Ingredients

Cactus Paddles or Nopales

It’s hard to think of Mexico without images of cactus plants. From landscapes to murals, to paintings, photos, plays, songs… and namely to the Mexican flag! Mexico’s coat of arms has an eagle eating a snake triumphantly standing on a cactus plant. As legend goes, that sign led the Aztecs to their promised land, Tenochtitlán.…

Mexican Chocolate

Mexican chocolate is quite different from regular bittersweet chocolate sold throughout the world. It is sweeter, yet with contrasting layers of flavor that seem to sweep your tongue in waves as you take a bite. It is also grainy, practically gritty.  It is traditionally made from a mixture of toasted cacao beans, ground almonds, regular…

Piquí­n Chile

Don’t let their size fool you. These chiles pack a punch of flavor and more importantly, they have been spicing up Mexico’s taste buds for a long time in many ways. Different varieties of Piquí­n grow in bushes that have small and pointy leaves. The chiles are adorably cute! They are tiny and grow to…

Hoja Santa or Hierba Santa

The name Hoja Santa translates to “sacred leaf.” The leaves of the hoja santa plant are heart-shaped with a thick velvety texture. These leaves can grow up to a foot and sometimes more. I find them to be truly beautiful. Though hoja santa is found throughout Mexico, it is mostly used in the south. Mexican…

Chipilí­n

I first tried chipilí­n in Chiapas, Mexico. First, in a soup, then in tamales, then in a stew, then in a delicious omelette… After walking around many towns in that state, I was surprised to find it grown in tall bushes in the front and back lawns of many homes. After being smitten with its…

Limes

It’s hard to think of Mexico and not think of limes. In Mexico, limes are everywhere and served with everything from peanuts, to fruit, to tacos, to a steak dinner. So, it’s hard to believe that limes did not originate in Mexico and were brought over by the Europeans from the Indo-Malaysian region. Yet, the…

Pumpkin Seeds or Pepitas

Pumpkin seeds, Pepitas in Spanish, are one of the things I used to stuff in my suitcase when visiting Mexico. That’s because they have a mellow, somewhat nutty, almost sweet, barely chewy and nutritious nature. They are also one of the most nutritious seeds (they are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants). Pepitas are…

Allspice or Pimienta Gorda

Funny, it wasn’t until recently that allspice became incorporated into Mexican local cuisine. Allspice has been grown in Mexico since the 1600’s but was seen as an exotic and expensive spice for export. Allspice is as unique and simple as it sounds. It is the only spice that grows exclusively in the Western Hemisphere. When…

Chia Seeds

With a metallic dark color and mottled skin, Chia seeds are delightfully crunchy. Once you rehydrate them in water, as  the popular Lime based Agua Fresca, they become covered in an irresistible gelatinous layer. No wonder the word chia comes from the náhuatl name chian, which means oily. Scientifically, Salvia Hispanica, they come from a flowering…