Delectable Baja Flavors: Varieties and Variations Of Northern Mexican Cuisine

When I first considered moving to Mexico, my ignorance had me convinced that its food would be the hardest thing for me to tolerate. I would soon joke about my initial ignorance as I dined on delicious soups, mouthwatering mole dishes, fresh-caught fish, local poultry and beef as well as my daily bag of fresh, varied fruits and vegetables. Completed with a wheel of local farm cheese and a small bottle of crema (sour cream), meals were healthy and delicious. Having lived in Mexico on and off for 8 years, I have only gotten food poisoning once: I ate questionable food at a Chinese Restaurant in Guadalajara and should have known better.

Though eating out is fantastically diverse in Los Cabos, the abundance of fresh food in Baja California should encourage travelers to spend at least one day trying its delicacies, even if it means staying at home to cook. Most expatriates agree that one of their favorite facts about food-shopping in Mexico is this: It is easier and cheaper to eat fresh & local food than to dine on imported, canned, or processed food in Mexico. This encourages the freshness of Baja fare; Dining out is reliably fresh, and home cooking generally involves a bounty of unusual fruits and familiar vegetables that might have cost triple in the United States or Canada.

The Sea Of Cortez is one of the most ecologically diverse bodies of water in the world, and the Pacific Ocean isn't far behind with its edible inhabitants. Suffice it to say, fish-lovers worship Baja's amazing aquatic variety. Abalone and Anchovies are both nutritious and plentiful in Baja and several varieties of clams are found in Sea of Cortez and Pacific Coasts. Conger Eel and Squid are caught and sold fresh in Baja California Sur. Albacore, Yellowfin, Blackfin, Bigeye, Pacific and Northern Bluefin Tuna can be found off Baja coasts. Cod is available fresh and from fishmongers, but most is exported to other countries. Barrilete Negro (or Black Skipjack Tuna) and Bonito are other fish similar to tuna fresh-caught in Baja California. Scallops, Shrimp and Crab are also readily available in Baja California from Los Cabos to Tijuana. Corvina, Dorado, Red Snapper and Jack Fish are delicious additions to Baja's fresh catches.

The pastured eggs and free-range chickens many pay dearly to procure in the United States are plentiful in Baja. It is quite easy to find a small, family chicken farm in every village in Baja California Sur, and in the larger cities, an egg-lover's choices for procuring fresh fowl are limitless. And the small farms produce pastured eggs that are not only rich in vitamins, minerals and omega 3s, but also delicious and cheap. Fresh Bacon is available at supermarkets in Los Cabos, and small, local butchers offer excellent, fresh pork and beef as well as Birria [goat], Arrachera, which is skirt steak marinated in lime with chiles, garlic, onion, is one of the ultimate treats for any carnivorous type. The secret to Arrachera is its marinade: The citrus marinade tenderizes a once-tough skirt steak with mouthwatering voracity. Known as one of the most flavorful [and cheap] cuts of beef, the Arrachera marinade will turn this generally chewy belly-cut into the melts-like-butter goodness many find fairly addicting. This excellent dish is known nationally, and is as delicious on Baja as the mainland. Delicious rotisserie chicken is available every few blocks in most towns, and the ubiquitous fish taco stands pepper the whole of Baja California Sur.

Baja California boasts a varied selection of fantastically familiar and wild, wonderful fruits and vegetables. Tomatillos are a staple of Mexican cuisine, and they resemble tart, green tomatoes with an exceptionally fresh flavor and are as excellent in a fresh salsa verde as they are cooked in stews and sauces. Tomatoes are fresh, ripe and locally grown. Spinach is readily available and freshest in the cooler winter months. A Chayote Squash has a sweet and delicate meat behind its spiny exterior. Despite its formidable appearance, this squash is excellent and has a delightful, delicate flavor. Avocados, of course, are everywhere. Many varieties of Lettuces & Greens, Herbs, Cabbages and Squash Blossoms are common in findings in Mexican markets, as are the pads and fruits of the Nopal Cactus. Excellent both raw in juices and cooked, the Nopal cactus pads are exotic and healthy treats. Chiles in just about every range of picante are available everywhere. Citrus fruits, particularly limes, grapefruit and several kinds of oranges are delicious and sweet. Dates, Coconuts, Bananas, Plantains, Mangos, Papaya, and Melons are readily available at small and large vegetable markets. These are only some of the fruits and vegetables travelers may find in many of the restaurants and groceries in Baja California Sur.

Freshly-made Crema, or sour cream is just one of the delicious dairy products that has become a remarkably unctuous staple of Mexican cuisine. Creamy, delicious milk and farm-cheeses are some of Mexico's most delectable treats and each tastes more flavorful than many can imagine. Having never enjoyed a huge amount of dairy products North of the Border, many tourists enjoy the fresh goat-and-cow creations that are readliy found in Mexico. Supermarkets and Restaurants in Baja California also have a wide variety of fresh cheeses and creams if visitors don't care to dairy-hunt while exploring Baja.

Copyright (c) 2013 Baja Atlas

Mo Maya has been living in, traveling around, writing about and drooling over Mexico for the past 8 years. She is the head writer for Baja Atlas. For useful news about Baja California Sur [http://www.bajaatlas.com/words] or to view beautiful Baja beaches, please visit [http://www.bajaatlas.com]

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