Mexican Student Ambassador Brenda Mondragón Toledo, who was studying at University College Cork, has some tips for making sure you eat well when studying abroad

As Mexicans, food is a central part of our lives. Our lives revolve around food, and we consider our dishes the best in the world (which is partly true). We grew up surrounded by it, where pampering our mouth and belly was essential: botanas, antojitos, corn, food for cold or hot days, street food, etc. We simply love food.

When foreigners come to our country, we want to know what they have eaten and what they think about it. Some people are amazed by our food, others not so much. Still, they are impressed by how important food is for us and how careful we are with ingredients, preparation and enjoyment.

All of this changes when we move to another country. We cannot find the ingredients or they taste different; people might not like our food; and then restaurants offer weird versions of Mexican dishes. It is also more expensive than we usually pay at home.

I want to use this blog to talk about how Mexicans in Cork have found ways to overcome the food challenge.

Can you find Mexican food in Ireland?

Yes! You can find some Mexican restaurants in the main cities such as Cork and Dublin. Places like El Grito in Dublin or Café Mexicana in Cork are the Mexican community’s favourite places. The taste in these places resembles our original tacos and more. Still, it also depends on your budget as they would not be considered cheap. But if you can, you should treat yourself once in a while.

Thankfully, a growing trend in Ireland is fish tacos (Baja style). Irish fish is delicious and they have a wide variety (cod, monkfish, ray, hake, etc); also Irish batter is fantastic! So you don’t need to go to Mexican restaurants to find them. Although I would recommend the places to have lime instead of lemon, guacamole, pico de gallo or some spicy sauce. Apart from that, they are fair.

Improve your cooking and get creative!

If you are coming to Ireland (whether or not), I would recommend you learn how to cook your favourite food. Restaurants in Ireland are impressive, but they can be costly. You might be able to give yourself a treat once in a while but not so often. That’s why you need to know how to prepare some dishes.

You can find ingredients from all over the world, but not everything. Commercial brands might be available in some supermarkets, while others are available online.

As you know, I am based in Cork and what I have noticed is the increasing multicultural feel to the city; thanks to that, you can find shops from different nationalities. You can find a wide range of shops, especially for Chinese, Indian, Turkish, Polish, Palestinian, or Brazilian food. Give yourself tours around those businesses because you will be impressed with the similarities we have with other food.

In general, ingredients in Ireland are of outstanding quality. You will be delighted by the quality of their beef, fish, pork, mussels, potatos and dairy products. They also import products from around the world such as avocados, tomatoes, oranges, mangoes, kiwis, etc. You will not run out of those ingredients, do not worry. So, if you can mix your cooking abilities with the spectacular ingredients, you will not miss Mexican food!

Finally, but most importantly, you also have to let go. If you have decided to move to another country, keep loving your food but learn to appreciate other cultures through their flavours. Learn different dishes and other ways of eating! Try new flavours and give yourself the chance to value the local cuisine and others from all over the world.

Nothing enriches more your soul and love for food than meeting other cultures, other flavours and new dishes. But don’t forget to show off to others what Mexican food is, how tasty it can be and why we miss it so much.