Customers often ask me where to find “authentic” Mexican food. I usually suggest a couple of places that I frequent. If I see them again and remember to ask them what they ate, I’m almost always disappointed with their answer. They either complain of the venue not having nachos, the sauce being too spicy or that none of the staff spoke English.
Yesterday was a different story. A young non-Latino customer posed the common question to me. I gave him my standard answer. Then he asked me specifically if these places served chicharrónes or menudo. My heart did a joyful beat. I was stunned. This guy really knew his stuff. It turns out his “baby mama” is Mexican. He went on to describe how he enjoys his chicharrónes with “the green sauce” — salsa verde as Mexicans call it.
Chicharrónes are deep fried pork skin. In Mexico, they are fried to a crunch and often eaten in a taco or gordita with spicy salsa verde.
Menudo is a soup made with tripe (cow stomach). It’s heavy and considered a great hangover cure. My mom used to make it every Sunday. It’s time intensive to make so she would start the night before. The smell of raw or boiling tripe is awful! My siblings and I would wake up with the taste of tripe in our throat, the pungent smell having made its way into our nostrils and throat as it simmered overnight. Locking our bedroom doors couldn’t keep the smell out! I’ve personally never been much of a fan of menudo. If I add cilantro, lots of lime juice and chopped onion I can enjoy the soup but I dislike the chewiness and texture of the tripe.
The response of yesterday’s customer has encouraged me to encourage you to explore Mexican food. Try something you have never had. I suggest you go to festivals where you can try a variety of foods. Being engulfed by blaring Mexican or other Latino music and Latino people will only enhance your experience.
Here are a couple of the bigger ones that are coming up:
Sunday, July 19 — Carowinds Fiesta Latina. Carowinds Amusement Park.
Sunday, October 11 — Latin American Festival.
— Teresa Hernandez