Simply put, Americans love Mexican food. They really love it. So much so that Mexican ingredients and food are used in 71.08% of households in the United States. There were 38,000 Mexican restaurants throughout the country as of 2011, and one out of 10 restaurants in the United States serves Mexican cuisine, which makes it the most popular type of international fare in America.
With so many restaurants claiming to serve authentic Mexican food, how can you be sure that what you’re eating is the real deal? Spoon University offers this crash course to educate you about five signs that you’re enjoying the authentic flavors of Mexico.
1. Where’s The Cheese?
Authentic Mexican chefs do not cook with globs of melted cheese or serve you queso dip. Queso fresco, a mild tasting cow’s milk cheese, is the cheese of choice for true Mexican dishes. It is generally found crumbled over your food or in a mouth-watering chile relleno.
2. It’s All In The Family.
You know that you’ve found a winner when you can actually hear Spanish being spoken. There may be other telltale signs that the restaurant is proudly family-owned and operated, such as customers who say that the food reminds them of meals that their grandma used to cook for them (and we know that nothing ever beats that). When you sense the love and respect being paid to keeping traditional dishes alive by sharing them with the public, you’re in the right place.
3. Less Is More.
Forget about ridiculously enormous multi-layered chimichangas that you couldn’t finish in a week. Real Mexican cuisine is all about the simplicity of fresh ingredients prepared in a way that allows the flavors to shine through.
4. Rings Of Fire Are Not On The Menu.
Yes, it’s true that quite a few Mexican dishes do include spicy chili peppers or jalapenos as a critical ingredient. However, if an intense wave of heat has your poor unsuspecting taste buds crying out for mercy, leaving no room for flavor, You’re not eating the real deal. In fact, some classic Mexican dishes have a very subtle flavor.
5. It’s Okay to Be Corny.
If you spot warm, soft, smaller-sized corn tortillas, that’s a good sign. If they’re hand-made on the premises), that’s a very good sign indeed.
If you love Mexican food, you’re definitely not alone. But if you want food that captures the real spirit of Mexico, use these guidelines to find authentic Mexican cuisine.