THERE’S MORE TO MEXICAN FOOD THAN TACOS AND MARGARITAS
Ask any native Hispanic speaker: There really isn’t one cuisine that classifies as “Mexican,” just like there’s no such thing, really, as “American” food. Just like here in the U.S. Mexico’s food varies by region — and there are plenty of flavors packed into the country’s roughly 760,00 square miles, home to lush mountain ranges, wide rivers, deserts and islands. And just like the diverse landscapes, the dishes of each region are unique.
The variety is one reason Mexico’s cuisine was recognized in 2010 on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanities List. Try tropical drinks made with exotic fruits like mango, guava, cherimoya and prickly pear — and served with or without tequila — or sample mole, a sauce whose name rhymes with “Olé,” that marries chili peppers with cinnamon and dark chocolate. It might sound like an odd combination, but this traditional favorite is so popular that it’s Mexico’s national dish.
If you’re willing to explore these international flavors, you’ll find there’s more to Mexican dishes than tortillas, guacamole, tacos and bottomless pitchers of margaritas on Cinco de Mayo. Which, by the way, is the date in 1862 when Mexican forces beat the French at the Battle of Puebla and not, as many people believe, Mexico’s version of Independence Day. Delicioso!
Sopa de Lima (Chicken and Lime Soup)
BY MARY REILLEY & CARRIE HIRSCH
Chicken and lime soup is said to have originated in the southern Mexican state of Yucatán, which borders Belize and Guatemala. This area is known as the cradle of the Mayan civilization.
Makes: 6 servings
FOR THE CHICKEN
4 boneless chicken breast halves (approximately 2 1/4 pounds)
4 cups water
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 jalapeño, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 large tomato, cut into ½-inch slices
Small handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
4 garlic clothes, peeled and smashed
1 onion, cut into ½-inch slices
8 cups chicken stock
FOR THE TORTILLA STRIPS
4 5-inch corn tortillas, slice into ¼-inch strips
Oil for frying
Coarse salt to taste
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin ½-inch strips
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin ½-inch strips
3 scallions, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
2 ripe avocados, peeled and sliced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the chicken ingredients to a large oven-proof stock pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Transfer to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, heat the oil in a heavy skillet and fry the tortilla strips in batches over medium-high heat for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Remove chicken from the liquid, reserving the stock. Transfer the chicken to a medium serving bowl and shred using two forks. Return the stock pot to the stove top and simmer for 10 minutes to reduce the liquid. Strain through a fine sieve and discard the solids. Arrange the shredded chicken in six soup bowls and garnish with bell peppers, scallions, avocado slices and cilantro. Ladle broth into bowls and then top with fried tortilla strips. Serve with lime wedges.