Food is very important to Mexican culture. In fact, Mexican cuisine was recently declared by UNESCO to be central to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mexico. Not surprisingly then, the food in Mexico is excellent, with regional variations that go far beyond the “burritos” and “nachos” that most foreigners have in mind when they the think of Mexican food.
We have everything here in DF. (As an aside, foreigners should know that Mexicans refer to Mexico City as “DF,” pronounced “Day Efay.” This stands for “Distrito Federal.”) We have Costco, big supermarkets, specialty grocers and mercados (open-air markets). There are also little neighbourhood stands that sell fruit. You can get pretty much any kind of food that you want in the city.
One of the things that expats are often surprised by when they come to Mexico is the variety and relative affordability of vegetables and fruits. For example, coming from Canada, while we are used to seeing some of the same exotic fruits that we have in Mexico, in Canada or the US they are very expensive. In general, in DF, you can expect fruits and vegetables to cost at least 25% to 30% less than what you would pay in Canada. In the rest of the country, the cost will be around 50% to 60% less than the amount you would pay in Canada.
Vegetables and fruits in Mexico are also very fresh. They haven’t been on a truck for 2 weeks driving up to Canada or the US and because of that, the fruits and vegetables in Mexico taste different – and better! You can find lots of discussions online about expats returning to Canada or the United States who are very disappointed to discover that food in their home country is nothing like the food that they have become used to in Mexico.
Expats who want to shop in large supermarkets will find many local chains in Mexico City, including Superama, Chedraui and Soriana. There are also “big box stores” such as Costco and Walmart. Many expats enjoy shopping at City Market, a gourmet boutique grocery store chain known for its imported foods. Expats hungry for a taste of home are likely to find their favorites at City Market. It is also the place to find excellent imported cheeses – including my favorite triple cream brie! - seafood, and other foods from all over the world.
However, many people prefer to shop at mercados like Mercado San Juan or local neighbourhood tianguis that operate on different days of the week. These are some of the best places to buy “fresh from the farm” fruits and vegetables – you can also find meats, poultry, seafood, flowers, spices and specialty game meats. Although Mexico City is not on the coast, fresh seafood is flown in daily from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. We recently went to Mercado San Juan to buy a fresh Thanksgiving turkey. The turkeys in the mercado were like ostriches, and the vendor happily butterflied it for us - and threw in a few extra necks and feet for our stock!
So, here in Mexico City you can have all kinds of experiences when buying food. You can have a Mexican experience, or you can have a very “American” experience. Personally, we mix it up depending on what we are shopping for.
Mexico City in particular has a wonderful supply and variety of foods because it is pretty much in the center of the country and is a huge market of over 20 million people. The food supply in the rest of the country of Mexico can sometimes be less varied because people rely mainly on the local supply of food. However, in most cities around Mexico, you will find wonderful fresh produce from the agricultural areas surrounding the cities. Because of Mexico´s climate, fresh food is available here all year long.
There is no shortage of amazing food!