There are over 67,000 restaurants that serve burritos. Yet, only a small percentage of them are prepared as they were originally in Mexico. When it comes to Mexican food, most Americans know the hybridized version that entered the nation through states like New Mexico, California, Texas, and Arizona. While this version -- often known as Tex-mex -- is delicious in its own right, it omits many of the traditional Mexican ingredients and techniques from Mexican food, but the best Mexican restaurants are truly those that serve the authentic cuisine.
But when you do eventually find that restaurant that serves traditional Mexican fare, it can be hard to make sense of the menu if you've never seen some of the items before and don't speak Spanish. But don't worry, you won't miss out -- just check out this glossary of ingredients, foods, and terms often used in the menus at the best Mexican food joints around the country:
- Camarón: Shrimp
- Carne Asada: Grilled pieces of thin-cut beef -- it literally means "roasted meat"
- Carnitas: A delicious dish made with small pieces of pork
- Chalupa: A boat-shaped, thick tortilla that's fried up and served with other ingredients. A chalupa is a small canoe in Mexico.
- Chile Con Queso: A melted cheese dip flavored with mild green chiles
- Chorizo: A delicious Mexican sausage made with ground pork and some spicy seasonings
- Enchilada: A tortilla that's rolled up with meat or cheese and baked in a chili sauce. It usually comes with salsa and cheese.
- Fajita: A sizzling platter of meat and vegetables, served with the tortillas and condiments on the side.
- Mole: A spicy, rich sauce containing nuts, seeds, spices, chilis, and sometimes a small amount of chocolate. Mole translates to sauce, and different regions throughout Mexico have variations of their own mole sauce.
- Sincronizada: A grilled sandwich with cheese made from two tortillas
- Tostada: A toasted tortilla with meat, beans or cheese on top.
This is only a small sampling, but it will help you navigate the menu at an authentic Mexican restaurant. Enjoy the amazing delights of real Mexican food the next time you eat out.