Mexican markets hold the key to amazing dishes and fantastic ingredients, but they can be intimidating if you are not used to them.
How to shop at a Mexican market
If you’ve never been to a Mexican market, you should go. Inside those walls rest the secrets to delicious meats, vegetables, sauces and desserts — if only you know where to find them.
Still, like any new store, they can be intimidating when you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. That’s where this advice might help.
Discovering the Market
Just because it’s a Mexican market doesn’t mean that there’s no rhyme or reason to how the store is laid out. What is true in American supermarkets is true in Mexican markets, though many times, your Mexican market has less total square footage than its larger counterparts. This can make the stores feel cramped and oftentimes precludes usage of clever signage.
Therefore, the best strategy for successfully shopping a Mexican market is good reconnaissance. Spend your first few minutes getting an idea where different types of foods are located. Items like the meat case and fresh produce are usually easy to spot, but the real gems, things like fresh masa for tortillas or hard-to-find sauces, can get lost in the shuffle. The way to remedy that is just to look around.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
For some people, there is often a hesitancy about asking questions when they go into an ethnic grocery store, be it Mexican, Asian, Indian, etc. However, there’s little reason to be afraid. Grocery stores make money when they sell product and many store owners get quite excited when customers (of any nationality) take an interest in their products.
What to Look for at the Mexican Market
While no two markets are going to be alike, one area in which a number of Mexican markets excel is in their meat departments. Many offer exciting ranges of chorizo (Latin/Spanish sausage), different cuts of meat and some products you may not have ever thought to try (like lengua — also known as tongue). Sometimes, they will even have pre-made products you can buy (like pre-stuffed beef or marinated fajita mix) that you can be reasonably sure is closer to authentic.
Another thing to buy at the Mexican market is those Mexican items you would normally get at a regular store. The selection of brands at a Mexican market is often different than what you normally buy, which allows you to experiment with new products. Even better, you can expect a decent level of quality and authenticity in those products because they are what those customers who are looking for a taste of home prefer.
Take a look at: How to Shop at a Farmers Market? Freshness at Its Peak!
One other thing you should consider buying is anything that looks good. If you are at the market and you see something you might like, try it. Even if you’re not sure what to do with it, you can always find a recipe for it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to find out what it is (lest you be surprised when you go to look up what a chicharrón is), but don’t be afraid to be adventurous. Some of the best dishes and biggest laughs come from trying new foods.
Hopefully this has given you confidence to go to your local Mexican market and shop with confidence. It really is a great place to find a wealth of new ingredients.