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Mexican restaurants offering traditional Mexican dishes can be found in pretty much every city in the world, and they all swear and vouch that their food is as authentic as it gets.
However, having lived both abroad and in Mexico for many years, we guarantee – no matter how renowned and fancy your local Mexican restaurant is, you’ll have better tacos (or any other Mexican dish) in the family-owned restaurant across the street from your Mexican Airbnb.
With that said, here we share with you the absolutely must-try Mexican dishes, and where to eat them in Puerto Vallarta.
Best Mexican Seafood Dishes
Mexico has a huge coastline, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that seafood is a staple of Mexican gastronomy. There are tons of dishes to try, but these two absolutely should be on your list.
Tostada de Aguachile
Aguachile is a dish pretty much limited to Mexico, reportedly originating from Sinaloa. Aguachile translates to “chili water” so as the name implies it’s seafood cooked in chillies. The types of chilies can vary, but chiltepines, local to Sinaloa, are one of the primary varieties. Other popular options include serrano and jalapeño peppers.
In general, the most common type of aguachile is made with shrimp, cucumber, onion, and lime juice. The chilies are usually blended with water to create the marinade.
Tip: most fresh seafood (ceviche, aguachile, etc) restaurants are lunch only. Plan accordingly, as most places will be open only from 12-6pm.
Where to eat tostadas de aguachile in Puerto Vallarta
Pal’Mar Seafood – Pal’Mar is a neighborhood staple in the Zona Romantica, with great seafood dishes and burgers. They have a few aguachile options, our favorite being the aguachile macho: green tuna or shrimp aguachile with cucumbers, red onions, pepper, coriander and pork rind. Delicious!
Lamara – this is a daytime seafood place that specializes in ceviche and aguachile tostadas. They also have an amazing cocktail list, extensive craft beer selections, and a well-thought-out wine list packed with fresh white wines.
Baja Style Fish Tacos
The most classic fish tacos, served in soft tortillas and topped with cabbage and salsas. You can select between grilled or battered and fried.
Tip: fried fish tacos are the absolute perfect pairing for orange wines. The medium acidity and bruised fruit characteristics of the wine pair beautifully with the fried fish.
Traditional Mexican Breakfast Dishes
Tacos de Birria
Birria is a traditional Mexican dish specifically from our state of Jalisco. Birria tacos feature tortillas filled with the stew’s tender meat. The tortillas are dipped in the thin layer of fat that floats to the top of the birria, then filled with meat and thrown on the griddle, giving them their Instagram-worthy look and addictively crispy exterior.
Tip: tacos de birria + consomé + a coca-cola = a guaranteed hangover cure
Some established restaurants have added more elevated, gourmet versions of birria to their menus, but the true experience is to have it in one of the many stands around town.
Chilaquiles are THE most popular Mexican breakfast dish – there is a reason chilaquiles are in every single breakfast restaurant menu in Mexico.
Regional Traditional Mexican Dishes
Chile en Nogada
Chile en nogada is a dish traditionally associated with the September Mexican independence celebrations (el Mes Patrio).
It consists of poblano chiles filled with picadillo (a mixture usually containing shredded meat, aromatics, fruits and spices) topped with a walnut-based cream sauce, called nogada, and pomegranate seeds, giving it the three colors of the Mexican flag: green from the chili, white from the nut sauce and red from the pomegranate.
Tip: it’s an almost impossible dish to find a wine pairing for. When in doubt, always go with a dry rosé wine.
Another traditional Mexican dish specifically from our state of Jalisco. A torta ahogada (or ‘drowned sandwich’ in English) is a Mexican sandwich made from a crusty bread roll that’s filled with pork carnitas and red onions. It’s dipped in a red chile sauce and served with fresh lime wedges
Cochinita pibil, a traditional slow-roasted pork Mexican dish originally from the Yucatán Peninsula, is intricate and complex.
Cochinita means baby pig, so true cochinita pibil involves roasting a whole suckling pig. Pibil is a cooking technique that involves wrapping the meat in banana leaves, marinating it in sour orange and achiote – a sweet, slightly peppery red sauce made from annatto seed – and baking it in a hand-dug barbecue pit in the ground for several hours. The meat becomes tender and flaky, with a subtle smoky flavor, and is generally served with tortillas.
Real cochinita pibil is not spicy, but it has a uniquely sweet, earthy aroma imparted by bitter oranges, achiote, charred garlic, and other spices.
Tip: whenever you’re in a yucateco restaurant, start the meal with a sopa de lima – another classic must-try from the Yucatán
Pozole is easily one of Mexico’s most iconic and beloved traditional Mexican dishes. Pozole is a mix between a soup and a stew, nearly all pozoles contain the base ingredients of pork, garlic and large hominy kernels (cacahuazintle), plus the added extras of shredded lettuce, hot sauce, diced onion, thinly sliced radish, a healthy squeeze of lime and avocado. It’s often served with tostadas and crema.
Where to eat tacos al pastor in Puerto Vallarta
Pancho’s Takos – the longest line for al pastor tacos you’ll even wait in. But it’s totally worth it!
Las Güeras Taqueria – a great neighborhood spot, just a few blocks from Pancho’s tacos and no lines
Tacos al Pastor Sonorita – great tacos, with locations in Zona Romantica, Versailles and Nuevo Vallarta
Mole is a dense sauce made from a unique mixture of chocolate and hot peppers. This provides a rich, unique and complex topping for a variety of dishes.
Mole Poblano takes an average of 20 ingredients, but 30 ingredients is not unheard of, and some mole recipes contain 10 different varieties of chiles alone.
Other ingredients include peanuts, almonds, fried bread, plantains, lard, sugar, bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon, cloves and many more. Mole Poblano is usually served over chicken or turkey with a side of rice and salad.
Where to eat mole poblano in Puerto Vallarta
Mole de Jovita – your 1-stop option to try 3 different moles. You can’t go wrong!
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