A little food guide to help you when you come and visit Cancun or Riviera Maya, don’t do what I did and put what I thought was guacamole all over my taco but when in fact it was a very hot green chili sauce.
Red paste made from annatto seeds.
Small, dark red seed used by the Maya Indians to color and flavor food.
A Poblano chile that has been dried and turned a black-red color; means wide. The most popular dried chile in Mexico and the US. It’s dried poblamo chile and the smoky-sweet flavor accents numerous dishes. Approx. 3-4” long, dark, reddish brown, sweetest of all the dried chiles and slightly fruity flavor.
An hors d’oeuvre or small snack food (appetizer)
A white cow’s milk cheese of Mexican origin: comes in braids, balls or round. Also known as Chihuahua and Oaxaca cheese.
To roast or broil
Thick fruit jelly, typically made of quince or guave and often served with cheese.
Sweet cakes and cookies often eaten for breakfast such as chilindrinas or campechanas.
Cooked with wine; means drunk.
Puffy, sweet, deep-fried pastry
Large flour tortilla wrapped around a filling .
Cajeta de Celaya
Fudge sauce made with goat’s milk.
Soup, broth .
Hot to the touch (temperature)
Spicy bread pudding, made with raisins, fruit and cheese, served during Lent; means a little bit of everything .
Meat, specifically beef
Carne a la Tampiqueña
Thin strips of beef, grilled.
Salad made of raw fish “cooked” in limejuice combined with tomatoes, onions, spices, chiles, served with chips as an appetizer.
Boat shaped, fried corn tortillas, garnished with sauce, lettuce and onions.
Deep fried pork rinds, a favorite snack in Mexico.
A dish of parched corn cooked with pork.
Corn tortilla pieces marinated in chile, layered with a filling, sauce and cheese, and baked in a casserole .
Chile con queso
A melted cheese dip seasoned with mild green chilies. Served with tortilla chips.
Chiles en nogada
Called the “independence dish” as its colors are those of the Mexican flag. Made with green chilies stuffed with ground meat and almonds and covered with walnut sauce, and then garnished with pomegranate kernels.
Translates to “stuffed peppers”, cheese-stuffed mild green chilies, dipped in an egg batter and fried until crisp.
Chili con carne
Translates to “chili with meat”, diced or ground beef, chilies and chili powder.
Commercially, the product made from ground red chiles, including a variety of other spices .
Deep-fried meat-filled burritos.
Ripened and smoked jalapeno. Fiery hot with lasting smoky flavor .
Milky desert of curds in syrup and cinnamon.
Spicy pork and beef sausage.
Mexican specialty made of a sweet-dough spiral, deep-fried, coated with cinnamon and sugar usually served with hot chocolate.
Chop or cutlet
A pungent green herb used in Mexican food cooking, Indian and Central Asian recipes. The seed produced at full maturity is coriander .
Heavy, round griddle for baking tortillas.
A pungent spice commonly used in Mexican dishes. Available in seed and ground form. Has a nutty flavor and aroma. Used in dishes such as chili and tamales.
Corn. Sometimes called helote .
A Mexican pie made by baking meat or fruit that has been wrapped in dough.
A corn tortilla dipped in red chile sauce, rolled around just about anything, then topped with sauce and cheese.
Lightly fried tortillas which are folded and then smothered in a smooth sauce made with beans. A variety of toppings are added.
Skirt steak. Most people associate “fajita” with a taco or the strips of meat that go into the taco. Beef skirt steak comes from the outer covering of the breast near where the brisket comes from. There are only 2 skirts per cow, a highly flavorful cut of meat as a result of the fat membrane that ‘burns’ off when cooked
Vermicelli. Thin pasta
Baked custard with caramel coating .
Means “flute”. Corn tortilla tightly rolled around a filling, then deep-fried.
A traditional Mexican dish made from pinto beans and served with any meal as a side dish. Fried beans are mashed and then refried in lard. Refried beans can be purchased in supermarkets in a can.
Cold, spicy tomato and vegetable soup.
Avocado mixture that is made from ripened avocados and lemon or limejuice, diced onions and tomato, cilantro. Used as a condiment in numerous Tex – Mex dishes.
In Mexico, turkey; pavo is turkey in other Spanish-speaking countries.
Mexico’s hottest. Delicate looking green, yellow and orange “lanterns” are prized by the Yucatecos for their hotter-than-heck fire. Green and crispest, orange are softest. The special fruity flavor compliments fresh salsas made with tropical fruits.
Egg. Also blanquillo.
Huavos a la Mexicana
Scrambled eggs with tomatoes, chilies and onions.
Tortilla topped with ham, fried eggs and a sauce made with cheese, peas and tomatoes.
The most widely used fresh green (ripens to red) chile in the US. Also, referred to as the Texas sweet pickle. Averages 2″ in length. The “hot” comes from the seed and the membrane. It is the most used pepper in Tex Mex cooking with Serrano pepper coming in 2nd. A great source of vitamin C. When ripened and smoked, it becomes a chipotle chile.
A white-fleshed root vegetable also called a Mexican potato. It is crunchy and sweet and can be eaten either raw or cooked. Makes a great addition to salads or can be boiled and baked like a potato, available from May to November.
A Mexican style of sour cream with equal or less fat content than American sour cream. Flavors range from mildly tangy to refreshingly sharp.
Jugo de Naranja
Coffee-flavored liqueur made in Mexico.
Means “hand”. A piece of volcanic rock used with both hands to grind food against another rock.
(Peron and rocolo chile) Fresh chile, looks like a cross between a yellow bell pepper and a golden habanero. Medium to hot at its peak. It has black seeds and the flower is purple. Fruity flavor with a thin flesh.
The national drink of Mexico! Margaritas are made with Tequila, Triple Sec and sweet & sour mix (a pre-bottled mix generally containing both lemon & lime juice). If you just order a “Margarita” in most bars and restaurants you will likely be served one made with the above ingredients, using the “house brand” of Tequila. If you request a better Tequila at a higher cost Cointreau, an orange liqueur, will be used. If ordering a Margarita made with a premium or super premium Tequila, its best made with Grand Marnier.
Shellfish; fish is pescado.
Dough called nixtamal. Masa is the corn based tamale dough surrounding the tamale filling. Masa is made from stone-ground corn, lard, and spices. Masa is spread onto softened corn husks, topped with a filling and then folded to create a tamale.
Masa Harina is a flour that is made from cooking dried corn kernels with lime and then grinding. It can be used to make corn tortillas and masa for tamales. It can also be used for breads and other foods.
Tripe soup; New Year’s Day tradition to ease hangovers. A spicy soup made from tripe, chile, hominy and spices. Served with lemon slices, onion, oregano, avocado, and chile which you add to taste. Also served with warm tortillas.
Chocolate that has been flavored with cinnamon, almonds and vanilla. It is available in Mexican markets and is used for hot chocolate or mole sauces.
A volcanic rock- stone mortar and pestle used in traditional Mexican cooking. Used to grind spices, corn, and vegetables.
Term used for a thick sauce or paste. A spicy rich traditional Mexican sauce that is usually served with poultry. The most common ingredients include nuts, seeds, spices, Mexican chocolate, and chiles. The most famous moles are Mole Poblano and Oaxaca’s black mole.
A cordovan-colored chipotle with a fruit-leather texture. This midsize Jalapeno is lightly smoked and often used for canned chipotles in adobo. Mostly used in salsas and sauces.
Moros con cristianos
A nutritious rice dish made with black beans and garnished with fried plantain.
Hominy: raw corn grains, soaked in lime, then ground to make a dough (masa) for tortillas, tamales and chalupas.
Known as the “prickly pear” cactus in America, this cactus is cleaned of spines, diced and used in many Mexican dishes. The cactus leaf looks like a large green paddle with spines. The fruit of the cactus called tuna can also be eaten. The cactus is usually boiled or grilled. Cooked cactus can be added to soups, stews, scrambled with eggs or used as taco filling.
Cornhusk, used to wrap tamales; sometimes called hoja.
Clay pot. A utensil in which beans are simmered.
Translated as “sweet bread”. A sweet round dessert bread topped with fine red, yellow or brown colored sugar. A Mexican Christmas tradition.
A Yucatecan dish of layered tortillas stuffed with beans.
Hot to the taste buds .
Pico de gallo
Translates to rooster’s beak in Spanish. This is a relish of fruit topped with a sprinkle of chile.
Brown sugar formed into a cone for marketing.
A sauce made of pumpkin seed, chile and spices.
A variety of chile
A soup made from roasted corn. A spicy soup made from beef or pork, chile, hominy and spices. Served with lemon slices, onion, oregano, avocado, and chile which you add to taste. Also served with warm tortillas.
Fried or grilled corn or wheat tortillas filled with cheese and a variety of fillings.
Chili strips and onion slices in tomato sauce.
String of dried red chiles.
Salt “Sin sal” means without salt, useful to know when ordering a tequila cocktail called a margarita, which usually is served with its rim coated with salt.
Sauce. Usually refers to a tomato-based condiment used to dip or to accent dishes. If the salsa is uncooked, as in Pico De Gallo, it is referred to as “salsa cruda.” If it is processed, in Tex Mex lingo, this is called “chile.” If cooked and then bottled, this is called “picante”.
A drink made of red or white wine, sugar, oranges, lemons and lime.
The serrano pepper is a very hot pepper, slightly hotter than a jalapeno pepper. Used often in salsa’s and table sauces, the serrano chile pepper is thin skinned making it easy to work with (no need to remove the skin).
Soup. Varieties include de aguacate (avocado), de fideo (chicken broth with noodles), de lima (chicken stock flavored with lemon).
Miniature fried corn-dough bowls filled with beans and sauce and topped with cheese. Many varieties can be found.
A corn tortilla folded over a filling.
Tacos al carbon
Soft corn tortillas wrapped in around cooked meats.
Tamale (plural is tamales)
A corn husk stuffed with masa, meat or beans. Masa (dough) that surrounds your choice of filling, traditionally pork. The 5″-6″ long and 1″ thick tamale is wrapped in a soaked cornhusk and steamed to cook dough. A traditional Mexican Christmas dish.
Verb meaning to roast, peel and seed green chiles.
Spanish word meaning “Texan”.
Distilled liquor made from the agave, or century plant. Typically served in a shot glass or blended in margaritas or other cocktails.
Looks like a tiny green tomato, actually a relative of the gooseberry family. Enclosed in a paper-like husk that is removed before cooking. Used in a variety of Mexican dishes and sauces to add an acidic flavor. Native to Mexico but can be found fresh or canned in many grocery stores.
A salad shaped like a volcano or pyramid.
A Mexican sandwich made from bolillo (hard Mexican roll) cut in half and stuffed with tomatoes, avocados or guacamole and carne asada, shredded beef or chicken, cheese and salsa.
A thin, flat bread made from wheat flour or corn masa.
A device used to flatten balls of masa (corn meal dough) into thin patties for tortillas.
A fried flat corn tortilla topped with a layer of beans, shredded beef or chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, avocado and salsa.
The stomach lining of a cow, pig or sheep. Must be cleaned for cooking. The primary ingredient used in menudo soup.
Fish cooked with tomatoes and onions.