Tacology Mexican gastronomy glossary
Mexican Chiles / Scoville Scale
Aji Amarillo – Yellow ají is one of the ingredients of Peruvian cuisine and Bolivian cuisine. It is used as a condiment, especially in many dishes and sauces. In Peru the chilis are mostly used fresh, and in Bolivia dried and ground. The flavor profile can be described as similar to a scotch bonnet, yet with a medium-heat. Also, sun-drenched crispness, a fruity turn from the tropics, and even a hint of raisin. It’s used to make sauces, creams, and ceviches. *Dishes that include this pepper?
Arbol – A small and potent Mexican chili pepper also known as bird’s beak chile and rat’s tail chile. Chile de árbol pepper can be traded with Cayenne pepper.
*Dishes that include this pepper. ___________________________________________________________________________.
Chilepepin – Native to southern North America and northern South
America. Tepin peppers are very hot. Harvested from wild stands in the Mexican desert. In Mexico, the heat of the chiltepin is called arrebatado (“rapid” or “violent”), because, while the heat is intense, it is not very enduring. *Dishes that include this pepper?
Chipotle – Which comes from the Indigenous Nahuatl word chipotle (meaning “smoked chili”), is a smoke-dried jalapeño. Relatively mild but earthy spiciness. Used to make various spices, salsas, and adobos. *Dishes that include this pepper?
Fresno –The fruit starts out bright green changing to orange and red as fully matured. Immature green Fresno chilis are more versatile and can be added to many types of dishes. They add mild heat and flavor to sauces. Mature red Fresno peppers provide less flavor and more heat. They are often added to salsas, relishes, ceviches, and marinades. They make good toppings for tacos, tostadas. *Dishes that include this pepper?
Guajillo – A guajillo chili or guajillo chile (chile guajillo in Spanish) is a variety of chile pepper of the species Capsicum annuum and which is widely used in the cuisine of Mexico. considered mild to medium. They are sometimes used to make the salsa for tamales; the dried fruits are seeded, soaked, pulverized to a thin paste, then cooked with salt and several other ingredients to produce a thick, red, flavorful sauce.
*Dishes that include this pepper?
Habanero – Unripe habaneros are green, and they color as they mature. Common colors are orange and red, but white, brown, yellow, green, and purple are also seen. The name indicates something or someone from La Habana (Havana). The habanero chili comes from the Amazon region, from where it was spread, reaching Mexico. Today, the largest producer is Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is similar to a scotch bonnet.
Jalapeno – A medium-sized chili pepper pod type cultivar of the species.It is of mild to medium pungency, The name jalapeño is Spanish for “from Xalapa” (also spelled Jalapa), the capital city of Veracruz, Mexico, where the pepper was traditionally cultivated. The name Xalapa is itself of Nahuatl origin.*Dishes that include this pepper?
Pasilla – The pasilla chile or chile negro is the dried form of the chilaca chili pepper. Named for its dark, wrinkled skin and pronounced pah-SEE-yah (literally “little raisin”) it is a mild to medium-hot, rich-flavored chile. They are typically used in sauces.
*Dishes that include this pepper ?
Piquin – A hot chili pepper cultivar commonly used as a spice. Like most chilies, the berries start out green, ripening to brilliant red at maturity. Pequin peppers are very hot, often 13–40 times hotter than jalapeños. Flavor is described as citrusy, smoky (if dried with wood smoke), and nutty.*Dishes that include this pepper ?
Poblano – When dried, it is known as Ancho chili. It has a deep red color, and the flavor ranges from mild to pungent. It’s spice is mild and the rich, slightly fruit flavored ancho is the sweetest of the dried chiles.
*Dishes that include this pepper ?
Serrano – A type of chili pepper that originated in the mountainous regions of the Mexican states of Puebla and Hidalgo. The name of the pepper is a reference to the mountains (sierras) of these regions. Serrano peppers are also commonly used in making pico de gallo and salsa, as the chili is particularly fleshy compared to others, making it ideal for such dishes. It is one of the most-used chili peppers in Mexican cuisine. *Dishes that include this pepper ?
Shishito – The pepper is small and finger-long, slender, and thin-walled. Although it turns from green to red upon ripening, it is usually harvested while green. The name refers to the fact that the tip of the chili pepper looks like the head of a lion and in Japanese it is often abbreviated as shishitō. About one out of every ten peppers is spicy.
*Dishes that include this pepper ?
Achiote- A shrub or small tree originating from the tropical region of the Americas. The tree is best known as the source of annatto, a natural orange-red condiment (also called “achiote” or “bijol”). The ground seeds are widely used in traditional dishes in South and Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico; such as cochinita pibil, chicken in achiote and caldo de olla. The Yucatecan condiment called recado rojo or “achiote paste” is made from ground seeds combined with other spices. This bright orange-red spice has a peppery aroma and a subtle flavor that’s been described as nutty, sweet, and earthy.
Adobada – a preparation for many dishes that are common in Mexican cuisine similar to tacos. Adobada is generally pork marinated in a “red” chilli sauce with vinegar and oregano, but it can refer to different types of meat and to marinades closer to Al pastor. It is generally served on small, pliable corn maize tortilla along with sautéed vegetables and cheese. Historically, before refrigeration, the pork was fermented in red chile in a crock using the same bacterial cultures as in yogurt (but it is not dairy). Fermented meat was a way of preservation and imparted a “sour” taste to the pork which explains why modern New Mexican adovada recipes call for a bit of white vinegar.
Agave – native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Some agave species are also native to tropical areas of South America. The plants are perennial, but each rosette flowers once and then dies. There are four major parts of the agave that are edible: the flowers, leaves, stalks or basal rosettes, and the sap. It makes spirits, teas, sugar substitutes, and more.
Al Pastor – A dish developed in Central Mexico, shawarma spit-grilled meat brought by the Lebanese immigrants to Mexico. Traditionally pork (but chicken has been used as well) is marinated in a combination of dried chilies, spices and pineapple. In some places, achiote is also added, and then slowly cooked with a gas flame on a vertical rotisserie called a trompo (lit: spinning top), very similar to how shawarma is cooked, with a piece of fresh onion and a pineapple on top.When ready, the meat is then thinly sliced off the tips with a large knife. This meat is a common ingredient in not just tacos, but also gringas, alambres, huaraches, tortas and pizza.
A La Talla Fish – A traditional way of preparation for fish, in Acapulco. It’s typically a grilled fish that has been bathed in a chile-based sauce before being put on the coals.
Barbacoa – Generally refers to meats or whole sheep slow-cooked over an open fire, or more traditionally, in a hole dug in the ground covered with maguey leaves, although the interpretation is loose, and in the present day (and in some cases) may refer to meat steamed until tender. This meat is known for its high fat content and strong flavor, often accompanied with onions and cilantro.
Is a cereal food made from the groats of several different wheat species, most often from durum wheat. Bulgur is a kind of dried cracked wheat. Good for the heart, also great for improving digestion and losing weight.
Carne Asada – Made specifically with beef, (usually skirt steak, flank steak or flap steak) grilled and served as slices. It is usually cooked with a certain amount of searing to impart a charred flavor. Carne asada can be served as a main dish or as an ingredient in other dishes.
Carnitas – Literally “little meats”, is a dish of Mexican cuisine originating from the state of Michoacán. Carnitas are made by braising or simmering pork in oil or preferably lard until tender. The process takes three to four hours and the result is very tender and juicy meat, which is then typically served with chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and diced onion, salsa, guacamole, tortillas, and refried beans.
Chamoy- Refers to a variety of savory sauces and condiments in Mexican cuisine made from pickled fruit. Chamoy may range from a liquid to a paste consistency, and typically its flavor is salty, sweet, sour, and spiced with chiles. It is sometimes considered to be a Mexican adaptation of the Japanese umeboshi, or pickled ume fruit. In place of ume, the typical Mexican chamoy uses apricot, plum or mango as its fruit base. The combination of salt, sweetness and heat, makes it a condiment for a wide variety of foods ranging from fresh fruit , juices, potato chips and assorted nuts.
Chicharron – Or Pork Rinds, is CRUNCHY. It is only the pork skin or hide (not the second layer of pork). Our’s is dehydrated for 3 days, dried and then fried. It DOES NOT not come with, but is recommended with guacamole.
Chilaquiles – Typically, corn tortillas cut in quarters and lightly fried are the basis of the dish. Green or red salsa or mole is poured over the crisp tortilla triangles, called totopos. The mixture is simmered until the tortilla starts softening. Pulled chicken is sometimes added to the mix. It is commonly garnished with crema, shredded queso fresco, raw onion rings and avocado slices. Chilaquiles can be served with refried beans, eggs (scrambled or fried), beef and guacamole as side dish.
Cochinita Pibil – A traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Península. Preparation of traditional cochinita or puerco pibil involves marinating the meat in strongly acidic citrus juice, seasoning it with annatto seed which imparts a vivid burnt orange color, and roasting the meat while it is wrapped in banana leaf. Traditionally, cochinita pibil was buried in a pit with a fire at the bottom to roast it.
Costra – Like a taco, but the ‘tortilla’ is made of cheese. The word means “scab” in Spanish. It is made with shredded white mozzarella-like cheese and spreads it in a mound on the griddle until it melts into a sort of a cheese pancake. Then the hot cheese shell is browned a bit, scraped off in one piece, and wrapped around whatever fillings you’ve asked for..
Confit – Comes from the French word “confire” which literally means “to preserve”. A confit being any type of food that is cooked slowly over a long period of time as a method of preservation. The term is usually used in modern cuisine to mean long slow cooking in oil or fat at low temperatures, many having no element of preservation such as dishes like confit potatoes.
Epazote – Also known as Mexican-tea, epazote is an annual or short-lived perennial herb native to Central America, South America, and southern Mexico. used as a leaf vegetable, herb, and herbal tea for its pungent flavor. A common analogy is to turpentine or creosote. It has also been compared to citrus, savory, and mint.
Esquites – aka “vasito de elotes” or little corn-cups. The word esquites comes from the Nahuatl word ízquitl, which means “toasted corn”. It is a Mexican snack or “antojito”. Shops and market stalls selling corn also tend to sell esquites. Festival and fair stalls may sell it too. It includes grains of corn, butter with onions, chopped pequin chiles, epazote, and salt. It is served hot in small cups and topped with varying combinations of lime juice, Chile powder or hot sauce, and mayonnaise.
Farro – Is a food composed of the grains of certain wheat species, sold dried and prepared by cooking in water until soft, but still crunchy. It may be eaten plain, though it is often used as an ingredient in dishes such as salads and soups. An excellent source of protein, fiber and nutrients like magnesium and iron, it’s a big step up from using white rice or other refined grains in your favorite dishes.
Gringas – A variety of tacos which uses as a base a quesadilla, consisting of a flour tortilla filled with cheese (quesadilla), “al pastor” meat (marinated pork) and pineapple slices. This is then grilled in the same manner as a quesadilla. Some say the name appears to come from the dark spots that appear on the white surface of flour tortillas when heated, that resemble freckles on white skin, a “gringa” skin. In general, the name was established from the idea that (wheat) flour tortillas are preferred north of the border.
Heirloom plant / variety – These may have been commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but are not used in modern large-scale agriculture. Before the industrialization of agriculture, a much wider variety of plant foods were grown for human consumption. During the 19th and early 20th centuries the diversity was huge. Old nursery catalogues were filled with plums, peaches, pears and apples of numerous varieties. In modern agriculture in the industrialized world, most food crops are now grown in large, monocultural plots. In order to maximize consistency, few varieties of each type of crop are grown. These varieties are often selected for their productivity, their ability to withstand mechanical picking and cross-country shipping, and their tolerance to drought, frost, or pesticides. Heirloom gardening is a reaction against this trend. Before World War II, the majority of produce grown in the United States were heirlooms. Typically, heirlooms have adapted over time to the climate and soil they have been grown in. Due to their genetics, they are often resistant to local pests, diseases, and extremes of weather.
Huitlacoche – Or Corn Smut, is a plant disease caused by the pathogenic fungus. It is eaten, usually as a filling, in quesadillas and other tortilla-based foods, and soups. When cooked, have a flavor described as mushroom-like, sweet, savory, woody, and earthy. American’s have even called it the “Mexican truffle”.
Maggi – An international brand of seasonings that originated in switzerland. The one we use is a dark, soy sauce-type of hydrolysed vegetable protein-based condiment sauce.
Malanga – A root vegetable that is popular in South America. It looks similar to a potato, except its skin is a bit hairy. The flesh varies in color and can be pink, yellow or white. It has a nutty flavor and is similar in texture to a potato.
Molcajete – A the traditional Mexican stone tool. It is a version of the mortar and pestle, similar to the South American batan, used for grinding various food product. Molcajetes are used to crush and grind spices, and to prepare salsas and guacamole. The rough surface of the basalt stone creates a superb grinding surface that maintains itself over time as tiny bubbles in the basalt are ground down, replenishing the textured surface. As the porous basalt is impossible to fully clean and sanitize, molcajetes are known to “season” (much like cast iron skillets), carrying over flavors from one preparation to another. Salsas and guacamole prepared in molcajetes are known to have a distinctive texture, and some also carry a subtle difference in flavor, from those prepared in blenders.
Nopale – A species of Cacti, the plant is a common ingredient in numerous Mexican cuisine dishes. The nopal pads can be eaten raw or cooked, used in marmalades, soups stews and salads, as well as being used for traditional medicine or as fodder for animals. The other part of the nopal cactus that is edible is the fruit called the tuna in Spanish, and the “prickly pear” in English. Nopales are generally sold fresh in Mexico, cleaned of spines, and sliced to the customer’s desire on the spot, they can also be found canned or bottled, and less often dried, especially for export. Cut into slices or diced into cubes, nopales have a light, slightly tart flavor, like green beans, and a crisp, mucilaginous texture.
Old bay seasoning – A blend of herbs and spices that is marketed in the United States by McCormick & Company, and produced in Maryland. Usually used on seafood, the seasoning can go on pretty much anything. The seasoning mix includes mustard, paprika, celery salt, bay leaf, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, mace, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger.
Burrata – Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside contains stracciatella and cream, giving it an unusual, soft texture. It is also defined by some sources as an outer shell of mozzarella filled with butter or a mixture of butter and sugar. Typically made from cow’s milk.
Cotija – Queso Cotija is an artisan cheese made by hand, thus every cheese has something unique. This cheese usually has a creamy color crust. It is a queso de montaña (cheese of the mountains) because the cheesemakers live in the mountains as high as 5,500 ft. This hard, crumbly Mexican cheese is made mainly from cow’s milk. When the cheese is made, it is white, fresh and salty thus bearing immense resemblance to feta cheese.
Oaxaca Cheese – A white, semi-hard cheese from Mexico, similar to unaged Monterey Jack, but with a mozzarella-like string cheese texture and made from cow’s milk. It is named after the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, where it was first made. The string cheese process, originally from Italy, which is used to produce mozzarella, was brought to Mexico by the Dominican monks that settled in Oaxaca. However, as water buffallo milk was unavailable, they started using cow milk instead. The cheese is available in several different shapes. Queso Oaxaca is used widely in Mexican cuisine, especially in quesadillas and empanadas, where the queso Oaxaca is melted and other ingredients, such as huitlacoche and squash flowers, are added to the filling.
Queso Anejo – A firm, aged Mexican cheese traditionally made from skimmed goat‘s milk but most often available made from skimmed cow‘s milk. After it is made it is rolled in paprika to add additional flavor to its salty sharp flavor, which is somewhat similar to Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese, but not as strong flavored as Cotija cheese. As a fresh cheese, it is crumbly and breaks into small pieces very easily. When dried it acquires a firm texture allowing it to be easily shredded or grated. Queso Añejo is a good baking or grilling cheese, which is generally sprinkled on top of or stuffed into enchiladas, burritos and tacos.
Queso fresco – This fresh cheese is similar to feta, crumbly goat cheese, and creamy ricotta. Traditionally it is made from cow’s milk or a combination of cow’s and goat’s milk.
Queso Fundido – A dish of hot melted cheese and spicy chorizo that is often served flambé. Often compared to cheese fondue, it is a party dish; Typical main ingredients are melted cheese and a characteristic meat sauce of loose fresh chorizo, tomato, onion, chile and spices. It is served in a small, shallow casserole or other ceramic or metal heat-proof baking dish.
Rock Shrimp – A species of prawn. It is found along the coasts of the western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico from Norfolk, Virginia to Yucatán, including Cuba and the Bahamas. It is used in cooking and has a taste and texture similar to lobster.
Salsa Borracha – “Drunken” salsas have been around forever but they were originally prepared with pulque, an alcoholic beverage made from the once sacred maguey (Agave plant). In modern times, the most common preparation is that the sauce is made with beer. This sauce is traditionally served with barbacoa (pit-cooked lamb, goat, pork, or beef), but makes a great all-purpose salsa, as well. It has a unique flavor that is bitter and piquant.
Sangrita – Meaning “little blood”, dates back to the 1920s. It is a customary partner to a shot of straight tequila blanco. Authentic sangrita from the Lake Chapala region of Jalisco is made with Seville orange, lime and pomegranate juices, with chili powder or hot sauce added for heat. However, most modern sangrita recipes (particularly outside of Jalisco) have mistakenly attributed the red appearance of the drink to tomato juice instead of the chile powder. While some would argue that there is no set rule on what sangrita should contain, as the main ingredient, it is commonly considered by older residents of Jalisco that tomato and particularly branded recipes such as the “Clamato” mix stem from uninformed efforts to recreate the drink due to its growing popularity. It can feature a blend of orange, lime, tomato and/or pomegranate juices, or pomegranate-based grenadine with the addition of something spicy (hot sauce or fresh/dried chile), and sometimes white onion and salt.
Tajin – Is a mexican company producing several varieties of condiments. The major one we use is a seasoning powder, most consisting primarily of chile peppers, lime, and salt. The powder is tangy and spicy and is used to enhance the flavor of fruits and vegetables.
Tatemada – This a very classic charred salsa, commonly made in most homes in Mexico. simple to make yet complexly flavored. Charring the chiles, onion, and tomatoes adds a slightly smoky flavor, while the tomatoes themselves bring a natural balance of sweet and tart.
Tomatillo – aka the Mexican husk tomato, is a plant of the nightshade family bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. Tomatillos originated in Mexico and were cultivated in the pre-Columbian era. A staple of Mexican cuisine, they are eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes, particularly salsa verde.
Tostada – Refers to a flat or bowl-shaped (like a bread bowl) tortilla that is deep fried or toasted. Corn tortillas are usually used for tostadas, although tostadas made of wheat flour may occasionally be found. The tostada avoids waste when tortillas are not fresh enough to be made into tacos, but fresh enough to be eaten. Mostly, the toppings used are the same as with tacos.
Yuzu – A citrus fruit and plant originating in East Asia. It is believed to be a hybrid of sour mandarin and Ichang papeda. The fruit looks somewhat like a small grapefruit with an uneven skin, and can be either yellow or green depending on the degree of ripeness. Yuzu fruits, which are very aromatic. The yuzu’s flavour is tart, closely resembling that of the grapefruit, with overtones of mandarin orange. It is an integral ingredient in the citrus-based sauce ponzu, and yuzu vinegar is also produced.
Volcanes – A crispy tostada slathered with melted cheese.