With secret island escapes, a Caribbean and Pacific coastline, and thriving restaurant scene, it’s no surprise that Mexico is one of the hottest vacation destinations. Seriously, its hot down there. And while many people have been deprived of their ability to enjoy Mexican vacations in the last 18 months, it doesn’t mean that we have to be deprived of authentic (and delicious) Mexican food. Tacos, enchiladas, and margaritas just scratch the surface of Mexican cuisine.
What is often missed in Canada and the United States are the more traditional foods of Mexico. In fact, Mexican cuisine (along with French) has made the UNESCO representative list for the Intangible Cultural Heritage, a fact that many countries are challenging based on their own national pride of their dishes. Mexican food is the first ethnic cuisine to be recognized on this list. Mexican food is not all about burritos, or refried beans with Cheez Whiz, and jalapenos. Hardshell tacos with lettuce and cheddar, although delicious, are not traditional either.
Here are some suggestions of some dishes if you want to enjoy authentic Mexican food at home!
- Chalupas are a popular type of street food that resemble tostadas. They are fried thick tortillas topped with salsa, shredded meat, onion, and sometimes cheese.
- Chiles en nogada is a popular Mexican dish that signifies the country’s independence, as the dish is made up of the colours of the flag: red, white, and green. It is a picadillo-stuffed poblano pepper, which is battered and fried and topped with walnut sauce, pomegranates, and parsley.
- Mole Poblano is also a very popular dish. The word ‘mole’ could originate from the Spanish translation of the Aztec word for sauce; mulli. Another explanation is that it comes from the Spanish word moler, meaning to grind. Mole is a sauce, often with a long list of ingredients that come in different consistencies and colours. It can contain a variety of ingredients and often has fruit, chili, nuts, and spices. Mole verde is made with pumpkin seeds and green chili.
For an authentic Mexican food experience locally, Pepe and Lela’s in Burlington has been serving tasty dishes for 23 years. Try the chicken mole made with organic Ontario chicken, and their house-made mole sauce made of dark chocolate, cinnamon, roasted almonds, and sesame seeds. You can also order a bottle of Mexican wine; try LA Cetto Petite Sirah with your meal for the full experience.
Familia Fine Foods in Burlington, founded by Colombian-born couple Luis and Juliana, offers options of burritos or burrito bowls, as well as taco and quesadilla selections. Their meals are traditional and come with all the fixings – from pico de gallo to green tomato salsa. A must-try is also their Tres Leches – a popular Mexican cake. Or if you prefer to dine at home, they have a selection of frozen foods. Try the chicken mole.
Nostalgia Latin Market on Kerr Street in Oakville is a specialist Mexican and Latin American grocer. They sell hard-to-find ingredients to make authentic Mexican food at home, or you can take-out Mexican specialties like chicken tamales and green enchiladas, along with homemade fresh salsas. A tamale is a dish of seasoned meat and maize flour that is steamed or baked in maize husks. They also offer catering and Mexican cooking classes to make sure your techniques are excellent.
For a vast array of cocktails with a Mexican spin, along with appetizers and tacos, head to Burro Tacos in Burlington for a fun night out.
Habanero Taqueria in Oakville has a customized solution for your Mexican meal where you can add in your favourite toppings to any taco, nacho, burrito, or bowl, with options from pulled pork to vegan chili.
Por Vida in Oakville has a huge selection of innovative and traditional Mexican dishes, along with a large cocktail list and a vast choice of Tequila and Mezcal. Although these two drinks may seem similar, both made from the core of the agave plant and both stored in oak barrels, they are distilled quite differently and the resulting spirit has a different taste. Tequila tends to taste smoother and sweeter while mezcal is often more savoury and smokier. The menu features a guacamole selection, a taco bar and a cold bar among other options
From the most traditional foods of Mexico to the American–fusion version, there seems to be a little something for every palate to enjoy Mexico at home.
Pepe and Lela’s, Burlington || pepeandlelas.com
Familia Fine Foods, Burlington || familiafinefoods.com
Burro Tacos, Burlington || burrotacos.com
Habanero Taqueria, Oakville || thehabanero.ca
Por Vida, Oakville || porvida.ca
Nostalgia Latin Market, Oakville || nostalgialatinmarket.com
By Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright