Mexican street food can include tacos, quesadillas, pambazos, tamales, huaraches, alambres, al pastor, and food not suitable to cook at home, including barbacoa, carnitas, and since many homes in Mexico do not have or make use of ovens, roasted chicken. One attraction of street food in Mexico is the satisfaction of hunger or craving without all the social and emotional connotation of eating at home, although longtime customers can have something of a friendship/familial relationship with a chosen vendor.
Tacos are the top-rated and most well-known street Mexican food. It is made up of meat or other fillings wrapped in a tortilla often served with cheese added. Vegetarian fillings include mushrooms, potatoes, rice, or beans.
The best known of Mexico's street foods is the taco, whose origin is based on the pre-Hispanic custom of picking up other foods with tortillas as utensils were not used. The origin of the word is in dispute, with some saying it is derived from Nahuatl and others from various Spanish phrases. It possible the term taco comes from the term tlaco or tlacatl, which means middle or half in nahuatl. Tacos are not eaten as the main meal; they are generally eaten before midday or late in the evening. Just about any other foodstuff can be wrapped in a tortilla, and in Mexico, it varies from rice, to meat (plain or in sauce), to cream, to vegetables, to cheese, or simply to plain chile peppers or fresh salsa. Preferred fillings vary from region to region with pork generally found more often in the center and south, beef in the north, seafood along the coasts, and chicken and lamb in most of the country.
Another popular street food, especially in Mexico City and the surrounding area is the torta. It consists of a roll of some type, stuffed with several ingredients. This has its origins in the 19th century, when the French introduced a number of new kinds of bread. The torta began by splitting the roll and adding beans. Today, refried beans can still be found on many kinds of tortas. In Mexico City, the most common roll used for tortas is called telera, a relatively flat roll with two splits on the upper surface. In Puebla, the preferred bread is called a cemita, as is the sandwich. In both areas, the bread is stuffed with various fillings, especially if it is a hot sandwich, with beans, cream (mayonnaise is rare) and some kind of hot chile pepper.
The influence of American fast food on Mexican street food grew during the late 20th century. One example of this is the invention of the Sonoran hot dog in the late 1980s. The frankfurters are usually boiled then wrapped in bacon and fried. They are served in a bolillo-style bun, typically topped by a combination of pinto beans, diced tomatoes, onions and jalapeño peppers, and other condiments.
Along the US-Mexican border, specifically dense areas like Tijuana, Mexican vendors sell food such as fruit melanged with Tajin spice to people crossing the border via carts. In recent years, these food carts have been threatened by tightened border security at the port of entry. Both the US and the Mexican governments have proposed a project that would widen the streets at the border, allowing for more people to pass through the border, although widening them would decimate neighboring mercados that rely on the business of travelers.
Besides food, street vendors also sell various kinds of drinks (including aguas frescas, tejuino, and tepache) and treats (such as bionicos, tostilocos, and raspados). Most tamale stands sell atole as a standard accompaniment.
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