Authentic Mexican Or American Mexican: Six Ways To Tell If You're Eating True Mexican Food.

Everybody loves a good taco with meat, beans and cheese, but when it comes to finding authentic Mexican food in the United States, it's a lot more complicated than a making a simple taco. "Mexican food" has many definitions, and as the cultures between the United States and Mexico continue to blend, it can be hard to really know if the Mexican restaurant you are planning to go to really offers true Mexican cuisine. However, there are few ways to tell that you're experiencing at least something very close to authentic Mexican dishes.

1. The tacos are made from soft corn tortillas.

The flour tortilla is occasionally used in Mexico, but it is rarely used to make tacos. The hard, chip like shells that are sold in yellow and red boxes are also a creation of American cuisine. Real tacos are made from small, fresh corn tortillas. These are sometimes doubled up so that they are strong enough to hold the meat inside the taco shell.

2. The names of the dishes are Spanish.

While there are some dishes that everyone knows the names of, like tacos and tostadas, most traditional Mexican dishes will have descriptive names in Spanish. Some common dishes include tacos el pastor, chiles en nogada, and esquites. These true Mexican food in Tucson AZ should not be confused with "Tex-Mex" creations, which include taquitos, the soft-shell burrito common in most chain burrito restaurants, nachos, and fajitas. All of these dishes are inspired by South-western American cuisine (which was part of Mexico at one point), but they are not consistent with current traditional Mexican fare. 

3. The vegetables are consistent with Mexican variety.

Many American establishments attempt to make Mexican food fresher by adding neutral, crisp vegetables, like lettuce and raw red onions, to dishes. Mexico does grow a lot of produce, but most of this produce includes vegetables to do well growing in a hot climate. Tomatillos, tomatoes, corn, plantains, and all varieties of peppers are the most likely plants in Mexican dishes. If your taco is loaded up with cold-weather vegetables and sour cream, it has departed from its true Mexican roots.

Look instead for dishes that feature, not just bell peppers, but jalapeƱos and poblanos as well. Some spicier dishes will include habanero peppers, particularly in salsas.

4. Salsa has many meanings and variations. 

The Spanish word "Salsa" simple means sauce, which means that south of the border, the tomato-style mild salsa used for corn chips is just one of many sauces used to dress up a Mexican dish. Your Mexican restaurant should offer a variety of sauces, including traditional mole-- a thick paste made from peppers, chocolate, and a variety of other slow-cooked aromatics. 

5. Meats are varied and uncommon.

American food uses familiar cuts of meat from animals. You are used to eating ground beef, chicken breast, and pork tenderloin. However, the meat in true Mexican dishes is much less expensive; these dishes are not afraid to use portions of the animal that most Americans would throw out. It's common to see beef tongue, chicken feet, pigs feet, tripe, and in come places, even brains as part of the meat that gets wrapped up with spices in a tortilla. Mexican restaurants that offer truly authentic choices will not shy away from these less-used areas of different animals, but they will probably still offer more main-stream meat options, like shredded chicken and pulled pork. 

6. The cheese is fresh, and it is not cheddar.

Tex-Mex food has a prevalence of America's favorite cheese: cheddar. However, true Mexican food does not often include this rich cheese. Hispanic cheeses are much more mild, and are made fresh. Common cheeses found in Mexican dishes include queso-blanco, queso-fresco, and panela. Cheese is often used to make sauces, or to add flavor to beans and tortillas.