September is Mexico’s most patriotic month of the year, when the entire country celebrates the anniversary of our Independence from Spain. Flags in all sizes, fake mustaches, big sombreros, and more red, white, and green paraphernalia than you can imagine is sold from pushcarts on every corner around the country weeks in advance of the big day.
The main celebration takes place out on the street. The evening of September 15th, people come together in plazas to wait for the local mayor (or even the President, if you’re in Mexico’s capital) to arrive at 11pm sharp for a very formal ceremony, in which he or she waves a flag and calls out the names of main historical figures who helped in the planning and execution of the Mexico’s Independence from Spain.
The ceremony ends with the mayor shouting “Viva México!” three times (Roughly translated: Long live Mexico!) To which the audience answers with a loud “Viva!” each time. This is followed by the traditional display of fireworks, which usually lasts a few minutes.
Just like any other important holiday in Mexico, indulging in lots of delicious, seasonal food is obligatory. Here are 5 examples of traditional Mexican dishes:
Pozole is a very rich pork stew prepared with a corn similar to hominy, usually served with lettuce, thinly sliced radish, lime juice, dried oregano and chili flakes. Recipes vary depending on where you are in the country – in fact, Mexicans say that there are as many pozole recipes as there are Mexican grandmothers!
Red pozole, green pozole and white pozole are the most popular variations of the dish, which originate from Jalisco, Chiapas and Guerrero respectively. The stew’s color comes from the mix of spices and chilies added to each one. Toppings also vary and range from pork crackling, avocado and sardines, to dried shrimp, raw eggs and a shot of mezcal.
These red-tinted sandwiches get their name from the bread they are made with. Pambazos are a soft white bun traditionally dipped in a sauce of non-spicy chilies, which gives them their characteristic color and flavor. They are most commonly stuffed with chorizo, potatoes, lettuce, cream, grated cheese and salsa.
3. Chiles en Nogada
Chiles en Nogada (whose literal translation would be chilies in walnut sauce) is one of the most Baroque, patriotic, and visually appealing dishes of Mexican cuisine. This dish is prepared with many ingredients that are only available at the very end of summer. Apples, pears, and more importantly, walnuts and pomegranates.
A grilled and peeled Poblano pepper is stuffed with a mix of sweet and savory ingredients such as minced pork and beef, onion, tomato, pine nut, apples and a certain kind of cactus called Biznaga in its candied form. The chili then is covered with a creamy walnut sauce and topped with pomegranate seeds and occasionally a few parsley leaves.
Tostadas are flat(ish), crispy corn tortillas. They can be served as an accompaniment to a main dish such as Pozole and Birria, but may also be a stand-alone dish when topped with different items ranging from a smudge of refried beans, shredded chicken, lettuce, cream, and salsa, to fresh seafood and pickled beef cartilage.
5. Aguas Frescas
Even though their literal translation is “fresh water,” aguas frescas are water blended with fruit or tea to produce a refreshing flavored water that is lighter then a juice. The two most common agua frescas are Horchata and Jamaica: Horchata is a rice milk drink flavored with sugar, cinnamon and a hint of vanilla and Jamaica is a hibiscus flower infusion mixed with sugar. Not to worry if those flavors don’t entice you – you’ll find them in every flavor imaginable!