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Street snacks

One of the things that we love the most in Mexico is eating; this is why in almost every corner we can find at least one street stand that sells some sort of snack. The options can be so varied that they range from sweet to salty, from acidic to spicy, from soft to crunchy … and there are even snacks that mix these characteristics.

As Mexicans we love playing with textures, flavors … with the old and the new … therefore, we are able to produce the most extraordinary and delicious creations that will impress you. A clear example is snacks, called “botanas” in Spanish. These range from the most ancient and sublime things like seeds or “elotes”, to food you would never dream of eating together like fruits and “chile”.

Here you will find a brief list of very common “botanas” that you can find in any Mexican neighborhood:

 

“Semillas” (seeds)

Let’s start with the most basic – in Mexico, almost any dry seed that can be eaten, you only need to add a little salt or powdered chili and you have a ready-to-eat snack!  This can be both a delicious and nutritious “botana”. The most common types of seeds are generally native to Mexico, such as pumpkin “pepitas” (with or without their shell), sunflower “pepitas”, and “huesitos”, which are the seeds of a fruit called “capulín”, that are very similar in shape to a miniature cherry. With the latter, you have to be especially careful because the shell is rigid and it may test your patience when trying to peel it. These types of “botanas” are for eating slowly and calmly. In this list we can also find faba beans, chickpeas, pistachios and even dehydrated peas.

 

 

Potato chips and “chicharrones”

In Mexico, we also have the traditional potato chips, but we have a secret: adding drops of lemon and spicy salsa. You will be surprised that something so simple can give it an incredibly delicious twist! Normally, in these same stands you will find “chicharrones” – crunchy snacks made with wheat flour and molded into different shapes, all of which have more or less the same flavor.  However, there are some that have an extra touch of habanero chili or cheese, the latter are more porous but equally flavorful. Don’t forget to order them with a little lemon and spicy salsa, too.

 

 

Prepared “chicharrón”

As if lemon and salsa are not enough, there is a version of flat and extended “chicharrones” in the shape of a rectangle to which you spread mayonnaise, add a topping of lettuce or grated cauliflower, sliced tomato, avocado, cream, spicy salsa and something called “cueritos”, which are prepared with a base of pig meat cooked and marinated in vinegar, oregano and chili. Finish seasoning with a little salt and squeeze drops of lemon and spicy salsa on top.

 

 

Fruit with chili

If you want to experience an explosion of flavor, this is something you definitely need to try. Since in Mexico fruits are very sweet and have a strong flavor, this combination of fruit and chili will provoke a mixture of sweet, acidic and spicy flavor at the same time.  To any fruit you can add drops of lemon, powdered chili and a pinch of salt, but the winning combinations are mango, watermelon and pineapple, or a mixture of all of these. These combinations will make your head explode!

 

 

“Jicaleta”

Can you imagine a snack that, besides being delicious, can refresh you? This is the case of “jicaletas” — “lollipops” prepared with giant slices of jicama, a root native to Mexico that has a high water content and is slightly sweet. To this natural “lollipop” you can add chamoy or tamarind and sprinkle powdered chili. Although this is the most traditional version, nowadays you can find other creations where syrups of different flavors are used, such as blueberry, strawberry, or mango, among others. This is a very colorful and attractive snack, especially for children.

 

Corn on the cob

Almost everyone has tried cooked corn on the cob, but in Mexico we have a very special way of preparing it. When cooking, corn is generally boiled with a lake salt called “tequesquite”, which adds a lot of flavor. In some places, “tequesquite” is replaced by coarse grain salt and a plant called “pericón”, which will make the corn have a slightly floral and aniseed flavor. Afterwards, it is served with mayonnaise, fresh cheese, a touch of lemon and powdered chili. This is a snack that is generally eaten between lunch and dinner, so it will be difficult to find street stands that sell it in the morning.

 

Roasted corn

This is a simplified version of corn on the cob, but equally delicious. These are roasted over charcoal and served only with a little lemon and salt to enhance their natural flavor. If you wish to add an extra spicy touch, you can order it with powdered chili.

Esquites

You can find basically two varieties — roasted and boiled. For the first variety, add a little fresh chili and “epazote” (plant native to the quelite family –link to quelites post), then the corn kernels and cook them until they are slightly golden. For the second one, broil the corn kernels with water or chicken broth, fresh chili and “epazote”. Both are served with mayonnaise, fresh cheese, powdered chili and a touch of lemon.

 

 

Remember that you can make these snacks as spicy or non-spicy as you like.  This will not only depend on the amount of “salsa” you add, but also on the type of “salsa”.  It is common that in all the street stands where these snacks are sold, they will have the “salsa que pica” (the very hot salsa) or the “salsa que no pica” (the salsa which is mild).  Make sure to choose the one that suits your preferences.

To taste and learn more about local street food, check out our tour Mexico City Street Food: A Beginner’s Guide. This tour introduces you to more than a half-dozen of Mexico City’s most beloved street foods.

Finally, enjoy!

 

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