Mexican Food is All Over Metro Manila: Know the Basics!
Soft tacos, horchata, guacamole, and more!
Everyone goes crazy for Mexican food—and for good reason! It’s the gold standard for layers of flavors with invigorating hits of tangy, spicy, sweet, and smoky. Manila’s booming Mexican food scene proves that this obsession runs deep, with places popping up in and around the Metro, featuring both authentic Mexican food and local twists on classic dishes.
“I think what makes Mexican food appealing is the fact that it has so many layers, textures and flavors in every bite. You can alter a bite by adding salsa, a squeeze of lime, or just keeping it plain. And that's just a taco. I think Mexican food also appeals to Filipinos because it possesses the same qualities and flavors that we crave for in Filipino cuisine as well,” says Bruce Ricketts, chef and owner of the South’s favorite taco joint-of-the-moment, La Chinesca.
“Filipinos love a lot of Mexican flavor profiles: the acidity and sharpness of tomatoes, the sweetness of onions, and spice from chilies. It’s similar to what we’re used to eating,” says Jellone Umali, chef and co-owner of Filipino-Mexican food joint, Guisados.
It takes little to embrace the diversity of flavors and traditions that a true Mexican food lover would look out for. It doesn’t even stop with eating out—home cooks are easily able to recreate the freshness of this cuisine at home.
“Experiment with basics, like fresh salsas. They can really go a long way to integrate new flavors into your home cooking and even finish your classic stews with a whole new layer of flavor. Just remember to use fresh products as much as possible to bring out really bright and vibrant flavors,” says Bruce.
We rounded up Mexican food favorites that we simply cannot get enough of. Do you see your favorite on the list?
1 Soft taco
Soft tacos truly capture the magic of Mexican flavors! Soft corn tortillas, topped with anything from chicken, pork, fish, and beef—cooked in many different ways like grilled (like an al pastor or carne asada), stewed (guisados, anyone?), and barbecued (you guessed it—barbacoa!) , among others—usually served with a fresh salsa, fresh herbs, hot sauce, and a wedge of lime.
The burrito is a Tex-Mex creation based off of tacos de harina, which are rolled and wrapped up wheat flour-based soft tacos filled with a handful of basics—chili, cheese, beans, and a meat or seafood component. Burritos are a little bit more glamorous: large flour tortillas are filled with rice, beans, meat, and cheese and wrapped up into snug cylindrical logs.
Whole ears of grilled or boiled corn are rolled in a mix of mayonnaise, garlic, cheese, and chili, and pierced with a bamboo stick for easy snacking! Elote is a favorite late-night street food snack in Mexico. Try out this recipe to learn how you can make elote with a Pinoy twist:
Guacamole is easily one of the most well-loved Mexican dishes out there. Who can resist it in all its creamy, dreamy glory? Made up of ripe, fatty Hass avocados, white onions, garlic, Serrano peppers, lime juice, and a fat pinch of salt, it’s easy to whip up at home for that large bag of nachos you have sitting in your pantry.
Traditional Mexican enchiladas are dipped in a fiery red sauce (dried red chilies and other seasonings), fried, then rolled up with a small handful of meat, greens, and cheese. The Tex-Mex version is heftier: large flour tortillas are filled with beef and cheese and rolled into logs, then doused in a heavy tomato sauce and baked with cheese on top.
6 Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo is a simple chunky salsa that is straightforward and delicious: tomatoes, white onions, cilantro, jalapeño, and salt. It’s tangy, spicy, fresh, and savory all at once! Have it with your soft tacos, burritos, and nachos.
This light, refreshing drink is made up of rice milk, almond milk, and cinnamon. Some versions even have coconut milk mixed into it! Either way, it’s the perfect drink for a hot day out.
Paletas are ice popsicles, usually sold on the street out of a palateria or push cart, often made with fresh fruit. This frozen treat can range from being creamy, fruity, or tangy—it’s a street food favorite that is also the ultimate local summer dessert.