Mexico is known as a great vacation destination mostly thanks to its beautiful beaches, but most people don’t know how much else it has to offer. Besides a great culture and rich history, Mexico City is a wonderful place for avid travelers, where they can find interesting attractions as well as surprising food. The Western cuisine is surprisingly developed in Mexico City, with great restaurants that offer Italian or Asian food, and yet the best food remains the local street food.
First Thing’s First: Is Street Food in Mexico Safe?
Many people worry about how safe it is to eat street food in Mexico. If you take the precautions you would take anywhere else (washing your hands being number #1), the food isn’t only completely safe, but delicious! Another rule of thumb for safety is the same with any street vendor, anywhere in the world: make sure the person cooking the food isn’t also touching everyone’s money (or anything else). Once you feel good about the hygiene protocols, ease in – some people end up overindulging as soon as they hit the streets and end up paying for it later.
Top Street Treats in Mexico City
Fortunately for anyone who gets to roam the streets of Mexico’s wild and wonderful capital city, food is everywhere. There are vendors around every corner, and they set up shop early and stay late. Good options for browsing food stalls are the city’s markets, including Mercado le Merced in the historic city center and the Mercado de Coyoacan in the Coyoacan neighborhood. Taco-lovers can find their paradise in Navarte, a neighborhood south of downtown that has a great selection of taco stands.
So, what to eat first? Before you get into the heavier foods, start your day off with a breakfast tamal. Tamales are a corn masa wrap that can be stuffed with meat, vegetables, cheese, or even fruit. Whether you wake up in the mood for sweet or savory, tamales are a quick, light, and tasty way to start the day.
No matter where you have sampled tacos elsewhere in the world, nothing compares to the real deal. You won’t want to leave Mexico City without sampling tacos al pastor, which are made with thin slices of spit-grilled pork. Part of the treat of tacos al pastor is witnessing the preparation. After marinating in a blend of spices and pineapple, the meat is cooked on a vertical rotisserie and carefully shaved off and wrapped in a corn tortilla for your eating pleasure. Other mouth-watering taco variations to try are tacos de canasta and tacos de suadera.
Another favorite Mexico City street treat are tlacoyos, which are bean-stuffed masa wraps that are loosely categorized as snacks but are pretty hearty. The filling is usually either fava beans or refried beans and a ricotta-like cheese. The oval-shaped foods are fried or toasted, and can come with or without toppings, but are traditionally topped with salsa.
Don’t Know Where to Start? Book a Street Food Tour
Food tours are a great go-to for easing into the culinary culture of a new city. Typically, the tours aren’t overloaded with kitschy stops, but include out-of-the-way spots, sprawling open-air markets minus the gawdy souvenirs, and glimpses into some of the behind-the-scenes action that goes into preparing the food. Another bonus is that the tours max out at just a few participants, so they feel intimate. It’s a great way to meet and connect with fellow travelers.