One of the best and most pleasant ways of exploring a country is eating the local food. And the Mexican cuisine is one of the best on the planet.
But it is also true that eating while travelling can be a tedious business. On a trip to South-East Asia, my Muslim friends had prepared a laminated DIN A 4 sheet with a picture of a pig and a slash over it – just like on a road sign. This “no pig” sign was presented at all the places they ate at.
Finding vegetarian or vegan options can be even more complicated I dare say. Our dear vegetarian or vegan pal, we hope this post makes your stay in Mexico way easier – especially if learning Spanish still remains on your to-do list. Beware that recipes and dishes vary in different parts of the country! And remember the magic words “sin carne” – without meat!
Tacos and burritos: a no go
It will save you time to know the following: Seeing a sign “burrito” or “taco” don´t waste your time and go to another food stand or jump to another section of the menu. These dishes are normally prepared with meat. There are only a few exceptions to this rule: in one restaurant in Coyoacan Balti had his tacos with “flor de Jamaica” (hibiscus) and they were great! But exceptions just confirm the rules!
Quesadillas are the tricky ones. Their name definitely hints at the cheese so that I first thought that quesadilla is a tortilla wrap with cheese and vegetables. But I was wrong. Depending on the filling, quesadillas may be suitable for both carnivores and vegans. Ask what is inside. Vegan options include “champinones”, “cetas” (mushrooms), “nopales” (cacti), “flor de calabaza” (pumpkin flower), “rajas” (poblano chiles), “huitlacoche” (corn smut). Vegetarians can always add cheese – “queso”. My favourite option of quesadillas is with cheese of Oaxaca and avocado!
Gorditas are a variation of quesadillas, the only difference is the way tortillas are made and served. For quesadillas, they are pressed very thin. A cheese and veggie filling is put inside, then they are folded in half. For Gorditas, they use thicker tortillas and cut them open in the middle – just like pita bread – and stuff them. Tostadas are another variation: tortillas are baked in oil until crusty and cheese and veggies are placed on its top.
Even typing this word makes my mouth water. Esquites is a hot cup of cooked corn mixed with mayonnaise, grated cheese, lime juice and chilli. All components are mixed in front of you so there is the option of leaving something out. “Con todo?” – a question you are likely to be asked literally meaning with everything.
Esquites are usually sold together with “elotes” – a cooked or grilled corn on a stick. You can also have a cooked one with mayo, cheese, lime and chilli.
Once again pay attention to what is inside of the banana leave wrappings. Use the magic words “sin carne” – without meat to get your veggie or vegan option. Which may include corn (“elotes”), beans (“frijoles”) or beans and cheese.
A dish that originated in the state of Oaxaca. A tlayuda consists of a tortilla the size of a pizza with bean sauce and toppings that may vary. The vegetarian options include cheese, pumpkin flower and mushrooms. Vegans may go for the last two. Toppings may well include meat as well – do not forget the magic words “sin carne!”
Tlayudas may be served round like a pizza – or folded in half like a giant quesadilla. Everything is bigger and better in the southern parts a country! In the following video, we filmed how tlayudas were made in a street food stall in Oaxaca.
Huaraches consist of thicker tortilla-similar, oval-shaped foundation served with a bean spread and different toppings. Ask for “sin carne” options 🙂
Mole is a thick and spicy chocolate sauce. It is often served with meat – but not necessarily. We tried delicious cheese enchiladas (tortillas rolled around cheese) baked with mole. Cheese and chocolate – no matter how strange this combination may sound to you, you should definitely try it!
Pozole is a traditional soup usually made of hominy and (!) meat (!). However, there is a vegetarian option where meat is replaced with beans. Pozole is normally served with a fresh salad you may put into your soup bowls just like in Vietnam, lime juice, tortillas and avocado paste. So good!
Another dish with hominy – this time a drink made of hominy flour and sugar. There are several variations of atole – chocolate, vanilla, etc. – with chocolate being our favourite because it is not as sweet.
There is always more to try! For instance, travelling in the South, do not miss out on a hot chocolate!