Chef Mely Martínez ( Instagram A/c : mexicoinmykitchen ) was born and raised in Mexico , she used to be a school teacher and for the last 12 years she has been blogging about Mexican Cuisine at www.mexicoinmykitchen.com . She is an author of Cookbook “The Mexican Home Kitchen.”
Q.) What is Mexican cuisine all about?
Chef Mely : Mexican cuisine is an influence of a mix of diverse cultures, including European, African, Asian, Middle Eastern and Native American. It is one of the few gastronomes in the world recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO because it has recipes that are unique in both the ingredients and the way on how they are prepared.
Q.) What is the best time of the year for food lovers to visit Mexico?
Chef Mely : One of the best qualities that Mexico has to offer to the world traveler and food lover is that they can visit México all year-round and always find hundreds of dishes to enjoy. For example, dishes that are created with ingredients that are seasonal, and those dishes that are only available in that particular time of the year. Summer is an excellent time to find abundance of fruits & vegetables, while Winter is a time to enjoy the traditional Holidays, and the foods we cook to celebrate them, like atole, hot chocolate, steamy soup, and tamales. Our famous tacos and street food are found and enjoyed every day of the year. Really, the best time to enjoy Mexican food is all the time.
Q.) Why are corn and beans the main ingredients in the Mexican cuisine?
Chef Mely : Corn & beans has been the main staple of not only Aztecs, Olmecs or Mayans, but all natives of North America. However, it is México where corn was transformed in many ways, like tortillas, atole, and corn dough from which we make hundreds of different antojitos, like empanadas, sopes, garnachas, enchiladas, chalupas, different types of tamales, flautas, corn cakes and many, many more treats. That is why corn is recognized as the main ingredient of Mexican cuisine. Together, corn & beans create a balanced meal. The same way that other cultures have wheat and lentils or chickpeas, we have corn and beans.
Q.) Do 3 Mexican cultures Mayan, Aztec, Spain have any effect on the Mexican cuisine now also?
Chef Mely : Yes, Spain was the European country that invaded, conquered, dominated, not just Mexico but also central and South America, for more than 300 hundred years, and they influenced every aspect of our society, including some of the food we eat in modern days. But, Mexican cuisine is the byproduct of more than just Aztec, Mayan and Spain influences, it also inherited influence from Olmecs, Otomíes, Náhuatls, Zapotecas, Mayos, Chichimecas and other foreign cultures like Jews, French, Chinese and African too.
Q.) Suggest any Mexican restaurants where travelers can have the traditional Mexican food.
Chef Mely : There are many, many restaurants that I can recommend, but if we are only limited to three, I would pick “El Cardenal” in México City, “La Parroquia” in the port of Veracruz, and “El Rey del Cabrito” in Monterrey. They are quite 3 different experiences. But there are many options.
Q.) How Mexican food changed with time?
Chef Mely : While the roots and traditions of Mexican food remain unchanged, we cannot fail to recognize that with globalization, the internet and growing number of international visitors, there are new culinary trends that are finding their way into our culture. New culinary schools are surfacing in México City and other major cities, and new generations of chefs are discovering new and innovative ways to cook some of our traditional, home style dishes, with different cooking techniques and using a variety of traditional Mexican ingredients. However, if one visits the countryside of México, the towns and villages where most of the population lives, you can conclude, without a doubt, that our true authentic Mexican food remains alive and deeply rooted in our daily lives.
Q.) Define Mexican style of cooking.
Chef Mely : Mexican cooking is define by itself, it is a cuisine like no other; but if I was compelled to create a definition I would say that it is a wholesome cuisine that emerged from a rich mix of cultures where ingredients find a new way to express the flavors and aromas of exotic spices, fine herbs, veggies, fruits, poultry, fish and meat, creating recipes that are unique to our country.
Q.) Tell me something about Mexican desserts.
Chef Mely : Mexican desserts are a whole universe by itself. From the popular Tres leches cake (that is also found in other Latin countries), flan, a custard-like dessert, many sweets made using fruits, rice puddings, gelatins, and pastries. I also need to mention our sweet breads. Mexico has an extensive array of sweet breads sold at bakeries nationwide.
Q.) Mexican street food is very popular. Why is it so and what are the famous street foods of Mexico?
Chef Mely : Mexican street food is very popular because it is delicious, easy to prepare, it can be found almost everywhere and you can eat it in the morning, at noon and in the evening. It includes tacos, tamales, gorditas, quesadillas, tostadas, chalupa, elote, tlayudas, cemitas, pambazos, empanadas, and tortas, as well as fresh fruit, beverages and soups such as menudo or pancita, pozole, etc.
Q.) Any food advice for the travelers who visit Mexico.
Chef Mely : Just be open minded and be prepared to be pleasantly surprised by the spiciness, sweetness and exotic flavors of the rich, vast Mexican cuisine!