Guide to Mexican Street Food
While there’s little doubt that the dining inside your hotel or resort will be top-notch, you should experience the full range of culinary experiences Mexico offers.
This country is home to arguably the greatest culture of street food in the world, and tasting it is as simple as a quick stop between shops or museums. While there isn’t enough room in your stomach to try every single cart or stand, here are a few quintessential antojitos you need to savor.
Tacos - Perhaps nothing is more iconic of Mexican cuisine than tacos. Of course, these aren’t the mass-produced replicas of chain restaurants; here they’re the real deal. While variations exist based on which state of Mexico you’re in, every taco will likely consist of a warm corn tortilla (often hand-made), tender meat, and a smattering of fresh vegetables, fruits, and salsas.
Tamales - Originating in Oaxaca, tamales today can be found and enjoyed all throughout Mexico. Composed of a thick steamed corn dough wrapped in either banana leaves or corn husks, the true treat of tamales is the stuffing: you can find anything from chicken mole to cheese to sweet pineapple inside.
Sopes and Gorditas - Sopes and gorditas are essentially two sides of the same coin: the same delicious corn dough with slight variations in preparation. Gorditas are when the corn dough is fried, then stuffed with meats, beans, and cheeses and topped off with delectable salsas and creams. Sopes are the exact same thing, except all of the stuffings go on top of the corn patty, thus making them “toppings.” It may seem like a trivial difference, but you’ll be surprised at how difficult it is to choose between the two!
Tostadas - At first glance, Tostadas look like a mix between a taco and a pizza, but there’s more flavor there than meets the eye. The base is a crisp, salty tortilla that is gratuitously topped with anything from pork to cows’ foot to ceviche or fresh fish. Those traveling to Oaxaca should be sure to try a tlayuda, a huge tostada smothered in chocolate mole sauce, then topped with a salad and meat of your choice before finally being sprinkled with world-famous stringy Oaxaca cheese.
Elotes and Esquites - Elotes and Esquites are essentially the same food, prepared differently. Elotes is sweetcorn, served on a stick and smothered in mayonnaise, cream, and chili. Esquites is sweetcorn cut from the cob, mixed with cream, lime juice, mayonnaise and chili inside a plastic cup. Either version is by far and away one of the tastiest options for enjoying Mexican street food.
Comotes - If you’re in Mexico City, you’ll want to try camotes fresh from a stand or cart. Camotes are plantains and sweet potatoes steamed, and then served with strawberry jam and condensed milk. If you can’t tell where they are by the crowds they draw, then listen for the distinct whistle of steam escaping the pot.