We all love street food and Mexicans are no strangers to street food. Aside from the usual tacos, we love to feast on marquesitas, elotes and esquites, churros and tamales. If you’re a bit sensitive to food down here, we suggest taking it easy on the street food and take some probiotics to have a healthy gut and be able to indulge in these delicious items! All these items can be found at every park, fair, soccer game, concert and major festivities. Take a stroll around Playa and eat like a true local!
These crunchy crepes are a traditional Yucatecan dessert that dates back to 100 years. The story tells of a man and his son, “Polito” who used to sell ice cream in Mérida but didn’t have many sales during the winter. So the son decided to sell only the cones and decided to fill them with different ingredients. People went crazy, especially the daughters of a marquis, marqués in Spanish, so “Polito” started calling them the marquesitas. The original marquesita wass filled with queso bola (edam danish cheese) but today you can have them with cheese and nutella or cajeta (goat’s milk caramel sauce), nutella and banana, Philadelphia cheese, marmalades or whatever combination you choose.
Mexicans don’t do basic food, so corn and butter just won’t cut it out for us and that’s why we have esquites. Corn kernels are boiled in water with salt and epazote and served in a tiny cup with mayonnaise, cheese, lime and chilli powder. Corn on the cob is also popular and can be topped with the same ingredients. Often times, you’ll hear a vendor yelling “tamales, esquites, elotes” and that would be our version of an ice cream truck.
You’ve probably already heard of churros and maybe even tried them, so you know they’re delicious! But if you haven’t heard of them, a churro is a fried dough-pastry sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and tastes similar to a doughnut. Try them filled with cajeta and drizzled with sweetened condensed milk.
Tamales- from the word tamali in nahuatl meaning wrapped
A thick corn-based dough filled with meat, vegetables, fruit, chiles and sauces wrapped in plant leaves such as banana, avocado or corn. They can be sweet or savoury and are usually steamed. They are popular in most festivities such as weddings, christenings, the day of the dead and Christmas. Yucatán has a variety of tamales, the most popular one being the tamal wrapped in banana leaves stuffed with ground pork or cochinita pibil. My favourite is the colado, meaning the dough is strained and filled with shredded chicken and served with a tomato sauce. On the 2nd of February, Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas), whoever got the baby Jesus figurine (el niño) in the Rosca de Reyes (king’s cake) must bring tamales and atole. This tradition combines pre-hispanic and catholic rituals, where both cultures honoured their god(s) with offerings. If you happen to be in Playa around these dates keep an eye out for the tamal fair. Last year’s winner was a vegan tamal!
Mexico, land of the taco! We eat tacos for breakfast, tacos for lunch, tacos for dinner and tacos when you’re drunk. The options are endless with tacos and that’s why we can never have enough of them! Choose flour or corn tortilla, blue corn or yellow corn, and fill them with pork, beef, fish or insects. To help you chose among the different kinds of tacos, I’ve made a list of my favourites which you can’t miss out on and some peculiar ones! Believe me, once you’ve had a real taco ,you’ll never want to buy a “taco kit” from Old El Paso ever again because let’s face it, that’s just sad.
Tacos al pastor are my favourite and whatever you do, don’t leave Mexico without having some tacos al pastor. Pork meat is marinated with dried chilies and spices and is slowly cooked with a gas flame on a vertical rotisserie (similar to a shawarma spit). The meat is then served on tortillas with cilantro, onions and a small slice of pineapple. Squeeze some lime add a little bit of salsa and enjoy with a cold beer or agua fresca (fresh fruit water). And if you thought it couldn’t get better, add cheese, use flour tortilla and you get a gringa. (yes, that’s also what we call american tourists!)
Tacos de bistek: salted and peppered sirloin.
Tacos de arrachera: hanger steak marinated in an acidic juice.
If you’re into bugs, you can try tacos de escamoles which is ant larvae harvested from the maguey plant. They have a very high nutritional value (40-60% protein) and were a part of the daily meals in pre-hispanic times. The harvest is only between March and April and because these ants are very aggressive, escamoles are now considered delicacy. They (apparently) taste nutty and buttery, but you’ll have to tell me because I still haven’t found the courage to try them. Chapulines (grasshoppers) are another popular taco filling. Like escamoles, they also contain 40-60% protein, are easy to digest and contain less bacteria than cow meat or chicken. These you are less likely to find from a street vendor as they are more popular in central Mexico but I thought I should include them in case you find them on a menu!
Tacos de canasta are steamed and have different types of fillings such as beans, potato, mole and other ingredients. They are a favourite for breakfast.
Are you veggie? Try nopal (cactus) tacos.
And then there’s the ones I have never dared trying, tongue, brain, cheek, but I’ve been told they taste very good! Let me know what you think!