Experiencing Street Food Across Central America & Mexico

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We love eating street food. In fact, we think it’s one of the best parts about traveling. During our ‘first rodeo’ when we drove from the United States to Costa Rica, we were afraid to eat anywhere but established fast food eateries. But we’ve since learned better. Eating street food is a tasty way to immerse yourself in the culture.

mexico street food

“But won’t you get sick?” you may be asking (as I once did.)  Probably. At least at first. But that’s okay. Then you’re body will build up an immunity, and you can indulge in all the street food you want. My dad spent some time in Chile as a youth. When he very first arrived, he drank water out of a pitcher sitting on the table… it was the wrong water, aka NOT drinking water.

He was sooooo sick. Miserably, want-to-die sick. But after it was over, he could drink any water, anywhere. He was immune. I never got as sick as my dad did but I did get sick in the beginning and now it’s very rare. Unlike our ‘first rodeo’, when we crossed into Mexico (for the second time along our Epic Expedition) in 2011, we ate street food. Our first experience was at a pretty sketchy roadside stand. Whatever was nearby smelled of sewage. I remember getting sick from that little meal and it lasted several days.

Lake Chapala

This was at a tianguis (market) in Ajijic/Lake Chapala. Yum.

Lake Chapala

Fresh Mexican corn tortillas were one of our favorites in that part of Mexico. Here we are buying them hot off the press from the tortilla man at his store/home.

tortilla man

Jocotepec

Buying buckets full of fresh raspberries was AMAZING!

Jocotepec - 08

This big pot of raspberries cost us the same as the little box would at a grocery store in the States.

Jocotepec - 09

Paracho

Here we’re eating at a market in Paracho, Mexico. That part of Mexico uses a lot of those big, clay pots for cooking. I bought one, but it broke in Guatemala.

Paracho

Parícutin

The famous ‘growing volcano’ that enveloped a town, before hiking up to the ruins (and climbing on top of the cathedral), we were fed this INCREDIBLE meal… ohhhh, so good. The tortillas were made from a black corn, ground by hand, and cooked over a fire.

Paracutin

Tzintzuntzan (Seen-soon-san)

That big meaty thing… lamb. Yummy!

Tzintzuntzan Dia de los Muertos - 03

Waiting for our tacos while celebrating the night before Dia de los Muertos in Tzintzuntzan.

Tzintzuntzan Dia de los Muertos - 18

Patzcuaro

I really like this city. We were here in Patzcuaro for Dia de los Muertos. That soup was delish! Called something like pozole. Anyone know for sure?

patzcuaro mexico

Morelia

I LOVED this town. I could have spent more time… very European feel (as if I would know, I haven’t been to Europe… yet.) This stuff was unique to this town… chopped green mangos, jicama, pineapple and other fruit, topped with cheese and chili sauce.

Morelia - 06354

Our dinner that night. Don’t know what it’s called, but it was tasty.

Morelia - 38

Mexico City

What a great place. I could go back there in a second to explore more (loved the Museo and riding the subway.) Yes, those people are selling food out of a shopping cart, and would run when they saw the police coming.

mexico city street food

Oaxaca (Wuh-hock-uh)

A fantastic city, these tlyudas that we ate at the local market in town were some of our all-time favorite Mexican food (unique mostly to Oaxaca.) The ruins of Monte Alban are nearby, and also one of our favorites.

oaxaca tlyuda

Chiapas

The state of Chiapas in Mexico is so dazzlingly beautiful… and it has a unique culture similar to Guatemala, with their cultural dress. On Thanksgiving Day we ate in a market in the highlands of Chiapas. This state is home to a few more of our favorite places, like Palenque and Agua Azul.

Chiapas

El Tule

As we headed southeast, after checking out one of the oldest trees in the world, we stopped for a taste test of fresh agave nectar… before it was made into liquor.

Tule - 08

Tule - 09

Laguna Bacalar

We spent about seven weeks at the ‘Lake of Seven Colors’ — it was heavenly. Every Saturday we’d buy chicken and tortillas from this little shop/house.

bacalar mexico

Belize

A very unique country with an interesting mix of food, people and culture. Their little meat pies were good (that’s what the guy with the ‘bike’ is selling.) Belize is where we first tried El Salvadorian pupusas.

belize city

Hopkins, Belize

This isn’t street food, we had to gather our own at this nature preserve in Hopkins.

Serendipity & Hopkins - 10

Serendipity & Hopkins - 14

Peten, Guatemala

After we first crossed the border into Guatemala (after visiting Tikal), we got to eat a new favorite, pupusas. The grilled meat prepared roadside was really good too.

guatemala street food

Panajachel, Guatemala

Shopping at the market. We lived here for over a year, on the shores of Lake Atitlan.

panajachel market guatemala

Making tamales with a local family.

tamales

Ferria came to town. That really happy guy is selling peanuts. Fried chicken and french fries is (surprisingly?) a very popular Guatemalan street food.

Ferria

Lake Atitlan

Sometimes we get a special treat… a nice dinner at a nice restaurant, like when we went to Casa del Mundo for our anniversary.

casa del mundo

Casa del Mundo 12th Anniv - 30

These ladies made a delicious salad with beets, onions, apples and all kinds of good stuff, in San Lucas Tolimán… a town on Lake Atitlan.

SAD Diet Effects - 17

SAD Diet Effects - 24

 

Patanatic, Guatemala

We spent a lot of time with this wonderful family, as we worked on the Self-Reliance Project (the precursor to Mayan Eco Homestead.) They made us many wonderful meals during those several weeks.

guatemalan food culture

2 Presidentes

Sipicate, Guatemala

We had some surfing mis-adventures in Sipicate… and some good pupusas.

sipicate guatemala

Surfing Adventures Sipicate - 05

San Sebastian, Guatemala

Guatemalans love to put mayonnaise and ketchup on their corn… don’t knock it ’til you try it.

That interesting looking bowl of yellow stuff… that’s iguana stew. (Greg ate an ‘iguana-male’ in Mexico once.)

guatemalan food

Mexico/Guatemala Border

While living in Guatemala, we had to do border runs every 90 days to renew our visas. It was lucky that they had good food in the border town.

mexico guatemala border

Mexico:Guat Border - 08

El Salvador

We finally had pupusas in their native land… mmmmm.

el salvador pupusas

pupusas

León, Nicaragua

My first meal in Nicaragua… well, I thought I was in heaven. Served on a banana leaf, that’s kinda cool.

nicaraguan food

Nicaragua has some good food… although they really like to fry it. The tostones are tasty, with fried cheese (top right). And you can’t beat the $2 plate. Cacao smoothies from the market are our favorite treat! And I love me some fried plantains.

nicaraguan food

Costa Rica

Here we are full circle, back where we first began our nomadic wanderings 7 years ago. Ironically, we haven’t eaten any gallo pinto yet. Only fruit from the market (or a roadside stand at the beach.)

costa rica fruit stand

And we were invited for lunch at an old friend’s house. But she’s Nicaraguan ;)

Lunch with Alba - 10

Lunch with Alba - 11

Of course, there is always fruit…

Every country we’ve visited has delicious, exotic, wonderful fruit… that’s one of the best parts.

Fruit

And markets…

Always a great place to get a cheap meal… if you can put up with the flies and the stray dogs.

Markets

Do you love street food? What is your favorite?

 

Rachel Denning
Rachel Denning is an unassuming mother of five who never really did any international traveling until she had four children. After a second honeymoon to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, she and her husband decided to sell most of their belongings and move their family abroad.

Driving from the United States to Panama, they settled in Costa Rica for a year, until the U.S. financial market crash in 2008, when they lost their location independent income. Returning to the United States to look for work, they knew they'd be back 'out' again, having been officially bitten by the travel bug!

Despite adjustments to living a simpler life (or perhaps because of it), they were able to save enough money to move to the Dominican Republic in 2009. After six months they came back to the States once more, where they were offered employment working with a non-profit organization in India.

They spent five months living in Tamil Nadu, then returned to the States once more (to Alaska) so they could have baby number five - Atlas.

From there, they set out in April of 2011 to drive, in a veggie powered truck, from Alaska to Argentina, visiting every continental country in North and South America.

Travel is a part of their life now, and they can't imagine doing anything else. Rachel photographs and writes about their incredible family travel adventures on their website, and they also have resources that encourage others to live a deliberate life.
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