Do any of you consider yourself a "snob" on a certain topic? Maybe it's craft beer, maybe it's Star Wars, maybe it's lawn care. Whatever. We all have our thing. Well mine (or one of mine) is Mexican food. I would wager I spend more time in Mexico than about 80% of US citizens and I'm an absolute degenerate Mexican food addict. I also love traveling and I'm fortunate enough to get to travel a lot for work. Naturally I find myself drawn to forum posts about traveling. So whenever people ask for suggestions in various cities and the topic of "Best Mexican Food in _______" comes up I see comments full of suggestions of places that serve lettuce lined taco bowls full of ground meat and yellow cheese and it just makes my head explode. It's not that I think I'm better than anyone, I'm certainly not lol. It's more so that stuff like that is definitely not Mexican food and I want people to explore it the way I have and end up liking so many more things. Most of the things you find on a "Mexican" menu in America would be challenging to even find available for purchase in Mexico. Keep in mind I'm not saying that shit isn't delicious. Fewer things make me happier than a plate of greasy, neon yellow lava covered ground beef nachos when I'm hammered. It just is not Mexican food. At all. I thought I would break down a few things here because I hate seeing people's idea of Mexican food being essentially 10 ingredients that get mixed around in various mutations like legos like they do on the Taco Bell menu
1. There isn't lettuce, yellow cheese, or tomatoes on tacos in Mexico. Tacos come either in a single or double corn tortilla with a meat (never ground beef) with onions and cilantro. You typically dress the taco yourself with various salsas. Yellow cheese is non-existent in Mexican cuisine period and you typically only see lettuce in large sandwiches called Tortas. You will see cabbage in fish tacos on the Baja Peninsula, but that's it. Cilantro reigns supreme as far as greenery goes. Queso fresco, cotija, and oaxacan are the holy trinity of cheese and all of them are white.
2. If you asked for a chimichanga, fajitas, or enchiladas in any non-tourist city, especially in food centric areas like Oaxaca or Michoacan most people would not know what you're even talking about.
3. Beef is a luxury. In all the big cities, you will find beef dishes but as you get further away the Mexican menus become much more pork, chicken and vegetable leaning. Seafood dominates the coastal areas. With older people, the off cuts of beef like the head, tail, or offal are preferred although asada (grilled meat typically from the flank) is definitely more popular with the younger people. And although beef is available, you would never find 2 inch cubes of beef floating in salsa on a plate or thick cuts of steak like a fajita tray anywhere.
4. Burritos. This one is tricky because a lot of Mexican spots are copying the big torpedo sized burrito bomb trend. Mostly because rice is cheap so if you can get an extra 30 pesos for stuffing a burrito full of rice and keeping the meat level the same, who wouldn't take advantage of that? But if you go off the beaten track and order a burrito, and I highly recommend you do if you have the opportunity, it is typically small, thin 5 or 6 inch long flour tortilla wrapped around some kind of stewed meat. They eat very much like a soup dumpling where the juices are running out of it when you bite into it. Real deal burritos are a treasure.
5. Mexican food is highly seasonal and there are some incredible delicacies for the adventurous. One thing that people really look forward to is huitlacoche which is a fungus that mutates corn kernels into these puffed up, greyish blue nuggets that taste like mushrooms. Amazing in a quesadilla. Another big one is flor de calabazas season. These are the yellow flower buds on a squash plant and they are amazing. When I first tried these I ordered the same thing 3 times in a row in one sitting. Basically the point I'm trying to make is that Mexican food is so much more complex and diverse than Americans give it credit for and for it to be limited to a bunch of weird bastardizations that aren't even available in the country is a fucking crime to me. And instead of just being a dick about it like "these guys don't know shit!" I'd rather pass along the knowledge that my friends have taught me and hope that it sparks your interest as it has sparked mine.
...but for fuck's sake there is no cheddar cheese on tacos lol.