5 Unique Ingredients You Will Find in Every Mexican Kitchen
Mexican food is a rich cultural tradition that beautifully blends both old and world influences, as well as ingredients. Spanish colonialism brought spice trade and introduced new flavors from mexico and central america to the old world, and vice versa. This unique amalgamation of flavors and influences has evolved into an extraordinary style of cooking that is truly one of a kind.
In this article, we will give you a brief rundown on some of the amazing flavors that the cooks use in high-profile Las Vegas Bars and restaurants with Mexican flare, and elsewhere use to create delicious mexican food. Keep reading to learn more.
1. Hot Chili Peppers
Habaneros, jalapeños, serranos, and chile de árbol just to name a few. These spicy delicacies are used to add a fiery kick to dishes. Ranging in heat, the intensity of chili peppers is measured on what is called the Scoville Scale, which is an index used to measure the amount of capsaicin– the naturally occurring compound that gives chilis their bite.
Chilis are a versatile ingredient, as they can be eaten fresh, dried, pickled, packed and preserved in a variety of ways. Sometimes combined with adobo spices, chipotle peppers are a popular ingredient for meat and seafood marinades, as well as soups and salsas.
Be careful not to let the size of some of these peppers fool you however, as the smallest chilis tend to pack the most heat. Be advised: USE WITH CAUTION.
Although cumin originates in the Mediterranean region, in modern times it is a staple seasoning in Mexican cooking. Introduced originally by spanish trade, it has become an integral ingredient of many Mexican dishes like meat dishes, marinades, stews and moles.
Cumin’s adaptability as a plant means can easily be grown in the Mexican climate, which may have had some influence on it’s popularity.
It has a bitter-savory-toasted taste that is difficult to replicate. This makes cumin a quintessential Mexican spice, at least by virtue of its prevalence within the cuisine. Cumin is a frequently used flavor in taco seasonings, but is also commonly added to soups and stews, consisting of meat or seafood cooked with various vegetables.
3. Mexican Oregano
Not to be confused with the traditional, or “true” oregano often found Italian cuisine known for its minty undertones, Mexican oregano is from a different plant family altogether.
Mexican oregano, or Lippia Graveolens is an herb in the evergreen family that is commonly added to tomato bases for soups and salsas.
As compared to Mediterranean oregano, Mexican oregano has a more floral and grassy aroma. The taste is far sweeter, with hints of citrus and anise, which makes it a perfect pair for chiles and other savory flavors.
Coriandrum sativum, better known as cilantro is an herb commonly found in Mexican dishes and salsas and is sometimes referred to as Mexican parsley. Cilantro is relatively easy to grow in the desert since it thrives in warm climates and loves morning sun, and is abundant throughout the southwestern United States and in Mexico.
When it comes to cilantro, people either love it or hate it. However, NPR has reported that “Geneticists at 23andMe in California asked about 25,000 people whether they like cilantro or think it smells soapy. When they searched the people’s DNA for regions that correlate with a distaste for the herb, a single spot jumped out. And, it sits right next to a cluster of odor-detecting genes, including one that is known to specifically recognize the soapy aromas in cilantro’s bouquet.”
Cilantro has a distinct flavor that is bitter and pungent, but contrasts well with the flavors of green chilies and lime juice. It can be found both fresh and dried, but the former is much preferred for its more intense, fresh flavor.
5. Masa Harina
Masa harina is a flour made from ground corn that is used to make masa dough. Masa is the dough made from mixing masa harina and water. Masa harina is a very soft flour made from finely ground hominy or dried corn kernels that have been cooked and soaked in lime water, a solution of calcium hydroxide — not to be confused with water flavored with lime juice.
Masa harina is the staple point of many recipes in Latin American cuisine and is versatile enough to warrant a space in your pantry. Simply mix with water and you have masa dough that can be used to make corn tortillas, sopes, huaraches, and many other traditional dishes. It’s easy to find and work with, and makes for some truly delicious tortillas and tamales!
Mexican food is popular and well loved by people from many different parts of the world thanks to it’s ingenuity and adaptability. What are your favorite Mexican flavors and ingredients that are not on this list? Leave us a comment with your best recommendations in the section below.