By Kary Vannice
I have a confession to make…I love Mexican street hot dogs! Notice I didn’t just say hot dogs in general. No, after moving to Mexico 4 years ago and discovering the local version of this delectable street food, not just any hot dog will do.
And it is not just the hot dog that I love, it is the whole adventure of finding and eating the dog. It really is an adventure.
The mystique of the Mexican hot dog is added to by the fact that you can’t just find these handheld delights any time of day. No, you will only find a true Mexican street dog at night, when vendors roll out their food carts into the lively downtown streets of Mexico. The nighttime surroundings add to the adventure.
You won’t be eating this meal surrounded by neatly dressed tourists while listening to the soft sounds of piano music. Nope. You will be mixing it up with the locals who are out enjoying the company of friends or doing some late night shopping in the town square. And, instead of soft background music, you will likely be listening to whatever Latino Pop happens to be blaring from the corner shop.
Now a Mexican street hot dog is not just any dog. They have taken this international symbol of street food and added local twists, to give it an ‘authentic’ Mexican flavor. I know this because my fascination with the Mexican hot dog led me on a quest to find the best Mexican street hot dog.
Yes, I actually did this. For a while, I made a point to eat a hot dog in every town and city I visited in Mexico. I found the basic recipe is always the same. It’s the toppings that really bring out the local ‘sabor’.
But, even the basic recipe cannot be considered normal. It starts off with a hot dog (of course), but it seems that there is just not enough pork in a hot dog for Mexicans, so they wrap it in bacon before throwing it onto the grill.
As you can imagine, all of that pork quickly turns into a pool of pig fat. And what better to do with pig fat than fry onions in it?!? A huge pile of juicy caramelized onions will be topping ‘numero uno’, part of the basic recipe.
Where it goes from there depends upon the region you’re in. In some cities you will find a pile of melting gooey cheese beside those onions destined for your delicious dog. All other topping are available in an assortment of jars, squeeze bottles and plastic containers.
The construction of a true Mexican street dog is a process that starts with a generous swipe of mayonnaise to coat the bun, then add the dog (wrapped in bacon), next comes the onions. Now it’s your choice…mustard, ketchup, tomatoes, cheese…all pretty standard. That, right there, can be a pretty good hot dog. But, any one who has spent any time in Mexico knows no dish is complete without some spice!
I have eaten hot dogs with fresh jalapeño, pickled jalapeño, Valentina, Tapatío, even homemade salsa pastes that always add a true local flavor.
But, after traveling far and wide and eating more hot dogs that I care to admit, my absolute favorite hot dog turned out to be 2 and a half blocks from my house. Deliciously topped off with diced fresh pineapple and drizzled with spicy ‘chile de arbol’ sauce!
So, the next time you are up for a true culinary adventure, wait until the sun goes down, take a stroll down to the main square, and try Mexico’s fiery version of the iconic street hot dog.