Almost 2000 miles separate Mexico’s northern border with the United States and its southern extreme, which meets Guatemala. While both regions share ingredients and techniques we associate with Mexican cooking – corn, chilies, beans, etc. – the cultural and environmental influences are very different and the flavors are, too.
Chiapas, the southernmost state is home to several indigenous cultures, those least affected by colonialization and the reforms of the Revolution. Poor and marginalized to this day, Mayan people of the region have conserved much of their cultural and culinary identity. The state embraces ocean, tropical lowlands, and mountains, so there’s a great variety of materia prima. Fewer types of chilies are found here, but unusual herbs, vegetables, and fruits, such as chipilin, yuca, chicozapote, guanábana, and chirimoya are daily staples. “Pre-hispanic” meats such as armadillo, iguana and jabalí (wild boar) are found in the markets. Corn, as always in Mexico, is the basis of every meal, but unique to Chiapas are drinks made of ground and toasted corn and a wide variety of tamales.
A short taxi ride south of the centro histórico, Chamula’s is the only restaurant in Mexico City specializing in authentic Chiapaneca cuisine. The old-fashioned dining room is decorated with colorful hand-woven tablecloths and local crafts. Many unusual dishes are offered; start with a refreshing pozol, a slightly sweet drink made with toasted corn and chili. Notable among the entremeses (appetizers) are several kinds of tamales including one scented with chipilin, a pungent green herb. Chicken with mole or pork with pipian are favorite main courses, as is grilled tasajo (thinly sliced beef marinated in an achiote-flavored chili sauce). The Lacondon menu even offers wild boar and iguana. On weekends, a great marimba band, the music typical of the region, plays.
At the northern extreme of Mexico from Chiapas, the rough, dry terrain of Chihuahua has a culture influenced by American and European immigrants (including a large community of German dialect-speaking Mennonites, famed for their cheese) and by the indigenous nomadic tribes. With less variety to choose from, it’s cowboy and beef country up here—they like their meat, spiced up with lots of picante chilies. Wheat tortillas are more common than corn.
This homey place specializes in the cuisine of Chihuahua, the state from which owner Raul Vargas hails (his wife is from Jalisco, explaining the incongruous use of “Tequila” in the name). Red and blue tablecloths, yellow walls, wooden floors, and Northern-themed prints create a warm and comforting atmosphere. Sopa de tortilla is fragrant with cumin, and garnished with chicharrón, avocado, and roast chiles. Frijoles norteñas come sprinkled with pungent, white queso Chihuahua, and slices of pickled chiles. A popular main course is asados: grilled beef prepared in red colorado or green pasado sauce and served with fresh wheat tortillas. Vibrant red cecina adobada (dried, pounded and chilied beef) was a big hit at our table. The lemonade is rich and not too sweet, and the tequila flan is exceptional. Ask to sample their special house mezcal, produced in the state.
Bolivar 438, corner. Torquemada, Colonia Obrera
Metro José Peon Contreras
Open daily 1-9 PM.
La Toma de Tequila
Toluca 28-C at Baja California
Metro Centro Médico (at the exit marked Toluca)
Open 1PM – 8PM Daily
No credit cards are accepted.