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Everything You Need to Know About Mexican Street Food

It’s not secret that we Mexicans eat all day long, and in between our “official” meals of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we roam the streets in search of whatever we can find, and we usually eat it on the spot—standing up, sitting on the sidewalk, or walking back to our office or home. We have so many options to satiate our appetite: sweet or savory, healthy or fattening, day snacks or night snacks. The street is the greatest restaurant that Mexicans have.

Let us introduce you to some of our favorite street treats.

Elotes

Photo Carlos Castillo.

The huge casseroles boiling dozens of corn cobs are a true staple of Mexican street food. Any time you please, you can find an elote vendor where you can enjoy the small corn grains exploding inside your mouth while they fuse with mayo and cheese. Of course, you shouldn’t ever miss the added spice of a good salsa and powdered chili on top.

There are also grilled elotes, which have a delicious flavor of smoke and lime juice. And let’s not forget about esquites, which is the name of corn served in a cup and eaten by the spoonful.

Cueritos

Photo Carlos Castillo.

Cueritos have that je ne sais quoi that makes us love it so much. Maybe it’s the jelly-like consistency of this pig skin that makes it so appealing to our palate. If you eat it alone this dish is insipid, but if you serve it over cracklings with cheese, sour cream, and a few drops of Valentina sauce, it’s one of the most beloved street snacks in Mexico.

Palomitas y Algodones de azúcar

Photo Carlos Castillo.

Food stalls that sell caramelized popcorn and huge pink cotton candy represent the street food of yesteryear. These days, industrialized sweets have taken over the market, but our nostalgia and sweet cravings make these delicious and traditional treats stay with us forever.

Raspados y Nieve 

Photo Carlos Castillo.

You’ve probably already heard a warning that shaved ice from the street is made with tap water and that you should avoid it like the plague if you don’t want to get a case of explosive diarrhea or a terrible stomach infection. Whether that is true or a myth, for us Mexicans, it’s worth the risk to enjoy a refreshing shaved ice with neon-colored lime-flavored syrup every now and then.

Jicaletas

Photo Carlos Castillo.

This is probably one of the healthiest snacks being sold on the streets in Mexico: a slice of jicama on a wooden stick covered with powdered chili and lots of Chamoy hot sauce on top. You can also get it served in a small cup with julienned jicama.

Dorilocos

Photo Carlos Castillo.

Dorilocos are a clear example that we Mexicans won’t listen to any advice when it comes to our cravings. We don’t care if we get a horrible case of gastritis; we will always dip our chips in hot sauce and lime juice. Then we might add some carrot, cucumber, and jicama on top to keep it fresh and to balance the trashy ingredients with some healthy ones ( so we won’t feel THAT guilty). Since this snack might need a bit of crunchiness, a handful of peanuts on top is always a great option. Then we add some cueritos on the side, and voilà!

Gomitas

Photo Carlos Castillo.

These gummies come in the shape of fruits, worms, little soda bottles, enchiladas (yes, we do add chili to everything), and in every color of the rainbow. Gummies are the small sweet snacks that help satiate our sweet tooth at any given moment.

Chicharrones y Papitas

Photo Carlos Castillo.

Those windowed metal white carts are a classic symbol of the urban landscape of Mexico City. There is no square, church front, or corner that doesn’t have one. They sell everything from chips to pork cracklings all day long.

Photo Carlos Castillo.

They are the guiltiest of pleasures and the number one reason we can’t follow any diet. If they are served Mexican style—with hot sauce, Maggi, and lime juice—there’s no chance that we will ever stop eating them.

Mangos with Chamoy

Photo Carlos Castillo.

Just a few years ago we could only see small carts selling mangoes in spring and summer. We used to run desperately to the nearest mango vendor at any corner of the city before the end of the season. Now it’s easier to get them any time of the year. We still have no idea where they come from, but that doesn’t really matter—we love the fact that we can satiate our mango cravings pretty much at any place and time.

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