a boneless pork shoulder is marinated in spices and dried chiles placed on a vertical rod to roast. Thin slices of perfectly seasoned pork is cut from the spit and served on small tortillas with cilantro, onion, radish, pineapple and a squeeze of lime. Be forewarned that the salsas at a taqueria tend to pack a mighty spicy punch. To avoid unsightly steam blowing out from your ears, try washing your tacos down with a cold Modelo beer or a tall glass of horchata, a creamy drink made from rice, vanilla and cinnamon.
These top 10 menu selections will give you a scrumptious sense of the authentic flavors of Mexico. So now that you know, go ahead and explore these and the many more fascinating culinary aspects of this vibrant culture!