Showing posts with label Mexico City. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mexico City. Show all posts

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Are you craving for an authentic Mexican taco?

Mexican Taco: Tacos de Cazo
What makes an authentic Mexican taco? Did you know that what many people consider a taco here in the Philippines is actually American or Tex-Mex. This is something I realized during my trip to Mexico where we got to eat at many neighborhood tacquerias. It's as authentic as it gets! A traditional Mexican dish, the basic taco is made with either a soft corn or flour tortilla, stuffed with various kinds of meat, as well as onions and cilantro, and served with lime for added zest.

Mexican Taco: Tacqueria El Paisa I, Queretaro, Mexico
Condiments are always included in any tacqueria. These include salsa roja or salsa verde (chili sauce), salsa picante (chopped tomatoes, onions, chilis and cilantro) which locals also call salsa mexicana or salsa bandera because the salsa contains the tricolor of the Mexican flag, guacamole (avocado sauce), and more lima (lime), cebolla (chopped onions) and cilantro (coriander).

Mexican Taco: Tacqueria El Paisa I, Queretaro, Mexico
Mexican Taco: Tacqueria El Paisa I, Queretaro, Mexico
The differences in the tacos are usually in the meat filling. It can have beef, pork, chicken, fish or shrimps. The meat can be grilled, spit-grilled, griddled, stewed, simmered or fried. Even the way the meat is marinated varies. You'd also often hear the term adobada. We had really great tacos at a popular tacqueria in Queretaro called Tacqueria El Paisa I which serves a wide range of tacos.

Mexican Taco: Tacos de Asador
Mexican Taco: Tacos de Asador
Trying out tacos in various cities around Mexico, I've seen so many terms used like pastor (spit-grilled meat, carved to order), suadero (thin cut of beef from brisket), campechanos (combined meat specifically beef or bistec and pork, including longaniza or chicharrón), longaniza (sausage), tripa (tripe), alambre (meat cooked in a skewer then chopped), bistec (seared steak), cecina (salted and dried meat) and carne asada (thin slices of grilled marinated beef steak).

Mexican Taco: Tacos al Pastor
Mexican Taco: Tacos al Pastor
Tacos al Pastor stands actually look like they're selling shawarma. The vertical spit grills were said to be brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. But the flavors are undoubtedly Mexican. We had our first taste of Tacos al Pastor in Mexico City.

Mexican Taco: Tacos al Pastor
Tacos de Cazo is filled with meat simmered in fat and juices usually in a large metal container, that is sliced and heated on a griddle before serving. This stand in Mexico City was so appealing, seeing and smelling all the delicious meats cook in the metal vat of bubbling oil and juices. On another side of the stall, they also had Tacos al Pastor.

Mexican Taco: Tacos de Asador
Mexican Taco: Tacos de Asador
Many of the tacos we got to try around Mexico were Tacos de Asador or grilled meat tacos. These delicious tacos with assorted meats are from Palenque.

Mexican Taco: Tacos de Asador
There are also variations to the taco condiments like this taco served with avocado slices we had at a food stall in front of Teotihuacan. All this writing about authentic Mexican tacos is making me really hungry! I definitely miss Mexico even just for the delicious tacos!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mexico: Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)

Even school campuses can make it to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Ciudad Universitaria (University City) of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mexico City was inscribed in 2007.

According to UNESCO, "The ensemble of buildings, sports facilities and open spaces of the Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), was built from 1949 to 1952 by more than 60 architects, engineers and artists who were involved in the project. As a result, the campus constitutes a unique example of 20th-century modernism integrating urbanism, architecture, engineering, landscape design and fine arts with references to local traditions, especially to Mexico’s pre-Hispanic past. The ensemble embodies social and cultural values of universal significance and is one of the most significant icons of modernity in Latin America."

Since we had time in transit between bus trips, we decided to rush over to UNAM to check out the famous campus. The most iconic buildings include the Rectorate Tower and the Central Library, decorated with murals made by David Alfaro Siqueiros (Rectorate Tower) and Juan O'Gorman (Central Library).

Also in the heart of the campus is the 1968 Olympic Stadium which was also used during the 1986 Soccer World Cup. The mosaic at the entrance of the stadium and reliefs in the stands were done by Diego Rivera.

Other attractions in UNAM include the Centro Cultural Universitario (CCU) where plays, film-showings and concerts are held and the Cuicuilco Archaeological Zone. Yes, the campus has ruins of what is believed to be the largest central settlement in Mesoamerica before the rise of Teotihuacán.

How to get to UNAM
Take the Metro to Universidad. Take exits D or F to access the free shuttle buses around campus. Bus No. 1 will take you to the center of the campus where the Rectorate Tower and Central Library can be found. From there you could walk to the Estadio Olympico. Bus No. 3 takes you to the CCU and Cuicuilco. The free shuttle buses don't run on weekends and during the summer break from late June to August.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mexico: Trajinera ride & mariachi bands in Xochimilco's Aztec canals

As a neophyte to Mexican culture, I had no idea what mariachi bands were. Sure, we all hear Mexican music every now and then. But I was quite clueless. Friends who found out we were off to Xochimilco told us to make sure we get serenaded by mariachis.

The Aztec canals and floating islands of Xochimilco are inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List together with the Centro Historico of Mexico City. Xochimilco, one of the delgaciones of D.F. (pronounced de efe) or the Distrito Federal is about 1 hour and 30 minutes from the Centro Historico via the Metro and the connecting Tren Ligero. Stepping out of the Tren Ligero station in Xochimilco, we were met by really helpful local guides outside and at every street corner who pointed us towards the embarcaderos, the docks where the trajineras are located.

Trajineras are small non-motorized boats that were used to transport goods along the canals of Xochimilco. Today, these boats no longer serve that purpose and are instead used to take tourists for leisurely rides along the canals. In the olden days, these boats used to be decorated with flowers and juniper branches. But those have long been replaced by arches painted with really colorful designs. Each arch has a name on it, usually the name of the boat or a significant someone.

The highlight of any visit to Xochimilco are the trajinera rides through its historic Aztec canals. Nothing much to see as we walked to the embarcaderos. So I was anxious to find out what this was all about.

We finally made it to Embarcadero Belem, one of the nine trajinera docks in Xochimilco. They had fixed rates per person and we opted to take the 45 minute ride since it was already late in the afternoon and we simply wanted to experience these famed rides, even just for a while.

Of course, my first question to our trajinero (I would think that's what they call the trajinera drivers) was "Where are the mariachis?" He pointed towards the direction we were going to and said they were further ahead. Like a gondolier, our trajinero weaved through the ancient canals built by the Aztecs. But he didn't sing though. That was the job of the mariachis.

As we entered one of the main canals, we saw even more of these colorful local boats. And there in one of the boats was a mariachi band dressed in suits and tuxedos. Ah! They were the vital element that added charm to an otherwise uneventful experience. As we got nearer, I felt the festive atmosphere these bands created. Indeed, I was in Mexico!

Their boats would dock with another boat filled with picnickers and they'd render some classical Mexican songs for a tip of course. But bystanders like us got showered with graces as we passed by boat after boat of these musical ensembles. Many locals would rent these trajineras for hours to enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon with food and drinks in tow. If you don't have food and you suddenly get hungry, floating stores and hawkers are all over the place.

By the time we knew it, our time was up and we made our way back to the embarcadero. After enjoying a home-cooked meal at one of the residences which dished up some food for visitors (now that's tourism helping the local community), we made our way back to Mexico City. Then it hit me, our Mexican adventure was about to go full steam ahead.

How to get to Xochimilco
Xochimilco is conveniently connected to Mexico City's Metro. Take the Metro to Tasquena (MX$3) and transfer to the Tren Ligero to Xochimilco (MX$3).

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Mexico: Pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Insigne y Nacional Basílica de Guadalupe) in Mexico City is one of the most significant pilgrimage sites of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a complex of several churches, including an old and new basilica, built near the place Our Lady of Guadalupe is said to have appeared to San Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. It's quite accessible via public transport since the La Villa-Basilica Metro Station is a few minutes walk from here.

The Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Complex has several churches including the Old Basilica (Templo Expiatorio a Cristo Rey) and New Basilica which was completed in 1976 to replace the sinking Antigua Basilica, the Templo del Pocito, Ex-convento y Parroquia de Santa Maria de Guadalupe (Capuchinas) and the Capilla del Cerrito on top of Tepeyac Hill among others.

I was particularly impressed with the Templo del Pocito with its very elegant interior and intricate carved stone and tile exterior.

The Antigua Basilica is another well-preserved colonial period church. Juan Diego's cloak was venerated in this church from 1709 to 1974. Because it was built on weak ground, the city being a former lake, the church started to sink, which is very noticeable. It was closed for many years and has been reopened after repairs were completed.

A New Basilica was designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, the architect of the Aztec Stadium and the National Anthropology Museum, and built from 1974 to 1976. It is where the cloak is currently venerated and where most of the services are held.

We climbed the steps up Tepeyac Hill to visit the Capilla del Cerrito, which has interesting mosaic murals. The hill also offers a panoramic view of Mexico City.

On the way back to the Metro station, we had dinner at local restaurant. Aside from the usual tacos and torta, I finally got to taste the Pollo con Mole Poblano, which is a chocolate-based sauce. I would later taste other versions which had more chocolate and more on the bitter side. So the one I had in Guadalupe was my favorite.

For more photos, check out Ivan About Town in Facebook.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mexico: Around Mexico City's Centro Historico

Mexico is a country that many get to see only on TV, especially for fans of those Mexican telenovelas. This Central American nation is very rich in cultural heritage. In fact, it's one of the countries with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So Mexico was on top of my list of places to visit.

I told Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks about my summer travel plans late last year. And the next thing I knew, he was on board. Good thing since traveling with others helps bring down the costs. Traveling to Mexico was also made easy since those with valid U.S. visas can enter Mexico visa-free.

We arrived late in the evening on separate flights from the U.S. After getting several warnings about using ordinary taxis in Mexico City, we made sure to take the airport taxi to our hostel in the Centro Historico. It wasn't cheap (MX$205), but it's the price you have to pay for safety. The hostel we were going to was right smack in the Centro Historico, with a grand view of the Catedral Metropolitano. It was a good first impression that didn't last though. Our peace and quiet was shattered in the next few nights since the top floor of the hostel, which was just a floor above us, doubled as a bar or party venue in the evenings.

The next morning, we took it slow. Ciudad de México, México, D.F. or D.F. (pronounced de efe) to the locals, is 2240 meters above sea level. And they say it's best to rest and take it slow during the first day to adjust to the high altitude. The Historic Centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco, which we would visit a few days later, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So we spent the afternoon walking around the Zocalo and areas around it.

Our first stop was of course the towering Catedral y Sagrario Metropolitano de la Ciudad de México. It's said to be the largest cathedral in the Americas and was built on the ruins of the Templo Mayor of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, which the Spanish conquistadores had destroyed to strengthen their rule over the newly-conquered domain. Ruins of the Templo Mayor were discovered right beside the Cathedral in 1978 when an electric company was conducting some diggings in the area. And like in any country which knows the value of heritage, the site was scientifically excavated, studied and preserved.

The Metropolitan Cathedral is actually two churches, the main cathedral and the adjacent sagrario or tabernacle. Needless to say, the interior of the Cathedral is very impressive. Unfortunately, we had a difficult time getting really nice photos of the Cathedral and the Zocalo in front of it since Mexico City's main plaza had been converted into a makeshift camp site. With a presidential election looming in several months, the role of the Zócalo or the Plaza de la Constitución as a political hub and popular place for protests was even more evident with different interest groups erecting tents and banners there.

On the east side of the Zócalo is the Palacio Nacional, built on the site of the palace of Aztec ruler Moctezuma II. Once the palace of Spanish viceroys, a presidential residence and center of government, it now houses offices of the Federal Treasury and the National Archives. The materials used to build the palace were said to come from the palace of Moctezuma II.

The streets to the east of the Zócalo are one big marketplace which is very reminiscent of Divisoria, but amidst grand colonial buildings, especially along Calle Moneda. I could in fact hear the sounds of commerce from the top of my hostel building, vendors calling out to people to buy their wares. And just like in Divisoria, vendors pack up and run like scared rats, once the warning whistle is sounded. It's actually a good place to scout for some souvenirs.

To the west of the Zócalo is a chic pedestrian mall along Calle Madero which reminded me of Las Ramblas in Barcelona, complete with the human statues. It has a lot of cafes, restaurants, book shops, monumental old buildings and exquisite churches, among other structures.

At the opposite end of Madero is the Palacio de Bellas Artes, another grand structure that has become an icon of Mexico City. It's situated next to the Alameda Central Park. The exterior of the building is a mix of Neoclassical and Art Nouveau architecture. But the interior will no doubt make any Art Deco enthusiast go loco over Deco!

Since we were hungry, we wanted to look for some Mexican street food. We thought the Alameda was a good candidate. But we found a really interesting taco and torta stall close to the churches of Veracruz and San Juan de Dios opposite the Alameda. The stall was called Carbajal and we had bistec and suadero tacos plus torta with chorizo, hamon and salchicha, thus comprising our initial encounter with real Mexican food! Traditional Mexican Cuisine was inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.

The meats were continuously cooking in their own juices adding flavor to this delightful Mexican snack. Plus you had a choice of various salsas to add to your taco. Note that a good Mexican taco is not complete without the chopped onions, cilantro, limon, salsa rojo and salsa verde as condiments. For more photos, check out the Ivan About Town FB album on Mexico City.
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