T- time: All about Mexican culinary vocabulary

Whenever you’re in Mexico or eating Mexican food, doesn’t it strike you how many ingredients and dishes start with the letter T? It seems that this is the most important letter in the food-ABC. But do you know what all these dishes are that start with a T? The Dancing Chefs have been digging deep to find the delicious T’s out there! Olé!

T – Tequila

tequila los osunaIn Mexico we love tequila. We drink it on large and small national holidays, at funerals and anniversaries, at casual lunches and at dinner with friends. Legally tequila is our champagne. All tequila has to come from the state of Jalisco and is protected with a DO (Designation of Origin) by the Consejos Regulador del Tequila (Tequila Regulatory Council). This organization ensures that all tequila sold throughout the world comes from this state in central south Mexico. This arid area with highland soil creates the perfect conditions for the blue agave, the plant from which tequila is distilled, to grow. No tequila made in China (or elsewhere), por favor!

Taste is a key word when it comes to tequila. If you’re interested in discovering its real taste, you should stay away from the image of big testosterone-driven machos gulping shot after shot of tequila and throw away its reputation as a quick intoxicator. Tequila has become more and more sophisticated and today’s is considered a refined drink that rivals an imported single-malt whiskey or a quality cognac, and not only in price but also in its smooth warm taste. Today’s finest tequilas are meant to be enjoyed in a small glass with pleasure, in tiny sips.

T – Tortillas

tortillasTortillas are made from corn dough (masa) and serve in Mexico as bread, plate and spoon at the same time. Every city has many tortillerías (tortilla bakeries) where tortillas are made by hand or with a tortilla machine on a daily basis. Fresh masa is made from specially treated corn that’s ground into dough, but corn flour is also commonly used.  Flour tortillas (tortillas de harina) are staple in the northern regions of Mexico and are less easily broken due to its high gluten content, and can be made larger and thinner without breaking too easily.

T – Tacos

tacos de guisadoThis typical street food can be made of any cooked meat, fish or vegetable wrapped in a tortilla, with a dash of salsa and garnished with onion and cilantro. Soft corn tortillas are used to wrap grilled meats in Tacos al carbon, an array of stews in tacos de guisado or griddle-cooked meats and vegetable in tacos a la plancha. When tacos are filled with chicken, barbacoa, potatoes or cheese and lightly fried they are called tacos dorados. If you are in northern Mexico, chances are you will find tacos with flour tortilla (tortilla de harina) and the fillings will be more meat than vegetarian.

T – Tamales

tamalesMade with masa (corn dough) mixed with lard, stuffed with stewed meat, fish or vegetables, wrapped or steamed. The word comes from the Náhuatl word tamalli and refers to anything wrapped up. Every region in the country has its own special tamal, the most famous being the Oaxacan-style tamales with mole and wrapped in banana leaves, the Mexico City tamales with chicken and green tomatillo sauce wrapped in corn husks and the Yucatecan style made with chicken marinated in achiote (annatto paste) wrapped in banana leaves.

T – Tortas


tortasIn every street corner in Mexico you find stands where they sell an abundant amount of sandwiches or Tortas: with beans, chile, cheese, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and avocado and, if that weren’t already enough, also fried egg, meat, turkey or chicken. All these ingredients go into a bread roll, called telera.

There’s one kind of torta from Guadalajara,  that is believed to be the best hang-over cure, a Torta Ahogada (‘drowned sandwich’).  There are three major components to this dish. A birote baguette is filled with tender chunks of roasts pork leg and then smothered with a searing chili sauce (made primarily from a dried chili pepper called ‘de arbol’, vinegar, garlic and oregano). The soggy sandwich is crunchy on the outside and soft in the center, because of the crusty, sour birote bread.

 T – Tostadas

tostadasTostadas are tortillas that have been baked or fried until they get crisp and are then cooled. The idea is that in this state they can hold a variety of toppings. Tostadas de pollo are a beautiful layering of beans, chicken, cream, shredded lettuce, onion, avocado and queso fresco (a fresh cheese). In Mazatlan tostadas are served with a dollop of mayonnaise and crab meat (tostadas de jaiba) or with shrimp or fish ceviche.

Enjoy these tasty dishes at home!


Dancing Chef Maaike

The flavors of Mexico

This month we celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day on September 15th. The whole month you can see street vendors selling all kinds of goods with the red-white-green colors of the national flag. Mexicans are very proud of their country, culture and cuisine.

Even though I wasn’t born in Mexico, I feel like this wonderful country has adopted me. The past eight years that I have lived here, I have been lucky enough to visit many different regions. Most foreign visitors head towards one of the many beach destinations, but there’s much more to see, hear, smell and taste! Join me on my travel through Mexico.


Taxco, 160 km southwest of Mexico City, has ridden waves of boom and bust associated with the fantastically wealthy silver deposits discovered here in the 16th century and then repeatedly until the early 20th century. With its silver now almost gone, the town has fallen back on tourism to sustain it. The town is scattered down a precipitous hillside surrounded by dramatic mountains and cliffs, its perfectly preserved architecture and the twin belfries of its baroque masterpiece, Parroquia Santa Prisca, make for one of the most spectacular views anywhere in the central highlands.


Morelia is the coolest place you’ve ever been. The colonial heart of the city is so well preserved that it was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1991. The cathedral is no just gorgeous. It’s inspirational, especially when the working organ with 4600 pipes is played. Sixteenth and 17th century stone buildings, baroque facades and archways line the narrow downtown streets, and are home to museums, hotels, restaurants, chocolaterias, sidewalk cafés, a popular university and cheap and tasty taquerias.


East of Mexico City lies the gorgeous colonial city of Puebla. Mexico’s fifth largest city, Puebla is the dominant regional centre and big tourist draw for its cathedral, culinary attractions and well-preserved history. The surroundings of Puebla are predominantly rural, with stunning views on the incredible Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes.

Puebla is rightly famous for its gastronomy  (and especially for moles poblanos, the classic spicy sauce containing chiles, chocolate, sesame seed and more). If you’re visiting Puebla you must try this, to have really experienced the city.


Oaxaca is the heart of a region whose highly creative populace produces the country’s finest range of crafts and some of its most exciting contemporary art. Artists and artisans alike are inspired by the state’s deep-rooted indigenous tradtions and by its bright southern light. The city is surrounded by fascinating archaeological sites and by colourfully traditional villages and small towns.

Oaxaca has its own spicy take on Mexican cuisine, based on its famous seven moles (sauces usually served over chicken or pork). Other local specialties include tasajo (slices of pounded beef), tlayudas (big crisp tortillas with varied toppings, sometimes labeled ‘Oaxacan pizza’), quesillo (stringy cheese) and chapulines ( grasshoppers! – usually fried with chili powder, onion and garlic). When you are in Oaxaca, you have to try this unusual delicacy. Because any serious foodie should be brave and try whatever’s cooking!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the history, food and culture of Mexico. This large country has both temperate and tropical zones, reaches 5km into the sky, stretches 100,000 km along its coasts. Mexico is what you make of it…. open your eyes the huge variety of options for human adventure that it has to offer.


Dancing Chef Maaike

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