The Austin Chronicle

Mexican Breakfast 101

By Claudia Alarcón, March 18, 2011, Food

Here are some of the most popular items to be found on a Mexican breakfast menu. Each restaurant may have its own version, but these are the basics.

Breakfast tacos: Arguably Austin's most popular option for a quick and cheap breakfast, these are usually flour tortillas filled with a variety of ingredients, most likely scrambled eggs with any number of additions, including potatoes, bacon, sausage, chorizo (spicy Mexican sausage), cheese, or refried beans.

Plates: These dishes usually come with refried beans (either black or pinto) and/or cubed sautéed potatoes on the side, the equivalent of hash browns. Potatoes are not an authentic Mexican addition but have been embraced in Texas as a common side dish for Mexican breakfast items. Some places make them simple, yet others like to season them with onion, chile peppers, bacon, or other additions and spices.

Salsas: The most common are either tomato-based (red) or tomatillo-based (green) and are seasoned with a variety of chiles, including jalapeño, serrano, chipotle, ancho, and many others. Pico de gallo, known in Mexico as salsa picada or salsa Mexicana, is made with chopped fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro (fresh coriander to you Europeans), green chiles, and lime juice.

Huevos rancheros: Meaning "ranch-style," these are fried eggs served atop a fried corn tortilla and covered in a mild-to-spicy red sauce.

Huevos a la Mexicana: eggs scrambled with tomatoes, onions, and green peppers, ingredients that match the colors of the Mexican flag.

Migas: A variant on huevos à la Mexicana, with the addition of crisp, fried tortilla strips and cheese, this is an incredibly popular item on Austin's menus. Some places use migas as a filling for breakfast tacos.

Huevos con chorizo: eggs scrambled with chorizo, a spicy Mexican sausage.

Machacado con huevo: eggs scrambled with machacado, shredded dried beef. This dish is typical of the northern states of Mexico.

Huevos Motuleños: A specialty of the southern state of Yucatán, traditionally these are fried corn tortillas smeared with refried black beans, topped with fried eggs, then covered with a warm tomato sauce and garnished with ham, fresh peas, and sliced plantains. Some places do not use tortillas; others leave out the ham and peas or omit the plantains.

Chilaquiles: Crisp fried tortilla strips smothered in a warm, cooked sauce, either red or green, that varies in degree of heat. These are usually topped with crumbled Mexican cheese, diced fresh onion, and sour cream, and can be served with eggs on the side.

Menudo and posole: These are two classic hangover cures from Interior Mexico. Both are hearty soups made with spicy broths. Posole is the milder one, usually made with hominy – dried white corn kernels from which the hull and germ have been removed – and pork or chicken. Traditionally, it comes with garnishes like shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, chopped onions, lime wedges, and ground chile pepper on the side to be added to taste. Menudo is its northern cousin, a spicier broth stocked with beef tripe, and definitely an acquired taste.

Birria: A classic Sunday special from central Mexico, it's braised lamb or goat meat, usually shredded and served with hot corn tortillas and a spicy chile guajillo sauce. Some places serve it as a soup in its own consommé, or with a cup of consommé on the side, along with chopped onions, cilantro, and lime wedges on the side. This is another popular hangover cure in Mexico.

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