By Paulina Garza As the saying goes, "barriga llena, corazon contento,” or " full stomach, happy heart."
That is the sentiment in Mexico, a beautiful country with a rich culture and history that is proud of its people, natural resources, and landscapes, but most importantly its exquisite cuisine.
Mexican food originally was based on corn, vegetables and meat; Indian staple food. After the Conquista, Spaniards introduced domestic animals and dairy products. Today, Mexican cuisine is a blend of the original Indian fare with the Spanish.
Mexican food varies by region. It has its basic dishes, but changes throughout the country. The famous “Cabrito” (lamb) and Barbacoa (whole sheep slow-cooked over an open fire) are very popular in the Northern states of Mexico. The coastal, southern states are rich in Mayan and colonial history with some Caribbean influence. Cochinita Pibil (Baby Pig) is a classic in the Yucatan Peninsula. Interior cuisine is probably one of the most recognized and elaborated ones. “The Land of Seven Moles,” better known as Oaxaca, is famous for its combination of sweet and salty ingredients. According to Diana Kennedy, the “Julia child of Mexican cuisine” there are many more regions.
It is very common for people to confuse Tex-Mex food with authentic Mexican food in the United States, especially along the Texas border. According to executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly, Patricia Sharpe, Tex-Mex started because Anglos didn’t have access to all the ingredients needed in a Mexican dish and the practices didn’t translate that well.
Tex-Mex is a 20th century phenomenon and a localized version of Mexican food. Although many have grown fond of this new spin, it nowhere near matched he flavor and uniqueness found in Mexico. “Para nosotros una tostada no es un Taco. El queso Amarillo no lo usamos en Mexico y la salsa no pica (A taco in Mexico is not crunchy; it’s soft and mushy. Yellow cheese is not used and what they call salsa is not even spicy)" says, International UT-Austin student Maricruz Najera.
If you like crunchy tacos and burritos you’ll fall in love with the real deal. Austin is home to many Mexican Restaurants, from fancy, top-quality ones to low-price, affordable ones.
Fonda San Miguel 2330 West North Loop
One of the finest interior Mexican restaurants in the country, with an impressive art gallery and decorated walls. It has its own organic garden, used to make fresh dishes. One of Sharp’s top three favorite Mexican restaurants, she strongly recommends trying chef Miguel Ravago’s recipes.
El Naranjo 85 Rainey
Owner and chef Iliana De La Vega, from Oaxaca, Mexico tries to resemble her original restaurant back in Mexico. Famous for its “Cochinita Pibil,” an achiote and grapefruit juice marinated Berkshire pork served with pickled red onions and refried black beans. Achiote, plant with pink flowers and red fruits with seeds. It’s so good you’ll find yourself fighting over the last shreds of meat. Don’t forget to try their hand-made corn tortillas.
El Taquito 1713 E Riverside Dr.
If you’re tired of the McDonald’s dollar menu or the fast food, late night snacks head over to Riverside. Open late. All you need is $6 and an appetite for real “Tacos de la Calle.” “Their salsa bar is great, and the last time I had a “gringa” this good was back in Saltillo, Coahuila,” says, St. Edward’s student, Mario Salinas.
Manuel’s 310 Congress, 10201 Jollyville
Can’t decide if you want something sweet or salty? How about both? It’s unique and savory “mole” has been voted by the Wine Spectator as “The Best Mole in Austin.” With over 21 ingredients, including chiles, nuts, chocolate, herbs and spices, Manuel’s mole will give any other one a run for your money. “It tasted just like the mole my grandma makes back at home,” says, UT Economics major, Alfredo Lopez.
Burrito Factory Dobie Mall
Hungry and in the mood for Mexican? Grab a bite on your way to class. Instead of having the typical Free Bird or Chipotle burrito, get a REAL one from these owners from Veracruz. For a descent price get a descent size burrito. “I love this place, it’s the closest you’ll ever get to a Mexican burrito. The beans are awesome,” says, UT Engineering major, Antonio Trevino.
Las Cazuelas 1701 East Ceasar Chavez
Nothing will make feel you better than a plate of “Chilaquiles, corn tortillas cut in quarters called “totopos.” The dish is topped with queso fresco (fresh cheese) and sweet Mexican cream. Eggs and chicken are usually added. A choice of green or red salsa is poured on top at the end.
Las Palomas 3201 Bee Cave Road #122
Founded by a Mexican couple in 1983, Las Palomas is known as the “hidden jewel” by its customers. The owner, Maricarmen Corona Dale, daughter of the founding couple strives on offering a relaxing place for family and friends to come together. The signature dish, “Chile Relleno” is a must: A large poblano pepper filled with ground beef and pork, raisins, almonds, pecans and crystalized fruit is topped with a roasted tomato sauce and melted cheese. Served with rice and beans. “I go with my family every Sunday after church. It feels like were back home in Mexico,” says, UT student, Maria Palermo.
Jalisco’s Restaurant and Bar 6601 South Congress
Don’t wait until the weekend to go out and have lunch. Grab a partner and for only $14.99 enjoy a Fajita Platter for two with guacamole, grilled onions, charro beans, pico de gallo and rice on the side. I bet this made you wish it were Tuesday and not Friday for the first time. According to Maricruz Najera there is live Mariachi music. Food and music, all for $20 dollars.
SPICE IT UP!
Tired of the ketchup, not so spicy tasting “Salsa” Here is a simple and fast recipe on how to do one on your own. Have it ready and hot to go for dinner.
- Chilli Peppers
For every tomato you need at least four chilli peppers. This makes it spicy, yet edible. If you wish to make it hotter, add more than four chilli peppers per tomato. Boil the tomatoes and chilli peppers. Once they become lighter and lose their color, toss them in the blender. Add ¼ cup of water. Use the same water you used for boiling. Add half a teaspoon of Conzome. The yellow one. Conzome is a Mexican, concentrated form of chicken broth available in most super markets.
DRINK IT UP !!!
Una Margarita para la Nina
Sorry but were not in Mexico. You can only enjoy a Margarita if you’re 21 or older here in the US. Margarita is a Mexican Cocktail created in 1938 in honor of a beautiful Mexican showgirl named Rita De La Rosa. A bartender came up with a cocktail to capture her heart with famous Tequila Cuervo and the flavor of Mexican limones.
We all know Mexicans love to party and drink. What would we do with out their strong, tasting Tequila? Margaritas should be your No.1 drink during Happy Hour. Polvo’s at 2004 South 1st Street has great deals, along with Las Palomas. If you don’t feel like going out you can always buy Tequila, lemons, ice and you’re set for the night.
Michelada “Mi-Chela-Helada” (My cold Beer)
There is nothing like a cold, refreshening Mexican beer with Maggi sauce, lemon, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and Maggi seasoning. Maggi sauce is optional but it adds a unique flavor. Easy to make but if not head on to South Congress and look for Hotel San Jose. Cazuelas gives them a challenge as well. These micheladas will blow your socks off.
Another famous cocktail is the tomato juice concentrate flavored with spices and clam broth. It is available at every super market.It tastes great alone or with beer. Lemon makes it extra juicy and tasty. Powdered chilli gives it the Mexican spicy touch.
Pan Dulce “Sweet Bread”
Nothing tastes better than a fluffy piece of bread dipped in your morning coffee. Pan Dulce evolved after the Spaniards brought in their pastry techniques. Mexican ancestors modified these and came up with their own varieties. There are more than a thousand different types, but here are some of the most popular ones in Mexico.
You can find all of these and more at Chuy’s Panaderia (801 E William Cannon, Suite 125.)