Most people will tell you to stay away from street food when you travel internationally, especially to destinations like Mexico. While there is some validity to that statement if you are allergic to spicy food or have an extremely sensitive digestive system, most people will be fine after eating Mexican street food from a stand in Mexico. The trick is to visit the stands with a lot of local customers because they are usually the best and cleanest.
You should also consider having stand food in your trip to Mexico because it is real traditional food. These food choices are not what you will find when you look for Mexican food in the US or Europe. These are the real cuisine choices that people in the country eat and it is also the best. Additionally you will get all the great flavors you will also have a meal that is on anyone’s budget as they can range anywhere between 1-5 dollars.
Tacos Al Pastor
There are plenty of taco stands when you visit Mexico, but the one taco flavor that you must not skip is the tacos al pastor. Al pastor meat is pork that is slow cooked in a rotisserie and marinated in specific species. Most stands will add pineapple, onions and cilantro to the taco, but you can ask them to skip any of those ingredients if you want to. The pineapple is a great addition because it gives a sweet taste to every bite, so it is highly recommended that you have it. The flavor is amazing and probably the most popular at every stand. Add some red sauce if you like spicy food and some lemon to counter the sweetness of the pineapple. There are some stands with the same taco flavor, but that do not have the rotisserie. Those are still good, but not nearly as good as the ones that are slow cooked.
Another option is to have "tacos de guisado" which means stew tacos. They are always good no matter which one you have but you need exercise a bit of caution as there are some cuts that you may not always think of as appetizing. Some of those choices include kidney, liver, tripe, and in some cases even brain. if you want to still try them but do not think that those sound good you can stick to sausage, chicken and beef which are usually available almost everywhere. They are already a bit spicy, so adding hot sauce may just be overkill.
Sopes are a bit messy to eat, but they are something that you need to try. The basic sope is just a tortilla with beans, Oaxaca cheese, onion and lettuce, but you want to make sure that you also add other ingredients. Pastor meat is available which is great; but if you are looking to avoid pork, then you should try the chicken or steak sopes. Vegetarians also have the option in most stands to have flor de calabaza (pumpkin flower) which is also a tasty option. If you are looking for meatless options then also ask the person making your sope to skip the lard.
The one thing to remember about sopes is that they are one of the messiest Mexican street food choices that you can try. The best way to eat them (especially when they are big) is to fold them the same way that you would a taco. If your sope is just too big to fold then try to have some of the food on the top separately first until folding it is a possibility.
Tamales are different in Mexico and if cooked right you will want one for breakfast every day. In Mexico tamales are had in bread as a sandwich for breakfast with atole or coffee. It is very filling and because of the wide variety of flavors it is something different every day if you want it. One of the most popular flavors is Mole. Mole is a chocolate based sauce which is a bit spicy and incredibly delicious. Usually the mole tamales will have some chicken in them. Other popular flavors are Rajas (hot pepper), Rojos and Verdes (red and green very spicy sauce), Dulce (sweet fruit based tamales), Costilla (ribs) and others.
The atole drink on the side can also have flavors like strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. If you get filled easily then the tamales sandwich is probably going to do the job, but you should make it a point to try atole at one point. The drink is usually served really hot and it takes a long time to cool down, so be careful when you drink it.
Forget the quesadillas that you can have at the fast food restaurants outside of Mexico. The real quesadillas are corn tortillas with cheese, sauce and the filling of your choice. The shredded chicken quesadillas with tomato are some of the most popular ones with the locals. They are perfect for those who are not into spicy food because most stands will not add the hot sauce to them unless you ask. They can be small or very large depending on the stand, but they are always loved by the people who have them.
Tortas do not get the credit they deserve as even the people who live in Mexico think of them as sandwiches. While they are bread with ingredients inside, to think of them as a sandwich is culinary sacrilege. A torta will include different ingredients like Oaxaca cheese, avocado, re-fried beans, tomato and any meat that you like. Tortas are sometimes huge so you may find yourself stuffed for the rest of the day. if you see a sign for "Tortas Gigantes" those are so big that they can feed two people unless of course you have a big appetite.
Try the “milanesa de pollo” which is a breaded chicken breast and is a local favorite. Other ingredients are found listed in front of the stands with choices available for vegetarians as well such as Swiss which is all cheese and vegetables..