I totally fell in love with Mexico City. It’s a friendly, vibrant city with so many different things to see and do. One of my favourite days was spent doing the Eat Mexico Street Food Tour; “a three-and-a-half hour glimpse at one of the most vibrant street food scenes in the world”.
Our guide, a proud Chilango, said that you don’t need to look for food in Mexico City, it looks for you and she was certainly right about that.
We started early and were told to come with an empty stomach, which turned out to be essential as we ate at 8 or 9 different stands during the tour. We tried tamales, tlacoyos, quesadillas, freshly squeezed juices, tacos and loads more. It was a really good combination of exploring the neighbourhood, tasting different foods and learning about the history and how people live and eat in Mexico City today.
This was our first stop. Tamales are a very typical street food breakfast in Mexico City. They’re made from a masa dough which is filled with all sorts of different treats. Here we have a sweet raisin version and a savoury chilli version. The dough is filled and wrapped in a banana leaf, then steamed or boiled in these big silver pots. When you order they just pop them out of the wrapper.
They definitely tasted better than they look!
We also tried atole here, a rice and masa drink that’s served for breakfast with tamales. This combination of a tamale and a cup of atole (which costs about 25p) makes for a heavy breakfast and keeps the locals going until their lunch at 2pm.
Amazing floral arrangement at Mercado Cuauhtemoc
Next we had a wander through one of the many mercados. I just loved these extravagant flower arrangements. Perfectly normal in Mexico so I was told!
Corn fed chicken at the market.
You will struggle to find a chicken in Mexico that isn’t corn fed and they sell all the parts – no waste here.
A visit to a tortilleria
You’ll find corn tortillas in every kitchen in Mexico City and the majority of them will have been bought in the local tortilleria. Some people make two trips a day to make sure that they are nice and fresh.
Having made my own tortillas at home with a hand press, I was relived to see that there is also a mechanical method. It’s a little bit quicker …
Some tortillerias make their own masa dough but as this was a small one, they have a daily bike delivery.
Tlacoyos & Quesadillas
Next stop was another street cart, serving tlacoyos and quesadillas. We tried both.
Tlacoyos were new to me but I thought I was up to speed with quesadillas.
Our guide told us that it is very difficult to explain the difference between a taco and a quesadilla. I asked whether one difference was that quesadillas are folded and grilled rather than filled and rolled up? Apparently this is strictly correct but in Mexico City, a taco should be so full that you have no hope of rolling it up anyway!
This is the selection of fillings, toppings and salsas to choose from.
Tlacoyos are either stuffed with fava beans or cheese. We had one of each. Then you choose your toppings and pile on the salsa!
Some freshly squeezed juice to wash them down. Fruit juice stalls are very popular and they will happily blend together any mixture of fruit that you request. I think this blend was called “The Energiser”.
Tacos de Canasta
Juices slurped, we went in search of tacos de canasta. This means basket tacos, so called because they are steamed in a basket. They don’t look appealing as they are quite wet and sloppy but they tasted excellent and at 30p a taco, it’s easy to see why Mexicans seek them out for a mid morning or afternoon snack.
I was interested to hear that they’re often sold from the back of bikes which ride around the neighbourhood looking for customers.
This man had a stationary cart and a very popular cart it was indeed. We arrived with him at about 11 am and of the 8 or 9 different options, he only had 2 left. We ordered and then when we went back for more he said everything was now gone and he was going home for the day!
The TexMex burrito was next. Not a typical dish in Mexico City but if that’s what you fancy then they are available amongst the many taco stands. By this time I was starting to feel pretty full but I wasn’t going to let that get in the way – they looked amazing. Every variety you could imagine, there was even a menu of 9 different salsas to choose from.
I went for a veggie option with courgette flowers, which are really popular in Mexico. You can see them piled high in the markets.
Then a little walk to find some tacos de guisados. These are thick corn tortillas topped with rice and a big spoonful or two of the stews resting in the steam table behind the counter. There were 6 or 7 stew options. This one is a traditional chicken mole.
You need the fork because the tacos are so full that there’s no chance of rolling them up. Our guide was very pleased about this.
Tacos Al Pastor
The next tacos we tried were influenced by the Lebanese community. They are a Mexican friendly version of the shawarma, with pork rather than lamb and tortillas rather than pitta bread.
The pork is marinated overnight and each stall has its own special marinade recipe, which always contains chilies and pineapple. The pork is then threaded onto a vertical rotisserie and grilled.
These tacos are topped with salsa, corriander, pineapple and lime, which explains why they were my most favourite of the day! Fresh, spicy, delicious. I would love to recreate this at home.
By now I was absolutely stuffed, so when I realised we were on our way to the last destination I was quite relieved. There is only so much space in this belly of mine before it will explode!
The last stop was carnitas, recognisable by the big glass box full of meat and hoards of men gathering round. Mexicans do not like waste and this box contains every part of the pig that you can think of. Everything!
Thankfully you can request just meat, which was all I could manage at this point. It was incredibly tender.
Fruit with chilli powder and lime
We ended our tour with a traditional snack to take away with us, refreshing fruit doused in lime and chilli powder.
I would thoroughly recommend doing this tour. The groups are a maximum of 4 people and our guide, Natalie, was absolutely fantastic. Excellent English, a huge pot of knowledge and a real pleasure to spend the day with.