Category Archives: Mexico

Not Eating Mexican Food In Mexico?

I would say that I’m pretty much like most Indian people out there in that we LOVE Mexican food. My philosophy behind our obsession for the cuisine is that it is flavorful and spicy and much of it can be made vegetarian. #winning

So, the natural assumption would be that the moment I land in Mexico, I would be going out for some delicious, local Mexican food. Right? Wrong.

Here’s the story: I take a completely last-minute trip to Cancun over the holidays to visit my awesome friends Neelam and Manuel (yes, the same ones who I had visited but just a few weeks before in Mexico City. Read about that trip here). You can bet that on the quick flight from Chicago to Cancun that I was dreaming about enchiladas, tacos, chilaquiles, nachos and margaritas!

Beautiful Cancun Beach

Beautiful Cancun Beach

Upon arriving at their amazing beachfront condo in the late afternoon, Neelam informs me that we are going out for Indian food for dinner that night. “Is that ok?” she asks. As a little piece of my soul is crying, I barter and say, “Ok, only as long as you promise that every single other meal I have the next 5 days will be Mexican.” Yes, that is how much I love Mexican food. And yes, I am that friend to request such things. Poor Neelam.

Stunning View From Neelam and Manuel's Cancun Condo

Stunning View From Neelam and Manuel’s Cancun Condo

I can’t say I begrudgingly went to the Indian restaurant, but it clearly wasn’t my first choice. Since I’m a good sport, I went along with it. As we walked into the beautiful restaurant called Elefanta, I was already forgetting my Mexican food obsession. The stunning, open-air restaurant situated on the lagoon side of Cancun was breathtakingly decorated. The traditional Indian art among the lush, tropical greenery and seating within private verandas set on the water created quite the ambiance.

Elefanta Restaurant Cancun photo credit: Elefanta website

Elefanta Restaurant Cancun photo credit: Elefanta website

Being an Indian restaurant, there were no shortage of vegetarian options to choose from. Since we were all hungry we ordered several vegetable dishes, garlic naan and jeera (cumin) rice, all of which were accompanied with some delicious chutneys and yogurt raita. I wasn’t quite sure how the Indian food in Mexico was going to stack up, but I have to say I was really impressed with Elefanta. My favorite dish was hands-down the spinach koftas with shredded cheese in tomato cream sauce (pictured below at the top of the picture). Yum!

Elefanta Cancun Vegetarian Dinner

Elefanta Cancun Vegetarian Dinner

So, ok fine, I didn’t have Mexican food for my first meal in Mexico. I got over it. Just thought I would share a great alternate option in case you need it while in Cancun. And for the record, Neelam came pretty close to fulfilling my request of Mexican food for every other meal on my trip. She’s a good friend like that.

Mexico City: It’s Not What You Think

Ok, I fully admit I had the same perceptions that everyone else does when they hear the name Mexico City; things like corruption, kidnappings, pollution, crowded, unsafe, muggings, etc. Not really any heartwarming adjectives to describe the city let alone make you want to actually go visit the place!

With full disclosure, Mexico City was never really high on my must-see destinations list. What changed that was when my dear friends Neelam and Manuel moved from Atlanta to Mexico City last year. “What, I have local friends there now? Sure, I’ll come visit!!” So with that, Mexico City shot up quickly on the travel list and before you knew it, I was booking my flight and packing my bags.

I definitely got some weird looks when I would tell people I was going to Mexico City for one week over Thanksgiving. I also got a lot of “don’t get shot or kidnapped” smartass comments too (as if I have any control over those two things anyway)!

Beautiful Architecture In Mexico City

Beautiful Architecture In Mexico City

I’m here today to help change your mind about Mexico City. I can’t reiterate enough that it is probably not at all what you think it is. Clearly I made it out alive (ha ha) and I absolutely loved it there!! A very clean, modern city with so much culture, amazing food and a huge focus on the arts, how could you not love a place like that? And just to address it; the crime is not something to take lightly…that stuff does happen frequently in Mexico City but I think you have to be a cautious traveler and constantly aware of your surroundings. (I will also put this out there that I definitely think my experience staying with locals was very different from the experience I would have had if I had to plan everything on my own and stay at a hotel).

Because I feel like I could write a novel on my adventures in Mexico City, I’m just going to give you 5 of my favorite things I explored/ate/experienced. Trust me, this list was hard to narrow down:

Colorful Gondolas At Xochimilco

Colorful Gondolas At Xochimilco

1. Xochimilco– As a world traveler, I have been fortunate enough to take some really cool gondola rides at various destinations around the world. A few examples include: 1) the beautiful waterways in Venice, Italy 2) through the jungle canals in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam 3) on a calm strip of the Yamuna River near Mathura, India 4) and of course the ride “It’s a Small World” at Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida…ha ha. But, I will say that one of the coolest experiences has been the gondola ride through just a tiny portion of the vast canal network that Mexico City still has remaining from back in the day. This place is better known as Xochimilco. You can rent your own private gondola for as long as you like and these huge gondolas can pack in more than 20 people for one big fiesta. What’s most fun though are the various smaller gondolas that serve food such as tamales, quesadillas, tacos, etc; they cook the food nice and hot on their boat, link up to yours and serve you. How’s that for service? In addition, there were mariachi band gondolas going by that will also link up to your boat and come sing for you if you want. What a cool, fun, totally unique experience. Do not miss this one if you go to Mexico City.

Salsa Sampling In Mexico City

Salsa Sampling In Mexico City

2. The Spicy Salsas– Ok, as a vegetarian, I was pretty sure that everything Mexico City had to offer was going to be carne (meat) based. I can’t even tell you how shocked I was to go to random (read: not touristy) restaurants and see the little “v” marked next to many items on a menu to denote a vegetarian dish. What, they know what vegetarian even is? What an awesome surprise for me and more so, that the food was so tasty and spicy. I was basically in culinary heaven seeing and tasting all the different varieties of salsas and sauces that were served up in many restaurants to accompany traditional dishes. I kind of wish I could have brought back a vat of some of those salsas…seriously the best I’ve ever had (especially at the restaurant El Charco de las Ranas). What I’m trying to say is that overall, the food in Mexico City was amazing, even for a vegetarian.

Aztec Stone Of The Sun At Museo Nacional de Antropologia

Aztec Stone Of The Sun At Museo Nacional de Antropologia

3. The Arts Scene– Did you know there is a large and thriving art scene as well as many art museums in Mexico City? I surely didn’t! I do love art but tend to get tapped out after a museum or two. Luckily my friend Neelam was on the same page so we spent only two half days at museums; Museo Nacional de Antropologia (The National Museum of Anthropology) and Museo Frida Kahlo (the artist Frida Kahlo’s former home that has been turned into a museum). The Museo Nacional de Antropologia is world renown and has a very unique and beautiful architectural design. Overall the museum was great with lots of amazing artifacts, and you could spend a lot of time there, but we zipped through this one pretty quickly. The Frida Kahlo museum was interesting and a great way to get to know more about the famous artist and her story. I wish we had more time to check out some of the real, local underground art scene. Guess that will be on my next visit…

Lucha Libre Wrestling Match

Lucha Libre Wrestling Match

4. Lucha Libre Wrestling Match– So, is it embarrassing that my minimal knowledge of Lucha Libre wrestling is from the movie ‘Nacho Libre’? Yes, I know it is sad..that’s ok. With that, I felt like I couldn’t go to Mexico City and not see one of the city’s most famous past times. Luckily Neelam was up for it too so we ventured to the arena and went to a match. It was absolutely entertaining and I’m not sure if we were more entertained from the masked wrestlers and their choreographed stunts or from the wild and hilarious people in the crowd and what they were yelling out. Either way, it was a fun evening seeing and doing something totally out of the ordinary. Oh, and I loved that vendors walked up and down the aisles throughout the match selling tequila shots, beers and tacos!

Cute Mexican Dolls In The Markets

Cute Mexican Dolls In The Markets

5. Market Shopping– No trip abroad is complete for me without visiting the local markets. I love seeing not only the locally handmade handicrafts but also all the touristy “junk” that gets sold (ok, I admit “sometimes” I purchase these things too). As expected, we went to a few different markets and the vivid color textiles and lovely hand painted dishware were hard to pass up. But, as I have learned from many trips of the past, what you buy, you must lug home. Luckily on this trip I bought some gifts for friends and items for myself that were easy to pack and not too bulky. I mean, how am I supposed to go shopping in the market and buy nothing? I have to help support the local economy, right?

So, what do you think? Did this help paint a very different picture of Mexico City for you? See, it’s not this rundown, crazy place that so many of us think it is. There is so much more to tell but hopefully this helped wipe away the horrible stereotype that Mexico City still unfortunately has for itself.  Go visit! Trust me, it’s definitely worth the trip.