Mexican cuisine is known for its intense and varied flavours, colourful decoration, and variety of spices. Most of today's Mexican food is based on pre-hispanic traditions, including the Aztecs and Maya, combined with culinary trends introduced by Spanish colonists. The conquistadores eventually combined their imported diet of rice, beef, pork, chicken, wine, garlic and onions with the native pre-Columbian food, including maize, tomato, vanilla, avocado, papaya, pineapple, chile pepper, beans, squash, limes (limón in Mexican Spanish), sweet potato, peanut and turkey.
The most internationally recognised dishes include chocolate, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, tamales and mole among others. Regional dishes include mole poblano, chiles en nogada and chalupas from Puebla; cabrito and machaca from Monterrey, cochinita pibil from Yucatán, Tlayudas from Oaxaca, as well as barbacoa, chilaquiles, milanesas, and many others.
There are also more exotic dishes, cooked in the Aztec or Mayan style, with ingredients ranging from iguana to rattlesnake, deer, spider monkey, crickets, ant eggs, and other kinds of insects. This is usually known as comida prehispánica (or prehispanic food).
Mexican food varies by region, because of local climate and geography and ethnic differences among the indigenous inhabitants and because these different populations were influenced by the Spaniards in varying degrees. The north of Mexico is known for its beef, goat and ostrich production and meat dishes, in particular the well-known Arrachera cut. Central Mexico's cuisine is largely made up of influences from the rest of the country, but also has its authentic dishes, such as barbacoa, pozole, menudo and carnitas. Southeastern Mexico, on the other hand, is known for its spicy vegetable and chicken-based dishes. Seafood is commonly prepared in the states that border the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, the latter having a famous reputation for its fish dishes a la veracruzana.
In modern times, other cuisines of the world have become very popular in Mexico, thus adopting a Mexican fusion. For example sushi in Mexico is often made with a variety of sauces based on mango or tamarind, and very often served with serrano-chili blended soy sauce, or made with habanero and chipotle peppers. Tacos have also become popular served in very small tortillas, adopting the name of tacos árabes, or arab tacos for their resemblance to dolmas. Middle eastern cuisine is also popular due to the large Mexican-Lebanese population living in the country.
A distinction must be made between truly authentic Mexican food, and 'Tex Mex' (Texan-Mexican) cuisine. Mexican cuisine combines with the cuisine of the southwest United States (which itself has a number of Mexican influences) to form Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex cuisine.