You don’t need to be a vegetarian to want to know what’s in your food. It’s not unreasonable to ask, just do it with a smile, always!
Some people are more easy going and can eat food even if it has been made with lard or meat broth. One vegetarian friend said they are able to remove errant chunks of meat and continue eating. I can’t do that, if french fries have been fried in the same oil as fish, I will know it! You know what will bother you and how much to ask!
Lard is one of the most often used hidden ingredients. It is usually in tamale dough, refried beans, and is often used for cooking vegetables on a grill. You just need to ask or avoid those things if you’re unsure. Remember too that it is a Mexican trait to want to please you, so you may not always get the truth.
Chicken broth is another ingredient that seems to be in everything. It will be in most rice dishes, soups, and often even in the broth for cooking vegetarian dishes like chiles rellenos. If you examine boxes of bouillon cubes at the supermarket, even tomato flavor has chicken in it!
I lived in Mazatlán, Sinaloa for ten years. The summer is very hot and humid and the heat gives street vendors a lot of challenges with keeping food from spoiling. Most do a pretty good job. But if you throw them a curve asking them to prepare (for example) a salad for you they may not think about using the cutting board they use for meat would be a hazard to you. Be careful! I’d rather go hungry than risk a stomach problem. Oh! I love my tree trunk cutting board (above), the same kind the taco stands use, don’t you?
I’m sure you have heard that in México it is usual to clean your fruits and vegetables when you get home from the mercado with a product like Microdyn, above. Depending on how much produce you have either fill a sink or a bowl (or a plastic bag if you are in a hotel room) and put the number of drops for the volume of water. Soak per instructions. I usually leave mine for at least 15 minutes. Rinse, drain, and you’re ready to go. Please be assured that restaurants follow the same procedure. I can’t vouch for every place, everywhere but this cleaning process is certainly the norm here.
By the way – on sort of the same topic – if you order iced tea or lemonade or an agua fresca it will be made with purified water. If you ask for water in a restaurant, they may ask you if you want agua mineral or natural. Agua mineral is mineral water and natural is normal water, from a garrafón, which is also how you can ask for it so that they don’t bring you (and charge you for) an individual size bottle of water. Another thing they may ask you is whether you want your agua con heilo or tibia? They are asking you if you want water with ice (yes, it will be made with purified water, too) or at room temperature. Many Mexicans believe that you get sick drinking cold beverages and they request their water tibia.
Chicken Broth – Caldo de pollo
Lard – La manteca
Mineral Water – Agua minerál
Purified water served in a glass – Agua de garrafón
Lemonade – Limonada
20 Liter Water Bottle – Garrafón
Ice – El heilo
Room Temperature – Tibio/Tibia