A glossary of Mexican foods, a guide to Mexican food specialties, and how to use chili peppers in a safe way....enjoy!
Ancho chiles: when fresh poblano chiles are dried, they're called anchos. Mildly spicy, like the fresh counterpart, anchos develop a rich sweetness that is perfect for marinades or a simmering pot of chili.
Cilantro: this definitively Mexican herb is used only when fresh; it loses all flavor when dried. It provides an explosive sprinkle over lots of street foods, mostly as a component of salsa and guacamole. Store it wrapped in barely damp paper towels in a plastic bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator.
Dried guajillo chile: these smooth-skinned, brick-or cranberry-red chiles are a little spicier than anchos, and not nearly as sweet. They have a tangy brightness that leads many cooks to powder them over fresh fruit and vegetables, or to pair them with anchos in stews and soups.
Jicama: this long-lasting root vegetable is the color of a potato, and not much bigger. Peel, then eat raw for a slightly sweet, juicy crunch--perfect in slaws and chicken salad. Or eat it as Mexicans do, simply as a snack.
Masa harina: corn tortillas are made from dried grain (field) corn cooked with mineral lime then ground into a paste called "masa." Several decades ago, a method was discovered to dehydrate and powder the perishable masa; the result became known as masa harina, or masa flour.
Poblano chiles: these mildly spicy, dark green fresh chiles are the size of a small bell pepper, but with a tapered point. The skin is tougher than a bell pepper, with more compact flesh, and more concentrated and complex flavor.
Queso anejo: this hard, aged cheese, made from cow's milk, adds a salty tang to whatever it touches. Dishes that always get a dusting of grated queso anejo, such as enchiladas, grilled corn on the cob, and street snacks made from corn masa, would be naked without it, like pasta without Romano or Parmesan.
Serrano chiles: these bullet-shaped, hot, green chiles are about 2 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. They have a punchy flavor that is heaven to green chile lovers--much less sweet than a jalapeno.
About Achiote - Achiote is a bright red paste made from ground annatto seeds, spices and lime juice or vinegar. It originated in the Yucatan and has been used by the Maya on fish, chicken and pork for centuries.
About Avocados - Avocados are delicate, delicious and healthy fruits that are used to make guacamole, or sliced and served as a garnish to many Mexican meals. They are oval in shape, with either a dark green, rough skin or a smooth medium-green skin. They must be used whe
About Burritos - Burritos are made using large, warmed flour tortillas. They are stuffed with guacamole, tomatoes, onions, beans, cheese and either carne asada (grilled, marinated steak), shredded beef or chicken, carnitas (pork), or fish.
About Carne Asada - Carne Asada is made from skirt or flank steak, marinated in lime and orange juice with oregano, salt and onions. It is grilled in strips over a hot fire, then diced and served in either soft tacos or burritos with an array of Mexican condiments.
About Carnitas - Carnitas, which originated in the state of Michuacán are made from pork simmered in fruit juices. Sometimes carnitas are baked in the oven; sometimes they are deep fried. They're served in either soft tacos or burritos with an array of Mexican condiments.
About Ceviche - Ceviche is made from raw fish, marinated until "cooked" in limejuice. It is then combined with tomatoes, onions, chiles and spices and served with chips or saltine crackers as an appetizer.
About Chicharrones - Chicharrones are deep fried pork rinds. They're a favorite snack (like potato chips) in Mexico.
About Chiles - There are reportedly over 60 varieties of chiles, ranging from very mild to fiery-hot. Chiles are a key ingredient in most Mexican dishes. All chiles derive their heat from oils concentrated in their seeds and membraines. The heat of a chile lasts six min
About Chimichangas - Chimichangas are deep-fried meat-filled burritos.
About Cilantro - Also known as coriander, Cilantro is an herb used all over Mexico to jazz up salsa and other dishes. Its lively green color and equally lively flavor are a great enhancement to many dishes!
About Enchiladas - Enchiladas are made from corn tortillas, lightly fried in oil, then stuffed with cheese, onions and most frequently, shredded beef of chicken. They can be made vegetarian, or even stuffed with pork, shrimp or lobster. They are then rolled, heated and smot
About Fajitas - Fajitas are a fun, festive dish made with marinated steak, chicken, shrimp or mushrooms. They are then grilled on a sizzling hot skillet or comal with onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and other chiles and served with flour tortillas burrito-style.
About Flautas - Flautas are made from either corn or flour tortillas, filled with shredded beef or chicken, rolled into a thin cylinder and deep fried, and often topped with guacamole.
About Margaritas - Margaritas are the national drink of Mexico. Made usually from equal parts tequila, Controy and fresh lime juice, they are served either blended with ice or on the rocks in a salt-rimmed glass.
About Masa - Masa is made of dried corn kernels, ground and mixed with water and a little ground limestone. It is a thick dough that is then flattened into patties for tortillas, or stuffed with meat and spices or fruit to make tamales.
About Menudo - Menudo is a robust, fairly spicy soup that is supposed to cure hangovers. Its key ingredients are tripe, hominy, onions and spices.
About Mole - Mole is a highly complex, dark sauce made from chiles, nuts, spices, fruits, vegetables, chocolate and seasonings. It takes a great deal of time and loving care to prepare and is served as a sauce in beef and chicken dishes for special occasions and holid
About Salsa - Salsa is the most basic dish in any Mexican meal, often served as an appetizer with chips and used to jazz up everything from eggs to main courses. Salsas can be made from fresh, raw vegetables or cooked. Every Mexican chef has their own particular way of
About Tacos - There are two types of tacos: fried and soft. Both are made with corn tortillas. Fried tacos and lightly fried, folded in half and stuffed with either shredded beef or chicken. Then they're topped with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and a little salsa fresca.
About Tamales - Tamales are made from masa dough filled with meat, vegetables and spices (or fruit) and wrapped in a corn husk (or banana leaf) and steamed until hot.
About Tequila - Tequila is the national drink of Mexico. Originally created by the Maya in the form of pulque, a less potent drink made from the agave cactus, it was discovered by the Spaniards when they arrived in Mexico. After much experimenting with different types of
About Tomatillos - Tomatillos look a lot like tiny green tomatoes. They are actually a relative of the gooseberry family. They're flavorful and used in many sauces, particularly salsa verdes, or green sauces.
About Tortas - Tortas are Mexican sandwiches made from a bolillo (or hard Mexican roll) cut in half and layered inside with tomatoes, avocados or guacamole and carne asada, shredded beef or chicken, cheese and salsa.
About Tostadas - Tostadas are similar to fried tacos, except that they are served on a fried flat corn tortilla and topped with a layer of beans, shredded beef or chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, avocado and salsa.