When you think of Mexican food, what comes to mind? Salsa, refried beans, nachos, fajitas, and tacos are what many people associate with Mexican cuisine. But what we think of as “traditional Mexican food” is actually a variation of cuisine from the Northern region of Mexico—which sweeps from the Baja California Peninsula on the Pacific Coast to the state of Tamaulipas on the Gulf Coast—created in the southern U.S. along the Rio Grande.
The rich, hearty combinations of cumin, yellow cheese, and flour tortillas? Those came from Texas ranchers, who tried to make their own versions of the cuisine they experienced in northern Mexico. Even fajitas, though they use this region’s ingredients, are a wholly American creation. So the food that many Americans associate with Mexico is, in fact, a hybrid of Mexican and Texan cuisine (“Tex-Mex“).
Mexico has seven regions (which are made up of many states), all with their own unique cuisines. Each region’s dishes have their own flavors, history, and culture—from native mothers who fed their families traditional dishes to the influences of the conquistadors who came to their lands. Passed down through generations, these dishes hold an entire cultural history in every bite.
Below, we take a closer look at one of Mexico’s regions that inspires an entire section of La Mesa’s menu.
Veracruz: Home of Traditional Mexican Food of the Gulf
The Gulf Region, particularly the port city of Veracruz, plays on the lightness and freshness of seafood, accenting shellfish and delicate, white fish with peppery herbs and sweet fruits. The cuisine native to this region uses the natural richness of the seafood and marries it with chili sauces and snaps of mango. Veracruz was established by the Spanish in 1519, and the cuisine developed as a blending of indigenous, French, Spanish, African, and Indian cultures.
The indigenous people cultivated corn, squash, and rice for centuries along with the natural treasures of the land (vanilla, seafood). Afro-Caribbean influence is found in the zesty flavors of citrus and nuts. The Spanish brought spices and flavors that Americans think of as Mexican (sweet potatoes, plantains), along with herbs like cilantro, parsley and thyme. The seafood that comes from the Gulf of Mexico includes shrimp, oysters, red snapper, conch, and octopus, and an array of white fish.
The influence of Caribbean flavors can still be seen in the sweet and savory combinations of pepper and papaya. Shrimp is the star in many of these dishes, and with their sweet taste and meaty texture, it’s not difficult to see why. The delicate flavor of shrimp lends itself well to dishes with warm spices, absorbing the flavors and resulting in dishes that are sweet, comforting, oceanic masterpieces. Many shrimp dishes are cooked with chili sauces and accented with citrus and jalapenos or tomatillos.
Explore Authentic Gulf Cuisine at La Mesa
At La Mesa Mexican Restaurant, we love the dishes of the Veracruz region so much that a section of our menu is dedicated to it. Our Gulf of Mexico menu includes items that are made from the traditional recipes found in the Gulf with our own unique spin. In other words, there’s no need to fly to the Gulf to experience the authentic Mexican cuisine of the Gulf region!
Burrito de Camaron
A twist on a typical burrito, this delicious entree combines grilled shrimp and vegetables, wrapped in a flour tortilla with rice and pico de gallo.
Orden de Ceviche
Texture is king in this dish, combining finely chopped shrimp, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and jalapenos with zesty lime. Served with avocado and tortilla chips to scoop, this dish is the epitome of freshness.
This dish is the perfect combination of Northern and Gulf cuisine. One shrimp enchilada and one shrimp quesadilla take two favorite Tex-Mex dishes and give them a taste of the sea. Served with rice, lettuce, sour cream and tomato, this dish is a hit with diners of all tastes.
Tilapia is a white fish known for its lightness, and we grill it in olive oil to give it a bit of a nutty, complex flavor. Topped with fresh made mango salsa, this healthy dish embodies the invigorating freshness of fruit and the sea.
Camarones A La Diabla
For those who love spice, you will want to marry this dish. Our sauce is a fiery combination of chipotle peppers, garlic, and tomatoes, blended into a velvety cloak that fits the grilled shrimp perfectly. Served with peppers and onions, this dish may become your new favorite.
Come on down to La Mesa to try dishes influenced by the Veracruz region today! You’ll find these dishes and more on our Gulf of Mexico menu!