Every year at the end of October and beginning of November, Mexican people gather with their families to celebrate and remember deceased loved ones in a tradition deeply rooted in Mexican culture: Dia de Muertos, Day of the Dead. While it is celebrated differently across the many regions of Mexico, one of the most important aspects of these festivities all over the country is the ritual of offering food and drinks that were particular favorites of lost loved ones. These offerings are placed on a family altar and are for deceased family members to enjoy on this special night.
No matter where you find yourself in Mexico at this time of year, here are 5 Day of the Dead foods that you definitely need to know about:
1. Pan de Muerto
Literally meaning ‘bread of the dead’, this traditional sweet bread is a crucial member of the Day of the Dead food family. Throughout October, find this bread everywhere in bakery windows and on the displays at supermarkets. It’s a soft, sweet bun-shaped loaf of bread, often flavored with orange or anise seeds, topped with sugar and decorated with a skull and crossbones. This is to honor deceased family members and celebrate the eternal circle of life.
2. Calaveritas de Azucar
Candies are a staple addition to any Day of the Dead altar, from chocolates to hard sweets topped with seeds and nuts or coated in honey. The sugar skull candies, calaveritas de azucar, are not actually for eating but are simply another offering placed on altars in family homes. A skull-shaped candy might seem quite morbid but these are brightly and intricately decorated with icing and even glitter and stickers, particularly if one of the deceased family members is a child.
You might have heard of this famous dish from Oaxaca! Mole is a wonderfully rich sauce made with different ingredients including peppers and chilies and flavored with chocolate. There are many different mole recipes with a variety of ingredients but mole negro is traditionally reserved for Day of the Dead. It’s a complex sauce which is quite labor intensive and can take days to prepare – many of the ingredients are toasted and ground together. It’s a staple at this time of year as recipes are often passed down from generation to generation.
Tamales can be eaten all year round but are particularly popular during the Day of the Dead celebrations. Tamal is derived from the Aztec word tamalli which translates as ‘wrapped’. These are small parcels of filling and corn paste bound in a banana leaf or corn husk which are then steamed and cooked underground. If you’re looking for something truly authentic, this is about as Mexican as it gets!
5. Dulce de Calabaza
Dulce de Calabaza, or ‘sweet of pumpkin’ is a wonderfully colorful, autumnal addition to any Day of the Dead dinner. Pumpkin can be found in most markets at this time of year and it’s not commonly carved into a lantern but rather used as a sweet addition to the table. It’s more yellow than your typical pumpkin which can be carved into a lantern and is cooked until its beautifully soft with cinnamon or brown sugar.
If you are visiting Mexico, stay with us in City Express, we have the perfect room for you to get ready for the Day of the Dead Celebration and enjoy all those typical foods in our restaurants.