Recipes extracted from Ciudad de México: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Mexico City by Edson Diaz-Fuentes (£26, Hardie Grant).
Mexico City – known as DF among Mexicans – is one of the world’s biggest metropolises. Its area and surrounding states – Puebla, Estado de México, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala and Morelos – create a gastronomic experience like no other, with an array of tastes and smells.
In the city, there’s a constant buzz, and people are always on the move. The smell of street food being cooked over charcoals, music blaring from buses and the notoriously bad traffic can all be an assault on the senses. But it’s also beautiful, magical and surreal. It’s a melting pot of flavours and foods from across the country, which is one of the most biodiverse on the planet. There’s no social gathering, festivity or event in Mexico where food and drink are not essential, from football matches, to religious celebrations and even funerals. Tacos are a way of life, and there’s nowhere this is more true than in Mexico City, where you can enjoy a variety for breakfast, lunch, dinner and at any time between.
The pillars of Mexican cooking are traditionally corn or maize, beans and, of course, chillies, including all their variations. Chillies are there to accentuate the flavours of a dish and complement the other individual elements, whether those are herbs, spices, vegetables or a wonderful piece of meat or seafood.
In Coyoacán in Mexico City, my local market has become famous for (among other things) a tostadas stand that has expanded and become hugely popular. The stand offers a wide variety of tostadas: chicken tinga, prawn cocktail or pata (cow’s hooves), which is one of my favourites. I like to pair fresh crab with the simple, raw freshness of a jalapeño and lime mayonnaise, and serve this with crispy tostadas and avocados.
Cochinita pibil is the emblematic dish of Yucatán. The whole suckling pig, known as cochinita, is doused in achiote marinade, wrapped in banana leaves and slow-roasted in a pit. Achiote paste, a mix of crushed annatto seeds and spices, has a deep, vibrant red colour and unique peppery, musky flavour that pairs beautifully with pork.
You’ll see big jars of these pickles in torterías and fondas. You can really taste all the flavours from the spices but they’re not too spicy. When preparing my pickles, I like combining layers of flavours by using aromatics such as coriander seeds, honey and smoky dried chillies. Enjoy them in your favourite torta or sandwich with a cold beer.
Get a taste of Mexico
Authentic tortillas made in the traditional Mexican way with specially prepared and ground corn.
A vibrant red Yucatecan paste made from ground annatto seeds and spices. Used it in the pibil-style ribs marinade for an authentic flavour.
Sweet and fruity with a mild heat, these can be used to give an extra kick to dishes.
A fine sipping tequila matured in bourbon casks for 18 months. This has smooth vanilla and oak notes.
Find recipes for the above dishes in Ciudad de México: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Mexico City by Edson Diaz-Fuentes (£26, Hardie Grant); photos by Robert Billington and Adam Wiseman