One of the biggest reasons to travel is food, and given how many amazing meals there are out there, who could blame us? However, no matter where you are in the world, the food doesn’t really transfer across country lines without some changes. For example, when I lived in Korea, I thought Chinese and Japanese food would be nearly identical or at the very least, readily available. While you can find it if you look for it, differences in the Korean palate changes the taste enough to long for the real deal.
California is in the best of both worlds. It is undoubtedly American, but still has an incredible amount of Mexican influence fuelled by its strong Mexican-American community. Here are some snacks that are originally Mexican, that you can easily find in California (and hopefully, at least some other parts of the US).
This peanut based soft ‘candy’ is difficult to explain. The best way I can think of describing it is having an extremely tiny and brittle bread-like texture (because of how it crumbles) that will fall apart at the first bite if you don’t eat it right. It is manufactured by De La Rosa company in Jalisco Mexico (where I was born, woot woot). Generally, it costs about 25-50 cents and can come in boxes of 30 pieces. Unless you are thinking of sharing, I don’t recommend you get a box as it is extremely sweet and you’ll have a hard enough time getting through one.
While Wikipedia describes it as Twinkie-like, nothing could be further from the truth. A ‘Gansito’ is a pastry snack that has jam and cream inside. It can be eaten at room temperature, but tastes way better if refrigerated and consumed cold. It is manufactured by the Marinela company of Mexico City but exported to many countries, including the US. Typical prices range between 50 cents and a dollar.
Arroz con Leche / Rice Pudding
While the previous two snacks were great to have again after my return to America, arroz con leche was a snack on my ‘to eat list’ for months. This rice pudding is made with rice, milk, cinnamon, and evaporated AND condensed milk. Another option is to add raisins, but I avoid that variety because raisins are disgusting. This snack is found all over Mexico and in ready to eat cups (like the one in the picture) in the US. Here is a recipe if you want to try to make it yourself.
Cacahuates Japoneses / Japanese Peanuts
One of my favorite things about blogging is what I learn in the ‘cross-referencing my facts’ stage of writing. What I learned about Japanese peanuts was quite fascinating (for me at least).
Many Mexican candy companies often have a hard shelled peanut snack they call ‘Japanese Peanuts.’ Having been to Japan several times, and it being my favorite country in the world, I, like this article’s author (in Spanish, sorry, but I will translate), wondered why they are called “Japanese” if peanuts are not even consumed in Japan.
Yoshigei Nakatani was a Japanese immigrant to Mexico City who invented the snack in 1945. He married a Mexican woman and his son, Carlos Nakatani (a painter in his own right), popularized the snack across the country. Yoshigei’s granddaughter, Claudia Chieko Nakatani, runs the biggest company of Japanese peanuts in Mexico today.
The inside of this snack is just like any other peanut, but it is the hard crunchy shell that makes it incredibly tasty. Sucking on the shell is part of the fun, so don’t just jump in and start biting all of them. A pack goes for about 50-75 cents in convenience stores across America.
One of the only things I remember about Duvalines growing up is that it came with its own spoon, and that it was imperative that you didn’t lose or drop it. You see, this spoon is uniquely tiny and specifically designed to scoop up this incredibly delicious and sweet paste that came in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Each snack came with a combination of two, either vanilla and chocolate, or vanilla and strawberry (because really, who doesn’t like vanilla?)
If I ever have Halloween in the states again, I think I will make sure every kid gets a Duvalin, which has been ranked as the #19 best candy in the world. It can be found in any hispanic community convenience store or supermarket and goes for about 25-35 cents.
Translated as “sweet bread,” this snack is as vague as the name suggests. Pan dulce is actually a genre of what can be a million different types of pastries. Some are very sweet, and others can be a bit salty or even bland. For the best results, look up “Panaderia” (bread store) on Google Maps and get a couple of different kinds to see which one you like best. The “orejas” are my personal favorite, but much like mazapan, tend to crumble every bite.
Pan dulce can go for about 50 cents a piece to about a dollar (or more, depending on size). You usually get a better deal if you buy more than one at a Panaderia.
Chicharron / Pork Rinds
While the picture is of “El Sabroso” pork rinds (which is manufactured in California) authentic chicharron can be found all over Los Angeles and other Mexican-American communities. Chicharron is the skin of a pork which is fried in a huge copper pot. I am not sure if this helps with the cooking, but it definitely allows for the spread of the godly smell across town so people hone in and buy it by the pound. Chicharron can come with or without meat, but trust me, the meatier the better.
The snack in the picture goes for about 1.50, but real chicharron is sold by the pound. It goes for about $6-8 /lb. depending on whether is has meat on it or not. You can get half a pound if you want, but if you have never had it before, GET THE FULL POUND!
[Side Note: All pictures were taken with my Nexus 4 Google Phone. Given the quality, I might put my DSLR on the backburner from now on.]
Are there any other tasty Mexican Snacks I missed? Share in the comments please!