Cinco de Mayo: Top Ten -
Published Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:57 pm
Cinco de Mayo: Top Ten

1. Flan

If you've eaten crème brûlée, you'll understand flan.

The Spanish baked custard can be coated with caramel. Some people even call it crème caramel.

2. Peppery fruit or jicama

Mexican fruit salad isn't what you might imagine. Street vendors on South 24th Street in Omaha take fresh fruit, sprinkle chili powder and lime juice over it, and serve it. Jicama, a Mexican root vegetable with a thin brown skin, white, crunchy interior and sweet, nutty flavor, can be served the same way.

3. Lengua and barbacoa

Mexican food uses meat that lots of Americans aren't familiar with — but try it and you might be surprised.

Lengua — beef tongue – and barbacoa — Mexico's take on barbeque — are available in many forms. Beginners might start with a lengua taco or burrito. Pork, goat or lamb can be prepared barbacoa style. The process begins by wrapping the meat in fragrant leaves, like banana leaf, and roasting it over hot coals in a pit.

4. Chicharrónes

Mexican grocery stores stock these salty, savory snacks, made from pork skin that's been deep fried twice, once in 325-degree oil and again in 375-degree oil. The process creates a ballooned, honeycomed puff.

5. Oxtail soup

Oxtail — once actually from an ox — usually refers to either veal or beef. The cut is bony but flavorful, which makes it a great choice for soup or stew. The cut's toughness dissipates after hours and hours of braising.

6. Albondigas

Spanish for “meatball,” Albondigas is a popular Mexican and Spanish dish with spicy meatballs in a tomato sauce. Albondigas also can be served in beef broth with chopped vegetables.

7. Seviche

Raw fish, when marinated in lime juice, gets cooked, and then you have seviche, a spicy, refreshing seafood dish. The acid in the lime juice cooks the seafood, which turns transparent. Add tomatoes, onions and green peppers to the marinade to round out the dish, which is most often made with very fresh sole, red snapper or pompano.

8. Horchata

A popular sweet drink in Mexico and Spain, horchata is widely available around South Omaha.

To make horchata, nuts or grains are steeped in water and then usually sweetened with sugar and cinnamon. The drink is served cold or at room temperature and comes in a variety of flavors: Horchata de arroz is made with rice, horchata de almendras with almonds, and the well-known horchata de chufa is made with tiny roots called chufa that taste similar to chestnuts.

9. Chile Rellenos

Literally translated as “stuffed peppers,” chile rellenos are mild green chiles stuffed with cheese, coated in an egg batter and fried until the outside is crisp and the inside cheese melted.

10. Sweet empenadas and savory Pan de Bolleo

You may have had a savory empenada before, but sweet ones are another Mexican favorite, often saved for dessert.

“Empenada” translated means “to bake in pastry,” so it makes sense that the speciality is sort of like a turnover, with a pastry crust and sweet filling. Empenadas come in lots of sizes, and can be large enough to feed a family or small enough to hold in your hand and eat in one bite.

At the International Bakery on South 24th Street, pastries abound. Many are sweet, but in the mornings, the bakery creates pan de bolleo, a small loaf of bread filled with savories like cream cheese and jalapenos or diced ham. They're usually warm when pulled off the tray and seem like a mix between a French croissant and a bagel.

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: Sarah Baker Hansen    |   402-444-1069    |  

Sarah writes restaurant reviews and food stories for the World-Herald.

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