Eat & Drink

The Street Eats Worth Flying To Mexico For

You’ve probably heard that Mexican food in Australia is nothing like the real deal – and we’re sorry to say that the rumours are true. Elsewhere, you just can’t find anything like the street eats in Mexico.

Often imitated but never duplicated, authentic Mexican cuisine is something every self-respecting foodie needs to make the pilgrimage for at least once. But the country’s tastiest dishes aren’t found in pricey restaurants – they’re on the street, and most of it’s going for less than a couple of bucks. Here’s your guide to the street eats in Mexico worth hopping on a plane for.

Tacos

 

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Duh, right? If there’s one street eat you can’t miss, the taco is it. Mexico’s quintessential dish is available absolutely everywhere and is nothing like you’ve had at home: forget the sour cream and minced beef, bona fide tacos are usually stuffed with little more than some meat, a bit of onion, a squeeze of lime juice and a lashing of salsa.

Every taco is different, but pork is a particularly common choice of filling at street vendors – try them al pastor, which is shaved off the spit, or go for a chorizo taco with queso fresco, the country’s signature white cheese.

If you’re feeling bold, seek out some tacos de ojos — tacos stuff with steamed cow’s eyes, found around Mexico City. A delicacy, apparently.

How much: 10 pesos (AU$0.70) is standard. But they can range from between seven and 30 pesos depending on the ingredients and vendor.

Tostadas

 

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Tostadas are the open sandwiches of Mexico — crispy, round tortillas piled high with toppings ranging from shredded chicken, avocado and fresca (Mexico’s thinner, lighter alternative to sour cream) to delicious fresh seafood. Just have a serviette handy when you bite in — things can get messy.

How much: 30 to 40 pesos (AU$2.16 to $2.80) per tostada, and worth every cent.

Quesadillas, gorditas and huaraches

 

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Allow us to introduce a few of the taco’s close cousins: the quesadilla, the gordita and the huarache. Quesadillas — folded tortillas, usually stuffed with cheese, occasionally with meats or potato — are the most common of the three, and best when deep fried and smothered in fresca and pickled onions.

Also on the street eat menu are gorditas, fried corn dough stuffed with delicacies like chicharron, pork rinds cooked in a green salsa. The hardest to find and possibly most delicious of the three are huaraches, stuffed tortillas filled with beans and cheese and then topped with more beans and cheese. Think: a Pizza Rounder, but Mexican. And way better.

How much: A simple quesadilla might only set you back 10 pesos (AU$0.70), an overflowing Huarache could go as “high” as 40 pesos (AU$2.80).

Elotes

 

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If you’ve ever had trouble eating your veggies, why not try them smothered in mayonnaise, cheese and chilli? That’s the approach Mexico’s elote vendors have taken, grilling corn ears on the stick and then seasoning the hell out of them.

You can also find esquites, which is basically the same, only with the kernals removed from the cob and served in a cup… and then, yep, smothered in mayo, cheese and chilli powder.

How much: 10 whole pesos (AUD$.70).

Marquesitas

 

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A Nutella crepe might not sound like a typical Central American dish, but Mexico’s chefs make them their own. That’s right, street eats in Mexico aren’t all about savoury.

Marquesitas — crispy, rolled-up crepes stuffed with a variety of fillings — are the staple street dessert in the Yucatan province, the home of tourist hotspots like Tulum, Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.

You can opt to put anything from peanut butter to whipped cream and shredded cheese inside, but we take ours Nutella solo, por favor.

How much: Around 25 pesos a pop (AUD$1.80).

… Crickets?

 

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If you find yourself having a sit down dinner in Mexico and feel confident enough to order a bowl of guacamole in Spanish, be warned: the con chapulines option you see on the menu doesn’t mean “with chips”, it’s “with crickets”.

Chapulines — which come deep fried and seasoned — are commonly served in guacamole in Mexico (extra crunch, you see), but you can also buy them on their own for easy, all-day critter snacking. They’re particularly common in Oaxaca province, where you’ll see vendors sitting outside markets peddling buckets full of the things.

How much: You’re on your own here.

How to get there

  • Fly Qantas to Los Angeles or San Francisco
  • Take a connecting flight to Mexico City
  • Mexico City

(Lead image: Taqueria El Califa / Facebook)