A Mexican dinner or Cena is generally a light meal, less grand than brunch or Almuerzo, and is usually served between eight and nine in the evening. Normally some tacos and simple soup are served but of course, there are other options. This article will discuss the important menu items in a typical Mexican dinner.
Tortillas, known as the “bread of Mexico” have become the staple food of countless generations of Mexicans. These are usually made from corn or maize (the traditional ingredient, and more common in the south), or from flour for the Northerners. Sample dishes that use tortillas would be enchiladas, tacos and quesadillas. These may be served as Tortas or rolled sandwiches with large fillings, or as Tostadas, those thin and crispy tortillas served with guacamole, sour cream, chicken and chilies.
Beans or Frijoles are always present. These are a good source of protein and may be served boiled or fried. Beans can either be a major component in a meal or served as a garnish. The black variety is commonly used but red ones are popular too.
Chilies make a Mexican dish truly Mexican. Usually, the bigger the chili, the milder is its flavor. While large Poblano chilies are stuffed with cheese or spicy meat called picadillo (which transforms into Chili Rellenos) and served as a main course, the small habañero is ferociously hot.
Guacamole is a green sauce made from avocado mashed with onions, chilies and cilantro. It is generally served as a dip, side dish, or a garnish.
Salsa literally means sauce, and that’s what it is. It can be fresh or cooked, but is more generally known as the fresh and red ones. Salsa is made up of tomatoes, chilies, onions and cilantro. It could be a green salsa or salsa verde, that instead of tomatoes, tomatillos are used. Salsa may be served as a relish or as a dip.
Ceviche is raw fish marinated and “cooked” in lime juice. The acidity of the lime juice mimics the cooking powers of real flames. Ceviche is normally tossed in salads.
Enchiladas, literally means “enchilied” or covered in chili, are tortillas basically covered in tomato and chili sauce. It may be stuffed with vegetables, chicken or pork before folding and baking. Even with the chili content, enchiladas are fairly mild. Enchiladas suizas are topped with sour cream.
Huachinango is a Red Snapper that is commonly featured on the menus at coastal resorts. It is often available ‘al gusto’, cooked in a choice of methods.
Quesadillas are tortillas stuffed with cheese, folded and grilled. Other fillings may be chicken and/or vegetables. It’s a basic dish mainly served with beans or a small salad and suits those who want to avoid anything spicy.
Mole is a rich sauce made with an uncommon combination of chocolate, chilies and several spices. It can be either red or green depending on the ingredients. The moles of Puebla and Oaxaca are mostly famous, hence the terms “mole poblano” or “mole oaxaqeño’. This sauce is mainly served over chicken, even though turkey is more traditional.
Pipian sauce is from the mole family and has a distinctive nutty and earthy flavor. It is green in color made from pumpkin seeds and famous to be from the Oaxaca region. It is mainly served over chicken.
Poc Chuc and Pollo Pibil are both Yucatecan specialties. Poc Chuc is pork fillet cooked with tomatoes, spices and onions while Pollo Pibil is chicken marinated in orange and spices and then barbecued in banana leaves.
Tacos are lightly fried flat corn tortillas that may be topped with meat or fish and is garnished with a variety of condiments such as salsa, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and cheese.
Tamales are cornmeal paste or masa harina stuffed with chicken, turkey, or vegetables before being wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed.
So the next time you step into a Mexican restaurant, you will have an idea what to get from their menu. Everything sound so yummy and mouthwatering!