New to Mexican Food?  Here Are The Basic Dishes You Will Come to Love

When my wife and I were first married, we moved to Southern California. I had grown up there, but my wife was from a medium sized city in the Midwest, where there were no authentic Mexican restaurants . As a result, I had the pleasure of introducing her to Mexican food, one of my favorite cuisines!
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Mexican food restaurants these days offer many original dishes made with fresh fish, fruits and vegetables. Even so, certain dishes remain the staple of traditional Mexican cuisine.  In case you are not familiar with the basic Mexican dishes, here is a list of menu items you will find in almost any Mexican restaurant.

The Taco

The taco is a well-known Mexican dish. In my opinion the best tacos are made with corn tortillas, although flour tortillas may be used. The tortilla is either warmed  or deep fried and then fillings are added.

Tacos can be filled with beef (shredded beef is much more authentic than ground beef), chicken, pork, or even crispy fish. They are then garnished with cheese (white cheeses are traditional) along with lettuce and tomato. Diced onions are optional.

When the tacos are served soft, the warm tortillas are simply folded over the meat and cheese.  When served crispy, the tortillas are folded first and then  fried with the meat and cheese spooned into them.  Tacos should be eaten with your hands and are often garnished with cilantro or avocado. They are delicious!

The Burrito

You make a burrito by using a warm, soft flour tortilla that you fill and then roll, tucking the flaps inside as you do so.  The tortilla is either steamed or grilled lightly and then filled with meat and refried beans. At least that is the traditional burrito.  These days, however, many designer burritos boast wide variations to the traditional recipe.

For instance, some Mexican restaurants serve burritos with rice folded in. Others include lettuce, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, etc. Burritos are usually a meal in themselves. In fact some restaurants like to serve burritos so large it is impossible to eat them with your hands!

The Enchilada

The enchilada is Mexican food dish that begins with a tortilla. Although enchiladas may be made with either corn or flour tortillas, corn are traditional and, in my opinion, taste the best. When making enchiladas, the tortillas are dipped in a red sauce and laid flat. Meat and/or cheese is then added and the tortilla is rolled and placed in a baking pan. Sauce and cheese are often poured over the top while the enchiladas are baking in the oven.

Chicken and beef enchiladas are both popular, but many people prefer a simple cheese enchilada made with Monterrey Jack cheese and diced green onions.

The Tostada

A tostada is a flat corn tortilla that has been deep fried. It is then used as base and served much like an open faced sandwich. Tostadas normally have a layer of refried beans and then a large serving of lettuce and tomatoes — in fact some people refer to tostadas as a Mexican salad dish.

Like the burrito, many trendy restaurants have come up with variations of the tostada, and you can now find them made with a variety of meats, cheeses and salad ingredients.  Tostadas are a great selection for lunch.

The Chile Relleno

One of my favorite of all Mexican dishes is the chile relleno, a dish that originated in the Mexican city of Puebla. To make a chile relleno, you start with a fresh, roasted poblano pepper. The pepper, which is fairly mild, is then stuffed with delicious Chihuahua or Quexo cheese. Some recipes also call for diced meat and even nuts or raisins. However these additions are not traditional. The chile is then covered in a light egg batter and a little corn flour and fried.

You haven’t lived until you have had a properly prepared chile relleno! When done right, the batter is light and fluffy and the cheese is completely melted and blends in with the chili pepper.  Each time I bite into a chile relleno at my favorite Mexican restaurant, I always think I have discovered the food of the Gods!

Flautas or Taquitos

Flautas, also known as taquitos, are small corn tortillas that are rolled around beef, chicken or pork and then fried crisp. Generally corn tortillas are used when preparing taquitos and flour tortillas are used to make flautas, although that may vary according to locale.

Some restaurants refer to this dish as rolled tacos. These delicious, crisp little rolled tacos are then usually garnished with grated cheese and either sour cream, guacamole, or both!  They are scrumptious when properly prepared!

It did not take my wife long to get hooked on Mexican food just as I am! Today we once again live in the Midwest, but I am happy to report that many native Mexican chefs have moved into our area and and have opened a number of wonderful Mexican restaurants.  If you have not yet tried properly prepared, authentic Mexican food, what are you waiting for?  I promise that you are in for a real treat!