Chart a course for Mexico City

Art January 13, 2017 01:00


Anyone who enjoys the country's cuisine has to plan a visit to 'CDMX'

MEXICAN TOURISM authorities are touting the country’s fascinating capital, Mexico City, as a fantastic destination for anyone in the world who’s fallen in love with the cuisine.

It shouldn’t be too hard a sell in Bangkok, where people long ago decided that spicy Mexican food was a dining-out treat.

The ancient Mexican capital is lately being promoted as CDMX, which stands for Ciudad de Mexico. It draws more than 12.5 million visitors a year with a vibrant culture that combines pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern influences that span nearly seven centuries, all nourished by a diverse food scene.

The New York Times placed CDMX at the top of its “52 Places to Go in 2016” list, largely on the basis of the more than 150 museums, 100 contemporary-art galleries and 30 distinct architectural and historic sites there. Forbes magazine and Fodor’s travel guides have also declared the food the main attraction there.

CDMX boasts 50 regional cuisine “dialects” as well restaurants specialising in the cuisine of other countries. From street stalls to fine dining, food is the city’s heart and soul. “Mexican gastronomy” is even listed by the United Nations as an Intangible World Heritage.

Bangkok has in recent years seen a surge in Mexican restaurants, cafes and food trucks, and guacamole, ceviche, fajitas and margaritas have entered the day-to-day vocabulary here.

“Mexican food is more similar to Thai food than you think,” says Mexican chef Jorge Bernal, co-owner of Bangkok’s newest authentic-Mexican restaurant, Slanted Taco, on Sukhumvit Soi 23.

“Years ago when Thais were first introduced to Mexican food, it was Tex-Mex, not the authentic kind. Tex-Mex is more Americanised, with lots of cheese and big servings that Thais tend to find overwhelming. Thais are used to smaller portions and leaner and tastier food, and that describes authentic Mexican food.

“Once they’ve tried what we really have at home, they love the real Mexican food.”

As well, both Thais and Mexicans view their indigenous food as part of their cultural heritage and an important part of their identity. To fully appreciate Thai or Mexican gastronomy, you have to consider the centuries of honoured tradition, the cultural origins and how both helped shape the culture.

CDMX has more than 51,000 food outlets, 10,000 of which are taquerias and torteras – street stalls selling tacos and tortas, respectively. But tacos and guacamole are merely the most famous elements of Mexican cuisine. The varieties are endless and most dishes are little known beyond Mexico.

The authentic cuisine of Mexico is more exotic than most visitors expect in terms of taste, aroma and textures. There are the traditional salsas to satisfy the most sophisticated palates with their blends of flavours and complex tastes. But the cuisine extends even to maguey worms, ants and fried grasshoppers.

If visiting CDMX, a must-see is San Juan Market with its magnificent traditional architecture, where the delicious cuisine provides the accent to rich culture and history.

For fine dining, the district known as Polanco is home to the city’s most elegant restaurants, including Pujol, Quintonil and Biko, both rated among the best in the world. There the Mexican dishes are served with signature twists and paired with great wines.

Anywhere in CDMX you can find bustling open-air markets, crowded taco stands and food trucks selling esquite (grilled corn) alongside fine restaurants offering fresh seafood and wonderfully spiced steak.

Learn more about CDMX tourism from the “MexicoCityLive” Facebook page.