“You are what you eat” they say. If you discover all the unusual things considered as food in a country, you might automatically think that its people are almost crazy. But hey, the world is crazy and so are you, so for what may seem normal to us can be weird to others and vice versa. Mexico is not exempted to the weird list and here are some of the weird food stuff you can find here.
Before you laugh at the shape of this odd-looking fruit (if it’s odd for you), you better understand that this fruit is an important ingredient to almost everything in Mexican cuisine. This pod-like fruit-slash-legume’s pulp can be used as an ingredient for a particular aguas frescas known as agua de tamarindo (tamarind drink) or for the hot drink atole. It gets weirder when you figure out that this sweet and sour pulp can also be used in making sauces, popsicles, candies (tamarind balls covered in spicy sugar anyone?), and ice cream.
If you search for the word “huitlacoche” (weet-la-koh-cheh), you’ll get the English term, “corn smut”. Sounds lovely, isn’t it?
Looking further, you’ll read a description that says: “Corn smut is a plant disease caused by a pathogenic fungus”. That didn’t sound delicious but just remember, if you see large white-to-gray puffs that’s unusual to see on a normal corn, that’s corn smut in front of you. Gross? Nah. Not for Mexico. Instead of dumping the poor corn ears, Mexicans chop the huitlacoche and use it to flavor local favorites such as quesadillas, tamales, soups, or tacos. By the way, you can also call it corn truffle to make it sound appetizing.
After chugging down numerous shots of tequila, no one can escape the curse of a hangover kissing you when you wake up. But instead of getting rid of it with medicine, Mexico can bet on their favorite hangover cure: menudo. This soup is tasty, rich in vitamins, and rich in spongy meat you see swimming in the healthy sea. Menudo is made by boiling beef tripe, cow’s foot, and marrow bones in a pot and later mixing it with chilies, herbs and spices.
4. Tacos de Lengua
This is the taco you don’t want to underestimate. It’s special. It has that unique flavor that’ll make you lick for more. It’s a taco with a yummy filling composed of the usual onion, cilantro, jalapeño, tomatoes, lime juice, and cow’s tongue. Yes, it’s not beef, chicken, or pork, it should be cow’s tongue. Despite its weird texture, it’s just as yummy as beef.
Chinicuiles are red maguey worms that infest the roots of maguey and agave plants before they are harvested, cooked, and eaten. It’s not unusual to have doubts about eating these red critters especially when you see them freshly harvested, still alive and crawling in a tub. But, these highly-nutritious creeps aren’t surprising to see in tacos, or just as it is, roasted, fried, or raw. Don’t underestimate these worms because they’re rich in protein that they can actually be your perfect meat substitute. Yes? No?
Chicharron is not really that weird especially if you’re a fan of deep-fried fatty food. Well, this can even pass as your new favorite afternoon snack! Cooking it requires you a few things: pork rinds, a pot full of oil, and patience because you need to deep-fry the fat until it’s all golden and crispy. Chicharron is best served with spicy salsa and warm tortillas.
How can someone suddenly discover that a cactus leaf can be eaten? Before digging into history, let’s just take a look at the present and get to know Mexico’s nopales. Nopales are cactus leaves from a specific type of cactus plant found in Mexico. Cleaning the cactus leaves or pads starts with peeling away the thorns and bumps no one wants to eat. They can be sliced into different shapes – in cubes or in strips – before cooking, or you can just cook them whole. You can pan-fry them, grill them, boil them, or mix them in soups and salads. They pretty much taste like green beans.
After chinicuiles, you should also try escamoles, or ant larvae. Escamoles were once a common food during the Prehispanic times but now, it’s a delicacy known as “the Mexican caviar”. These light-colored eggs harvested from maguey plants have a poppy texture and a slight nutty taste. Some even say that their taste is similar to pork rinds. Escamoles are often pan-fried and found in tacos or omelets. They can also be eaten alone with guacamole and tortillas.
9. Sal de Gusano
You better get ready when you’re heading out for a drink in Mexico. It’s not about the upcoming shots of tequila or cocktails you’re about to drink, but the salt you’re going to take your drink with. If the salt is what they call “sal de gusano”, think carefully if you’re willing to continue the party with a taste of this condiment made up of ground gusano worms, rock salt, and chiles.