I'm from LA. Mexican food is a staple here since we're so close to the border. But in terms of real Mexican food, what is considered authentic by someone actually from Mexico?

Well, while I was abroad in London, I was blessed to share a room with my lovely friend Claudia who grew up in Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico and whose mother is a glorified foodie--she owns her own restaurant and is the head chef. So naturally, Claudia is pretty picky when it comes to Mexican food aside from her mother's amazing cooking (it really is that good).

So I asked Claudia if she could debunk some Mexican food myths for us based on her experiences. And while she acknowledges that Mexico is big and diverse with each state celebrating its own regional traditions and foods, she is an avid foodie and someone I trust to enlighten us. Here's our Q&A.

1. Are breakfast burritos a real thing? If not, then what’s a typical Mexican breakfast?

cheese, burrito, bacon
Tara Bitran

Answer: Burritos are sold in Mexico and especially in touristy areas, but they are not necessarily considered a staple breakfast. A common breakfast in Uruapan involves tacos and tortas. It can be tacos de guisado (I explain this in Question 2), or tortas, which are sandwiches that can be stuffed with salchicha (a type of sausage), cheese, carnitas, ham, and scrambled eggs with chorizo.

Chilaquiles are also popular but not recommended on a daily basis. I feel like something with eggs in the morning is a staple breakfast. Some people make molletes (bolillo/bread with beans and melted cheese), too.

2. Are hard or soft tacos more popular? And which kinds of fillings are most commonly used for tacos?

chicken, fish, tacos
Tiffany Meh

Answer: Both are popular but soft tacos are literally on every corner. Hard tacos are not like Taco Bell. We DON’T add cheddar cheese and guacamole.

Hard tacos are rolled up, deep fried tacos that are usually stuffed with chicken, cheese, potato, shredded beef, cabbage, tomato salsa or green salsa, cotija cheese, and sour cream. Some people add marinated onions or pickled carrots, but it depends on the spot.

Soft tacos, though, are sold all day, every day. There are tacos de guisado. Guisados are different stuffings, so it can literally be anything: mole, tinga de pollo, aporreadillo (eggs and jerky style beef with salsa), chicharron, beef with a black chili sauce (carne en chile negro), etc.

Basic street tacos are bistec/carne asada and chorizo. Tacos al pastor (pork) are also popular. Cabeza tacos are really good. Sounds gross, but tongue tacos (tacos de lengua) are the best! Oh and intestine (tacos de tripa) ones are terribly unhealthy but still popular.

3. Are margaritas a Mexican treat? Sangria?

vodka, sweet, ice, lime, strawberry, watermelon, juice, cocktail
Lauren Kaplan

Answer: I believe sangria is a Spanish drink, but Mexico was colonized for centuries by Spaniards, so our cuisines can be similar at times. Sangria is sold in pretty much every restaurant, but the big things in Mexico are tequila and beer. Actually beer is more popular at family reunions, parties, food outings, and get-togethers, and is considered a cure for hangovers.

I know tequila is big, especially in Jalisco. Margaritas are popular as well. Some people mix tequila with clamato (tomato juice) and beer. Micheladas are a super popular drink. It’s basically lime, salt, chili, hot sauce, beer, and ice. They usually have a garnish of jicama, cucumber, and/or mango.

4. Are there any restaurants in LA that provide authentic Mexican food?

meat, huevos rancheros, egg, avocado, vegetable
Helena Lin

Answer: I know that there have to be pretty amazing restaurants, but I haven’t found one yet.

5. Are nachos considered Mexican food?

tacos, nachos, cilantro, chicken, sour cream, cream, lime
Gillian Bayer

Answer: Nachos are sold in movie theaters and some restaurants, but it’s definitely more of an American thing.

6. Are chicken quesadillas a real thing? If not, what ordinarily goes in a quesadilla?

pancake, chocolate, sauce, cake, pastry, sweet
Christopher Garcia

Answer: NOPE. Quesadillas are usually made with corn tortillas (hand-made tortillas are the best). They are plain, or come with carne asada/ bistec or chorizo. We have a flour quesadilla called “gringa,” which is funny because that’s a term used by Mexicans to refer to Americans. Gringas are flour tortilla quesadillas with meat: al pastor, chorizo, or bistec.

7. What are standard Mexican dishes we should all know about? And what foods do you consider authentic Mexican meals?

ceviche, meat, bread, cheese, fish, lettuce, vegetable, tomato
Jocelyn Hsu

Answer: There are so, so many. Some of my favorites are mole con pollo - my grandma’s mole is the winner for me, enchiladas, tacos dorados (hard tacos), cochinita pibil (traditional dish from Yucatan), sopes, tacos de bistec y chorizo, chiles en nogada, and ceviche.

Also, for dessert, you've got pastel de tres leches, arroz con leche, flan, and horchata.

8. Could you please describe tres leches cake, or pastel de tres leches? And horchata?

ice cream, whipped cream, cake, strawberry, cream
Tara Bitran

Answer: Tres leches is basically a wet cake that contains three different types of milk (that’s the literal translation). I’m super biased, so I only eat my mom’s tres leches. Horchata is one of my favorite aguafrescas (fruit waters). Horchata is a rice and milk-based sweet drink. It's kind of like a thin, blended arroz con leche.

*Fun fact: The cake pictured above is Claudia's mom's homemade tres leches cake. I took a third of it home to eat the next day.

9. What are Cal-Mex meals you’ve found in California that you would not necessarily find in Mexico?

egg yolk, toast, avocado, bread, egg
Tara Bitran

Answer: Avocado toast is definitely NOT a thing in Mexico. Chicken quesadillas, hard shell tacos with ground beef, and taco bowls aren't either. In addition, fried flour tacos aka flautas (flautas are also a term for the fried, rolled tacos while tacos dorados is for when they are folded), only add water guacamole powder here (we use real avocados back home).

10. What are other Mexican food myths that need debunking that I didn’t address and that you think are muy importante?

Tara Bitran

Answer: Since a lot of Mexican food sounds unhealthy, because sometimes it can be, there might be a stereotype that Mexican food is too greasy or spicy. People don’t eat fried tacos and enchiladas (see Claudia's mom's ridiculously good homemade enchiladas above) every day.

People are health-conscious, too, so they’ll also cook lighter meals like seafood or power breakfasts. Lime and chili are extremely common though.

*Fun fact: I will admit that at least in my town two things are on every corner--taco places and gyms. Might be just a coincidence, but who knows? 

11. Last but not least, is Chipotle considered Mexican food to YOU?

date, coffee, beer
Heather Harris

Answer: NEVER! 

As you might be able to grasp, Claudia is a not a fan of Chipotle. But why should she be? She's been blessed with a mother who makes authentic Mexican meals all the time. She even made us a cake with homemade peanut butter. Seriously.

And thanks to Claudia, now we've had some common myths about Mexican food debunked. Gracias, mi amiga.