Olé! This section of Menuism covers Mexican food and beverages. Discover tortas and tacos, cemitas and more. Also be sure to check out other Latin American cuisines.
Wally Gobetz/Flickr

Wally Gobetz/Flickr

Who doesn’t love burritos? From poor college students to CEOs on the go, farmworkers to surfers, burritos are basically one of our national foods. But where do they come from? And how have they evolved?
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Posted by on March 14th, 2016

Qfamily/Flickr

Qfamily/Flickr

You often hear people say “you either love it, or you hate it,” about certain things, and with cilantro that certainly seems to be the case. Even self-professed culinary adventurers sometimes find themselves at a roadblock with the herb, complaining of a soapy or bitter flavor. Julia Childs hated cilantro so much that she told Larry king in 2002 that if it made its way into a dish she was eating, she would just pick it out and throw it on the floor.
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Posted by on November 9th, 2015

All photos by Bun Boy Eats LA

All photos by Bun Boy Eats LA

It took me 14 years of living in Los Angeles before I finally caught taco fever. What took me so long? Perhaps it was all too easy. Too accessible. Tacos on every corner, like living close to the beach but never going.

Where was the thrill of the hunt? Instead of stopping at my local taco truck, I would drive right by to some obscure part of town for kosher Korean schwarma wrapped in a ramen pita served by the hottest chef for a one-night, by-invitation-only event. (more…)

Posted by on September 29th, 2014

All photos by Southwest Compass

Green Chile Cheeseburger. All photos by Southwest Compass

New Mexico has the oldest regional cuisine in the United States. Native Americans have inhabited the Southwest for roughly 1,500 years and Santa Fe, the state capital, was established more than four hundred years ago. Northern New Mexico’s history and food are inextricably intertwined because as power shifted and cultures merged, so too did the local food. Santa Fe was the terminus point for both El Camino Real (from Mexico City) and the Santa Fe Trail (from Missouri). The influences of the Native Americans, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo settlers have shaped New Mexican cuisine. (more…)

Posted by on December 19th, 2013

Flo. All photos by Jeff Pearl, except where noted

Flo. All photos by Jeff Pearl, except where noted

My original thought for a May-themed post was to talk about outdoor dining options, but anyone in Chicago right now can see that that’s just ridiculous thinking. It snowed a few days ago right after a 70-degree showing the day prior. But with Cinco de Mayo around the corner, these are my top 10 Mexican restaurants. (more…)

Posted by on May 1st, 2013

Gilda Valdez Carbonaro is one half of the Dos Gildas Latino Food and Culture blogging team, who we featured in an interview in June. In today’s guest post, she shares her knowledge of aguas frescas, the perfect summer drink from Mexico.

Photos by Gilda Carbonaro

In the hot summertime, Mexicans reach for a fragrant, ripe fruit juice, freshly dissolved in a blender with ice water to quench the thirst and hydrate the body. Why consume outrageously sugary soft drinks by the gallons, when you can just as easily get hooked on the ‘real thing’: natural fruit with nutrients such as Vitamin C and E and antioxidants you can find in fruits such as mangos, canteloupe, and papayas, to mention a few. In Mexico these natural, fresh fruit juices known as aguas frescas (“fresh waters”) are found in open-air markets in gigantic transparent glass jugs, lined up and ready to be ladled into a glass. (more…)

Posted by on August 28th, 2012

Gilda Valdez Carbonaro and Gilda Claudine Karasik are the authors of Dos Gildas, a blog dedicated to authentic Mexican cuisine, recipes, and stories surrounding the Latin culture. Dos Gildas, or “Two Gildas,” refers to the first name they both share. In fact, Gilda Claudine (sometimes called Dini) is Gilda Carbonaro’s namesake. Dos Gildas has been recognized by NBC Latino as a “Blog We Love” and we at Menuism agree! (more…)

Posted by on June 28th, 2012

Cemitas Party at Cemitas y Clayudas Pal Cabron

Awhile back, we learned about the Mexican sandwich known as the Torta, but just as popular is the Cemita.  Also known as a Cemita Poblana, this sandwich is usually street food and originated from the city of Puebla.  What differentiates the cemita from the torta is the bread. The torta has its influence from the French baguette while the bread for the cemita is a sesame-seeded egg roll.

When it comes to the ingredients for the cemita, they are usually restricted to sliced avocado, some type of meat, a white cheese, onions and chipotle sauce.  The cheese is often a panela, which is similar to a fresh mozzarella, but at times quesillo, a Mexican string cheese, is also used.

The most popular meat in a cemita is beef milanesa, a thinly pounded and deep-fried piece of beef. Cueritos (pickled pig skin), queso de puerco (pork head cheese), and carnitas (stewed pork) are also well-known ingredients you’ll see in a cemita.  Like most foods, there are regional variations. For example, the Michoacán version of a cemita uses a smooth bread, without sesame seeds, and isn’t eaten as a sandwich. Instead, it’s served with milk or atole.

Now that you’ve learned a little more about the cemita, it’s time to try one for yourself.  Check below for some restaurants to check out.

Cafe Ollin
339 East 108th St
New York, NY 10029
(212) 828-3644

Cemitas Poblanas
805 S 112th St
Seattle, WA 98168
(206) 241-3899

Cemitas Puebla
3619 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 772-8435

Cemitas y Clayudas Pal Cabron
2560 E Gage Ave
Huntington Park, CA 90255
(323) 277-9899

Dorado Tacos & Cemitas
401 Harvard St
Brookline, MA 02446
(617) 566-2100

Posted by on February 5th, 2010

206921715_2d7f3f1198Have you ever gone into a Mexican restaurant, market or food stand and saw signs of various beverages for sale like raspados, licuados, agua frescas, and had absolutely no clue what the difference was between all those drinks. Many of you are probably already familiar with the horchata which is a staple in any Mexican food establishment, but there’s a lot more than you may even imagine.  So take a look below and hopefully, you’ll be inspired to try something new.

Agua Fresca: An agua fresca is a beverage made with any combination of fruits, flowers, nuts and even vegetables that are blended together with sugar and water. The horchata is an agua fresca.  The main ingredient for the horchata which can consist of either ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice or barley gives this drink a milky texture, but in the end, that ground paste needs to be blended with water, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla before it becomes a drink your taste buds would recognize.  Examples of agua fresca flavors can run the range from fruit flavors like mango, papaya, watermelon to more tart flavors like pineapple, tamarind and lime. Other options include hibiscus and alfalfa.

Licuado: The licuado is a blend of milk, fresh fruit, juice and sometimes ice.  While similar to the American smoothie, there are inherent differences.  Mainly, licuados use a milk base with fresh fruit whereas smoothies will start with fruit juice usually in combination with sherbert or yogurt.  Also, licuados are known for the addition of nuts, sugar, granola or honey while the same may not be true for the smoothies.  An example of a licuado could have ingredients like milk, honey, strawberries, granola and pecans.

Jugo: Simply, a jugo is a beverage made up of juices freshly squeezed from fresh fruit and vegetables.  Two popular jugos are the Vampiro and the Dietico.  The Vampiro is a mixture of orange, carrot and beet juice and does look “blood red.”  With a name like Dietico, this drink’s purpose is obvious.  It’s a drink for those who are looking to lose weight and it’s a blend of celery, pineapple, grapefruit and cactus.

Raspasdo: Raspados, which translates to “scraped ice”, literally is ice shaped into a snow cone shape, put mid-way into a cup and than a natural fruit syrup is poured over the ice and and then topped with fruit.  A popular raspado is the Diabilito with a tamarind and mango syrup mixture that is topped with chamoy (a spicy-sweet sauce made up of apricots)

Atole: An atole is a cornstarch-based hot beverage that comes in many fruit flavors like guava or strawberry. The chocolate atole is known as champurrado.

Now that you’re armed with a little more knowledge, you may want to check out some of the places below that specifically sell one or more of the various kinds of beverages that I just listed or be sure to keep an eye out for them on the drinks section of the menu of your favorite Mexican restaurant.

Nevera
4846 Florence Avenue, #101
Bell, CA, 90201
(323) 887-3451

Realeza Michoacana
2520 North 16th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85006
(602) 271-4527

Raspados Michoacan
115 E 8th St
National City, CA 91950
(619) 477-0415

Posted by on July 26th, 2009

1001091315_0c4f28f4c1If you’re a sandwich lover, you definitely need to check out the torta. So what is a torta? Basically, it’s a Mexican sandwich, which may or may not have come about due to French influences. In fact, the history of the torta is rather sketchy.

There is speculation that during the French occupation, Mexican bakers took inspiration from the French baguette, which is a hard crusty bread. They used similar bread dough to create smaller loafs called bolillo and telera. The bolillo is oval shaped and has a crusty exterior and soft interior while the telera is slightly larger, rounder and has a crease or two in the middle. A great torta is defined by the bread having enough texture to hold up, being soft enough to bite and large enough to contain a plethora of ingredients.

The preparation method is relatively straightforward. Before any ingredients are placed on the roll, it is split in half, spread with either butter or mayonnaise and usually toasted quickly on one side on a griddle.

On traditional tortas, one half of the roll is smeared with refried beans, while the other is coated with some mashed avocado and a little crema, or Mexican sour cream. Other ingredients could include pickled jalapenos, lettuce, tomato and onion and any variety of meat like pork carnitas, beef barbacoa, shellfish, fish or chicken.

Tortas will also take on distinct flavors based on the Mexican regions where they are made. In Guadalajara, rolls filled with roast beef, ham or milanesa (breaded steak) are dipped in a large jar of thick, hot salsa. In Monterrey and the state of Sonora, the favorite is the carne asada torta. In Tijuana, milanesa and turkey tortas are favored.

Out of Mexico, you may encounter more westernized tortas with ingredients that could include anything from smoked salmon to grilled vegetables to ham. Not being traditional doesn’t make them any less delicious.

Once the torta is loaded up with ingredients, it either is grilled in a panini-like press or simply toasted on both sides on a griddle using something weighted to hold the torta down. You’ll see street vendors in Mexico use either gas-fired or charcoal-heated griddles to toast their tortas.

What’s great about tortas is they are relatively inexpensive sandwiches. They’re generally sold for $6 to $8 at torta shops and if you’re lucky enough to be around street food vendors, those tortas will sell for $4 to $5. So if you’d like to check out tortas for yourself, look below for some restaurant recommendations and Happy Dining!

Super Tortas
360 S Alvarado St Ste 6
Los Angeles, CA 90057
(213) 413-7953

Tortas El Angel
1018 N Shepherd Dr
Houston, TX 77008
(713) 862-9333

Tortas Jalisco
534 Frontier
Lawrence, KS 66049
(785) 865-1515

Puras Tortas
4166 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30345
(404) 633-2110

Tortas El Guero
2518 N 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85006
(602) 252-9228

Posted by on June 4th, 2009

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