Guacamole, a magical name, that immediately reminds us of Mexico and its delicious explosive cuisine. A dip, incredibly simple to prepare, based on avocado, seasoned with lime, cilantro, chili pepper, tomato, and onion. Behind this simplicity lies a whole world to explore!
Guacamole is as old as the world, it is a recipe that comes from the Aztecs, the masters in the preparation of sauces and dips.
Let’s talk about this Mexican cuisine, which was been designated by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of humanity in 2010. Mexican cuisine evokes a variety of colors and flavors that tell our palates the story of the marriage of the Aztec culture and that of the Spanish conquistadors, in a history of more than 5 centuries.
To speak of this cuisine that is so varied by just calling it “Mexican cuisine” would almost be a sacrilege. In reality, the plural should be mandatory as there is not one but several Mexican cuisines. Every region, every city, every state of this country has its history, its dishes, and its traditional version of the national dishes.
The origins of Mexican cuisine can be traced back to the Maya people, a cultural people of Amerindians who lived in southern Mexico and northern Central America (Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador), originally from Yucatán in the surrounding area, around the year 2600 before the Christian era.
The Mayan diet was based on corn, beans and vegetables. It is one of the most protein-rich cuisines. Corn, one of the main cultures of the country, combines cultural and gastronomic, even magical traditions. Festivals, rituals and ceremonies have been associated with this ingredient since the Mayan era, demonstrating the importance of maize for the country, a source of life with profound historical significance.
As for beans, they are one of the basic elements of the Mexican diet, and are present in almost every meal. They can be white, red, black, or purple and present as much in snacks, in desserts, in soups, as in stews.
Mexican dishes are colorful thanks to the huge variety of vegetables that are used. Aromatic herbs are also an essential element of this rich cuisine; Cilantro, parsley, thyme, oregano, and especially epazote are often found. Epazote is a typical South American herb with a fairly strong flavor.
The dishes of the different regions of Mexico have different tastes, textures, and aromas. Mexico is a land that covers more than 750,000 square miles, crossed by several climates. There are therefore gastronomic differences from one state to another, from one province to another, depending on the climate of mountainous, volcanic or coastal areas.
Over time, dishes of Spanish tradition based on beef, pork or chicken, wine, garlic and onion and the culinary styles of the Spanish conquistadors have all been associated with typical foods of pre-Columbian Mexico including to those of the Aztec and Maya cultures. Mexican cuisine has also absorbed new influences such as Caribbean and even French traditions, following European conquests.
What are the most popular Mexican recipes?
Who does not know about chilaquiles, tacos, enchiladas, gordita, tostadas, tamales, huachinango a la Veracruzana, guacamole and many others? All accompanied by a good horchata… or a paloma or a margarita!
But there is also Tex-Mex cuisine, a cuisine that originated in Texas and the southern United States with its most emblematic dishes being fajitas, burritos, nachos, chimichanga, or the ultra popular chili con carne.
What is the origin of guacamole?
Let’s go back to our guacamole! What a great dip! The avocado and its pale green color, which contrasts with the dark green color of cilantro with a hint of red tomato and chili peppers!
Guacamole, now popular all over the world, is a Mexican avocado dip, that is also used as a side to many dishes.
The recipe dates back to the time of the Aztecs. The original guacamole recipe consisted only of avocado purée mixed with lime juice and salt, but over time it was enriched to a more elaborate and tasty version. In addition to avocado, the main ingredients are lime juice, tomato, Mexican onion (mature scallion) or red onion, salt, and black pepper. Some will replace pepper with chili pepper (red or green jalapeño) and some will put a little bit of both. Some will also add a hint of garlic.
The traditional method of preparing guacamole involves the use of a typically Mexican molcajete, a mortar and pestle, to crush and mix the ingredients.
Guacamole (pronounced: /gwa.kamo.lé/) is a Castilian word, derived from the Nahuatl word ahuaca-mulli, literally “avocado sauce”. Many historical documents confirm the existence of this sauce in the sixteenth century. The name itself derives from the combination of two Aztec words: ahaucat, meaning avocado and mulli meaning mixture (sauce).
Do you know that originally, in Mexico, guacamole was a men’s affair? Indeed, for the Aztecs, the avocado has an erotic meaning since it symbolizes a testicle. Women had absolutely no right to harvest avocados and even less to crush them … as that would be seen as crushing testicles!
According to mythology, the legend says that it is the God Quetzalcoatl, Quetzal’s feathered serpent or divine serpent in Nahuatl, one of the main Mesoamerican deities, who offered the guacamole recipe to his Toltec people, who then spread it throughout Mesoamerica, located in eastern and central Mexico and Guatemala.
So, for the Aztecs, guacamole was considered to be “the fruit of paradise” and a powerful aphrodisiac with very erotic connotations. It is therefore this belief that prevented women from participating in the picking of avocados, since it was considered a symbol representing the testicles.
What are the health benefits of avocado?
It is used to enrich savory dishes, it is often used in salads, in sauces or dips but many of us would ask the question: is avocado a fruit or a vegetable?
Avocado is actually a fruit and not a vegetable! Indeed, botany is an exact science and it classifies the avocado among the fruits. To be precise, it is a drupe, a fleshy fruit with a thin skin and a woody pit, just like almond, peach, or cherry. Avocado is a fruit native to the tropical forests of Mexico.
After the name ahuaca cited above, it was given the name aguagate. Praised for its delicate and creamy taste, it was described as a butter in the sixteenth century. Indeed, the Spaniards who colonized Mexico immediately learned to love guacamole to use as a substitute for butter.
In the kitchen, avocado is used to enrich salads or appetizers. You can enjoy it by itself, or simply spread on bread or sweetened with honey or sugar. It can be mixed with crustaceans or different types of fish, or with cheeses.
The avocado oxidizes very quickly in contact with air, so it is better to prepare it at the last moment, and to coat it with lemon or lime juice right away.
Avocado is a high-calorie fruit with a good source of potassium and antioxidants. It contains beta-sitosterol, a cholesterol-lowering substance, and it helps prevent cardiovascular disease. The mineral, vitamin and omega 3 content of avocado also brings many benefits to our skin and hair. In fact, it is also ideal for wraps and masks.
How to choose an avocado?
Its average weight is about 10 oz but there are varieties that can weigh up to 4 lb! Among the many varieties of avocado, two are very popular, Hass and Fuerte.
Here are the most popular varieties in the world:
– Hass: small fruit with thick, rather rigid, grainy skin, of purplish-brown color at maturity. Its flesh is firm and well perfumed. It is mainly grown in Spain (September to April), Mexico (September to December), South Africa (May to September) and Israel (February to April)
– Fuerte: fruit shaped like pear, with thin skin, dark green color. Its creamy green pulp has a delicious and very pronounced flavor. The origin of the fuerte avocado is Israel. It is also found in Spain (October to April), in South Africa (April to September)
– Ettinger: the most elongated avocado, with a thin soft, smooth green skin, and a pale pulp. Native to Israel where it is grown from September to April, it is also grown in South Africa (May to September).
– Nabal: almost round avocado, with dark green smooth skin veined with black. Its firm and very colorful flesh allows cooking. It is also from Israel where it is cultivated from January to March.
– Lula: big avocado, swollen at the base, smooth and yellow green skin. Itds flesh is very tender when it is ripe. It is from the West Indies.
Whatever the avocado, before choosing it, apply a slight pressure with your thumb on the surface of the fruit:
– If it is as hard as a stone, the avocado is unripe. Of course you can buy it, but you will have to let it ripen a few days before eating it.
– If the skin gives way without leaving a trace, the avocado is ripe and ready to be tasted.
– If the skin leaves a small fingerprint after being pressed, the avocado will be too ripe to be eaten sliced, but it will always be good to crush, just like for guacamole for example or for the excellent feroce d’avocat from the West Indies.
Avoid a dented avocado, or with obvious cuts on the surface.
You should ripen an unripe avocado for 3 to 6 days at room temperature. To speed up the ripening process, you can put it in a paper bag with an apple or banana. Once ripe, the avocado can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days maximum.
Whatever you use the avocado for, you will obviously need to use it at the last minute, at most 30 minutes to 1 hour before tasting as its flesh oxidizes quickly when it contact with air, and it darkens.
The trick to improve the preservation of guacamole (or other preparation based on avocado) is to place the avocado pit in the guacamole bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and press with the palm of your hand so that it sticks to the guacamole, and put it in the fridge.
In Mexico, guacamole is usually consumed at the beginning of a meal, accompanied by a stack of freshly prepared hot tortilla chips or other snacks such as chicharrón or carnitas. It can also be accompanied by a plate of tacos or simply with nachos.
At home today, we have combined Mexican cuisine with Peruvian cuisine and cuisines from the coastal regions of Latin America as we enjoyed it with a delicious sea bass ceviche, tortilla chips and French baguette.
- 2 avocados , ripe
- 1 tomato (optionally blanched and peeled), seeded and diced
- 1 Mexican onion , mature scallion (or ½ red onion), finely chopped
- 1 small jalapeño pepper , finely chopped
- 1 small bunch of cilantro , very finely chopped
- The juice of 1 large lime
- Black pepper (optional)
Scoop out the flesh of the avocados.
In a molcajete (Mexican mortar and pestle) or a classic mortar, mix while crushing the onion, cilantro and chili pepper.
Add the avocado and lemon juice and crush while mixing it with the rest, making sure not to purée the mixture.
Finally add the tomato, salt, pepper and mix gently with a spoon.
Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.