How to Distinguish Between Mexican and Spanish Cuisine

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The cuisines of Mexico and Spain represent the melding of cultures, making it difficult at times to distinguish the difference between the two cultures' dishes. Spanish cuisine, a wide mix of Phoenician, Greek and Middle Eastern food, has influenced that of Mexico and vice versa. The elements of Mexican and Spanish cooking styles have blended, however each continues to celebrate their own unique and distinguishable culinary heritage.

  • Familiarize yourself with the Spanish contributions to Mexican cuisine. When the Spanish came to Mexico they brought pigs and cows, sugar, olives, garlic and cheese.

  • Learn about the Mexican contributions to Spanish cuisine. The Spanish imported a number of food items from the New World including tomatoes, potatoes, vanilla, chocolate, a variety of beans, zucchini and peppers.

  • Recognize the staple foods of Mexico. Though beans and corn tortillas can be found in Spain, they are the backbone of a Mexican diet, as are a wide variety of fruits. Many types of cactus native to Mexico are used like vegetables or as the base in dessert dishes.

  • Be aware of staple foods in Spanish cuisine. Spanish meals often mimic the flavors of the Middle East, using honey, cumin and saffron and tend to use more olive oil, garlic and eggplant than Mexican dishes. Famous for sweet and dry sherry, entrees and desserts in Spain are often flavored with wine.

  • Distinguish spiciness as seasonings vary greatly between Mexican and Spanish Cuisine. Cilantro and hot chili peppers are a basic ingredient in almost every Mexican dish. Cilantro is difficult to find in Spain and while Spanish cuisine utilizes peppers, they generally use a mild variety.

  • Observe how the food is served. Mexican dishes are usually served for one and can be eaten with your hands, such as a tostada. Spanish dishes on the other hand are often served to share; tapas for example.

  • Recognize native foods and dishes that have crossed the sea. Gazpacho and Chorizo, both native to Spain, but are often thought of as part of Mexican cuisine. Potatoes and sweet potatoes used more often in Spain are actually native to South America.

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