EnchiladasCredit: Jon Sullivan

When it comes to international food a lot of people will rank the meals from Mexico on top of their list. It is no wonder as there are so many spices and flavors that you can taste in different meals that you have plenty to choose from. We are not just talking tacos here, because though they are great and one of the most popular foods, there is still so much more to Mexican cuisine than that. If you want to get great Mexican food done at home then here are a few tips that will help you get the right flavor.

Try Real Mexican Food

Not Real Mexican FoodCredit: BrokenSphere

The first thing that you need to do is to try real Mexican food. You will notice that there is a really big difference between the food that you get at fast food restaurants and even Tex-Mex restaurants and authentic Mexican food restaurants. If you have a Mexican friend then you will notice that their meals are really different. As someone with a Mexican background it made me really sad that some friends would buy a 5 dollar meal from a fast food restaurant and say they had Mexican food.

If you are in a big city like New York, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, Las Vegas or Los Angeles it is a lot easier to find authentic Mexican restaurants, though other cities also have them. The states in the south-west particularly are great for authentic food due to the large Mexican American population, but anywhere you find a small Mexican population will probably have at least one authentic food restaurant. Make it a point to try the different dishes they offer so that you can get familiar with flavors and ask about ingredients and where you may find them.

The Right Tortillas

One of the bigger problems with the tortillas you will find at a supermarket and even some restaurants is that most of them are flour. Most Mexican cuisine uses corn tortillas with rare exceptions in the north of the country. If you visit Mexico City and anywhere to the south of the country and you ask for flour tortillas then you may get a few puzzled looks. Some Mexican grocery stores sell fresh tortillas which are great for cooking or to have on the side. You can also make the tortillas yourself if you buy corn-based tortilla flour which is available almost anywhere in the country.

Get Familiar With The Ingredients

Epazote plantCredit: T. Voekler

There are many ingredients that you can use in Mexican cuisine, and some of those ingredients are already made with a lot of extra ingredients (Best example is mole which has 17 different ingredients). You should get familiar with all of them and their flavor. Think of what they will do to the food and keep in mind that their flavor is a lot different once combined with other ingredients. Think of why they make sense when using them; the recipes include these ingredients for a reason so when they call for it use them. It is a lot easier to deconstruct a recipe once you have the right taste.

Shop At The Right Place

In states close to the Mexican border and large cities you may find that the international aisle of chain supermarkets carry a lot of authentic ingredients, but everywhere else you will have to settle for not so authentic items. Your best bet even in border towns is to look for Mexican owned stores which will carry a lot of the spices and ingredients that you will not find anywhere else. You will have a hard time finding things like epazote, fresh nopales, mole powder etc. Using the right ingredients is imperative to getting your Mexican cuisine done right; even if you think it is a bit hard to find those ingredients it is worth doing so.

Easy On The Fire

Habanero PeppersCredit: André Karwath

Hot peppers are a big part of Mexican cuisine, but not everyone enjoys or can handle the burn. This is the one ingredient that you need to exercise care with because some are hotter than others and even if you get the same type of hot peppers their spiciness will vary from one to the other. If you do not like really spicy food then avoid Habanero peppers, and start with small doses in your recipes until you think you have the right amount of heat. Also remember not to scratch your eyes or even your skin as it can really burn if you have handled the peppers with your bare hands.

It is a good idea to look at heat guides for peppers before you decide to use them. Habanero is the hottest and Poblano produces the least heat among the ones used in Mexican recipes. You should know that even Poblano peppers can pack a punch so always taste before you use them. Jalapeno is next in the level of heat followed by dried jalapeño, Serrano and Bird pepper.

Cook From Scratch

Just Make It from ScratchCredit: PhotosIndia

It is very intimidating to make a meal from scratch especially if you are not all that familiar with the ingredients, but you will never understand them unless you cook from scratch. Always get fresh ingredients because no self-respecting Mexican cook will use frozen or canned ingredients. Do not be afraid to try those ingredients and you will start getting the idea of what you should do to make the dish taste just right.

By controlling the ingredients you are controlling the flavor of the dish, so the first time that you try a recipe try to stick to the measurements given to you by the writer. After that you can experiment as much as you want and try to stay detailed when you do. Write down any changes that you make in case you do get a new flavor that you like.

Finally don’t just always stick to cook books. Some recipe websites will feature the recipes from their reader and that means that it is more likely that you will get food that tastes the way it does in Mexico. There are plenty of Mexican food recipes, but look for the ones that come from people who have made it for a long time and you will likely never go back to fast food restaurants again.