Mexico is a bustling city. Twenty million people wake up every morning to go to work, to school or the mall. Those are plenty of mouths to feed. Luckily, since Aztec days, a street food culture has taken care of satisfying citizens.
Some street food stalls open before the sun rises; others are open 24-hours. Some are Sunday-only eateries while others move around in conditioned bicycles.
It doesn’t take much to find one of the thousands of street food stalls and four-table eateries in every other corner in the city. Mexico city’s street food is legendary, and here’s what you need to know about it.
A little history
Spanish conquistadores funded Mexico City over the already majestic capital city of the Aztec empire. The Aztecs knew a thing or two about good food.
The Spanish brought with them cows, pigs, and hens. The natives had tomatoes, chiles and especially corn; since then, corn has been essential in Mexico, that’s where tortillas come from after all.
The ingredients for the perfect recipe had come together; the world was about to see the rise of Mexican cuisine and its most noble form: street food.
Tacos are everywhere
Tacos are not a dish, but a blank canvas, a tool for creativity. Always over soft tortillas, fillings can be as simple as mashed potatoes or beans or as complex as sautéed zucchini flowers or slow-cooked goat meat.
Mexico city’s quintessential taco is the Al Pastor taco, or shepherd-style taco. Grilled on an open fire in a vertical broiler (like kebabs or shawarma), marinated pork meat, a piece of grilled pineapple, diced onion and cilantro make the local favorite that can be enjoyed all day and night.
It’s not all tacos
It’s true that tacos are ubiquitous, but there’s much more on offer on the loud streets of Mexico City. Tortas, a type of sandwich with all sorts of meat, vegetables, egg, and cheese are as filling as satisfying as street food can get.
It’s not all unhealthy either, fresh fruit stands and licuado (fruit smoothies) carts are everywhere, especially in the morning. Corn on the cob, served with a smudge of mayo, drizzled with lime juice and sprinkled with grated cheese and chili powder are popular late-night snacks.
Everyone has a favorite spot
If you want to find the best street food stalls, ask around, but don’t be surprised if you end up more confused. Everyone has a favorite street food stand. The debate is hot when it comes to ranking the best. There’s a history behind every stand; some have generations behind them.
The truth is not all street food is good, and you couldn’t tell the difference between a good one and a great one, except for, perhaps, the crowds.