They may share a common language, but the cuisines of Spain and Mexico are vastly different. Though Spain conquered much of the Americas, the influence of the native cuisines of Latin America is strong throughout the continent.
The cuisine of Mexico is a combination of these two cultures. It has elements of Spanish cooking, but the staples are local foods: corn, beans and chili peppers. There’s also more of an emphasis on meats like beef, chicken or pork.
And what about the peppers?? Some of the hottest peppers in the world are used in Mexican cuisine. They vary in heat from Habaneros (100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units) to milder types such as poblanos (1,000 to 1500 Scoville heat units.) Corn is another staple, dried and used in soups and other dishes but primarily in tortillas empanadas and tamales.
Sauces are also very important in Mexican cuisine and add many complex flavors to the food. Their sauces rather than their other ingredients define many dishes.
The Spanish influence on Mesoamerican food starts with the new ingredients they brought from Europe: sugar, wheat, rice, onions, garlic, limes, oil, dairy products, pork, beef and many others which were not native to the Americas.
But it works both ways. When Spain invaded the Americas, they discovered ingredients such as tomatoes, potatoes, maize, bell peppers, spicy peppers, paprika, vanilla and cocoa, or chocolate. The Spanish were the first ones to mix sugar and chocolate. Other influences on Spanish Cuisine were Moorish and Jewish (Sephardic) cooking.
Spanish cuisine is considered Mediterranean cuisine. Seafood plays a large part in all Spanish cooking as do meats such as pork, chicken, lamb and beef. In contrast to the use of powerful spices in Mexico, Spanish cooking relies heavily on garlic and saffron. Spain is the biggest producer of olive oil in the world, and it’s used extensively in most Spanish dishes.
Spanish cooking varies greatly from region to region depending on location and geography. Here are a few:
- Andalusia is famous for gazpacho, and iberico and serrano ham
- Castilla-La Mancha (home of Don Quixote) relies on small game for meat because of its dry climate,
- Catalonia has three regions – coastal, mountains and interior so the cuisine varies from seafood to pork with an extensive use of vegetables.
- Valencia has two regions – coastal (home of Paella) and rural which has more meat based food.
Spain is also famous for tapas- from the verb tapar (to cover). Tapas originated in Andalusia in bars or taverns where customers used slices of meat or bread to cover their drinks. Tapas have evolved from that simple origin to a sophisticated range of dishes using anything from vegetables to seafood and meats.
You can’t go wrong with either cuisine since both are delicious! You also can’t go wrong learning Spanish to order your favorite meals. Contact us at Luminoso Language Services to start your lessons.