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The 5 Street Foods You Have To Try In Mexico

Posted by Jen King on 6/7/14 10:08 AM

drinking coconut juice

You like Mexican food eh? Well, have you tried real, authentic Mexican food? And better yet, have you tried it right off the street from the taco man himself?

If you're spending 4 months living in Mexico as ILP volunteers do, the first thing on your bucket list should be

 to try as much food from the street vendors as possible. Don't worry if you don't speak Spanish because we've got a list of the top foods you need to try so that when you approach the menu, you'll have a basic idea of where to start. 

You can usually get your fill for 25 pesos or less (which is less than a couple American dollars). SO CHEAP. Buy fresh fruits and veggies at the outdoor markets. Try treats at taco stands and bakeries. Of course you must also try the famous ones: elote (corn on a stick covered in seasonings and mayo or crema), churros, and fresh pineapple (pina).

Our Top Picks

  • Tacos al Pastor
  • Paste
  • Barbacoa
  • Tortas
  • Fresh Juice

Take time to explore your city. Since ILP volunteers only teach 4 hours per day, you'll have lots of free time. Start with our favorites and then find your own. You can make the most of your time volunteering in another country by walking the streets of your city, trying local food, and discovering the hidden gems. It’s rare to eat something you don’t like…so be adventurous and try everything!

mexican fruit markettaco stand in mexico

Here's the deets

1. Tacos al Pastor.  You'll find these pork filled tacos at taco stands, so make sure to get out and explore your city early on so that you can find your favorite stand. Many times you'll see the meat hanging from up high and being sliced off the "spit" by the chefs.

"al pastor" is marinated pork meat and you'll find this type of meat in many different dishes. You should also try gringas which is basically a quesadilla filled with al pastor meat. Yu-um. Tacos arabes is a simliar dish. 

tacos al pastor

2. Paste. Paste is a pastry filled with a variety of fillings like potatoes, sweet rice, meat, and pineapple (similar to empanadas). These are produced in the state of Hidalgo so it is local cuisine for ILP's school's in Tezontepec, Tula, and Pachuca. You have to try the foods that your city is known for right?

3. Barbacoa. Barbacoa may not be an unfamiliar term as it is becoming popular in the U.S. as well. Depending on where in the world you are, the type of this meat changes. In central Mexico, where the ILP schools are, it is often lamb. Try barbacoa meat served in a corn tortilla..mm mmm.

4. Tortas. Not to be confused with torta (a Spanish word for sweet cakes - also worth a try). We're talking Mexico's version of a sandwich. Its going to have everything you might find in a taco like refried beans, queso, and avocado, but served on a roll or bun instead of in a tortilla.

5. Juice. You might be thinking juice isn't a food so why is it on this list? Because you HAVE to try it and try it as often as you can. It's so good that we're just gonna count it as number 5. If you order fresh squeezed juice on the street, you'll often be handed a plastic bag, filled with your juice of choice, and a straw poking out of it. All part of the experience. Try orange, pina, carrot, grapefruit, and of course horchata.

If you're lucky you might even hear the horchata man who sells his horchata from his cart on the go as he walks around town. He's basically the ice cream man of Mexico, but carrying delicious horchata. You might hear a loud yell, "hoooooooooooorrrchataaaaaaaaaaaa!" Come running because its the horchata man making his rounds.

drinking juice in a bag

Now for a little side lesson in Mexican cuisine. When you're eating, you might hear your waiter or anyone leaving the restaurant say "provecho" to you. This essentially means "enjoy your meal" and is commonly used. Those polite Mexicans. Gotta love em.

So to you we say, provecho. 

What were your favorite treats that you found on the streets of Mexico?

Topics: Mexico

Exploring The World For Over 25 Years

Over the years of assisting more than 6,000 volunteers in their desire to travel and make a difference in the lives of others, ILP has seen what works and what doesn't.

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