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What food and food related items to bring back from Mexico

Leaving for Puerto Vallarta in a couple of weeks. What would you bring back with you, vanilla beans, dried chile peppers? Anything at all?

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  1. Vanilla extract (the POSA brand is natural vanilla, but do not buy PASA artificial vanilla. Plus, as you said, vanilla beans, dried chiles, also mole powder or pastes. You might be able to buy Salsa Chapala in Vallarta; it's really excellent bottled table salsa, exactly the same as Salsa Cholula but less than a quarter of the price.

    Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

    1. These are the items I've routinely brought back

      Jamacia flowers
      Beans (dried)
      Dried chiles I easily can't source where I live (this site - http://www.baileyfarmsinc.com/allreci... has tons of recipes for many different varieties of chiles, including some of the less common ones
      )Posole corn
      mole paste or powder
      Chocolate that isn't Abuelita or Ibarra
      Corn husks for making tamales
      Sal de grano (salt)
      Dried Mexican oregano
      Dried avocado leaves
      A lime squeezer
      A tortilla press
      A comal (bring 2 back, 1 will break)
      Tequila or mezcal
      Mexican wine

      Declare any food products you bring back the policy is pretty liberal and you don't really need to smuggle. Customs will ask what you're carrying when they see the food listed, and you may get diverted for a secondary ag inspection depending upon where you clear US cusoms. I think it's better these days to get inspected than to go into the government computers as a smuggler ;-). Generally, dried, canned, bottled or otherwise preserved items are usually not a problem. Fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and cheese are not advisable.

      3 Replies
      1. re: DiningDiva

        Great list, Dining Diva. When I posted last night, it was late and I thought, "I'll add to this tomorrow." You did all the work! Terrific!

        Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

        1. re: cristina

          I figured your poor little fingers were too frozen to type ;-).

          1. re: DiningDiva

            That too. At least it is warmer tonight...we may thaw out here in Sunny Mexico and live to see another day. Friends report that it snowed in Guadalajara two days ago...briefly, but just sayin'.

            Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

      2. Xtabentun
        small batch mezcal
        chaya leaves
        tuna stuffed jalapenos
        fresh annatto seed (achiote)
        be on the lookout for green glazed cazuelas from Michoacan, hand glazed plates from Tlalpan

        1. Where do live,where you'll be bringing things back to? I ask because there are a huge number of things once only available in Mexico which are easily found in many USA cities/states. I can't think of anything I'd look for to bring home that I can't purchase in Chicago.

          3 Replies
          1. re: gomexico

            I usually buy dried chiles in local markets - when I'm cooking it makes me happy to remember where and when I got them. Also, chipotles en adobo in small glass jars from the super mercado - I've never found them in jars in the US, and they're much more practical for me than the little cans where I always have odd amounts left over.

              1. re: maxandrick

                Given the relatively miniscule Mexican population in Toronto and Canada generally - I understand now why you'd want to bring back what you can. ;-)

            1. From Puerto Vallarta I would get Raicilla, or some tequilas not available in the US. Although there are so many brands available in the states, there are even more only available in Mexico. I find these bottles all the time. Some great high-end tequilas that are very expensive in the US are smart buys at the Duty Free, especially in the DF airport, if passing through. For me it's almost always booze.

              1. Great question - wish I'd read this before leaving Mexico. I'm driving home to Vancouver Canada with a metate made in Comonfort (south of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato), and two molcajetes. If you get a molcajete, consider a couple of the handle-less brushes to clean it. The rustic glassware might appeal to you, and the shallow wooden bowls hollowed from a slab of wood. If you like wooden utensils, there are spoons and paddles in every size, and for beating your hot chocolate, a molinillo.

                2 Replies
                1. re: foodarazzi

                  Just a word of caution.. I've brought wooden utensils of all kinds back and had no problem. However, I did have several (about 5) big spoons that had bugs in them. Opened up the drawer where I had put them one day and discovered sawdust and dead bugs. The spoons were riddled with holes where they had come out. I don't think they were termites, or at least I hope they weren't termites. Anyway, the bulk of the wooden utensils I've brought back are fine, but bugs are a risk.

                  I was diverted for a secondary ag inspection at IAH (Houston) when I cleared customs because of the spoons and the customs agents warned me that wooden utensils often contained bugs. I don't know if the buggy batch I brought back came through Houston or not, but I thought it was interesting that they were looking for untreated wood. I do know that the Oaxacan alebrijas and much of the artesenal wood carvings are soaked in gasoline to kill any bugs. Pretty sure the utensils are not.

                  1. re: foodarazzi

                    Last time I flew back fo the US from Mexico (Mazatlan) on USAirways, molcajetes were listed among the items that could not be carried on board, along with guns, knives, box cutters etc. So...maybe best to check with the airline or pack in checked luggage if you buy a molcaete and are flying .

                  2. To bring from Mexico to Colombia: masa harina, dried corn husks, Oaxaca cheese, fresh blue maize tortillas (purchased in hte morning on the way to the airport and brought back in a cheap styrofoam tortilla container used to keep tortillas warm at the table), dried chiles, and the extra weight gained while in Mexico.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      SAM! How great to see you here, I've missed you.

                      Re bugs in wooden spoons: when you get your utensils home, put them in tightly closed plastic bags and then into the freezer for 48-72 hours. Bye-bye bugs.

                      Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

                      1. re: cristina

                        "Given the relatively miniscule Mexican population in Toronto and Canada generally - I understand now why you'd want to bring back what you can."

                        You haven't been to Toronto or Vancouver lately have you?

                        There's very little Mexican that can't be bought here.

                        "A comal (bring 2 back, 1 will break)"

                        How in the name of the Virgen de Guadalupe can a person break a Comal?

                        I've had mine for well over 20 years and it's indestructable.

                        BTW-I bought it 3 blocks from where I'm now sitting in downtown Vancouver.

                        Honestly Sea Salt and maybe a specialty liquor are all I'd bother with.

                        1. re: Sam Salmon

                          Is your comal metal or clay? If it's metal, of course it won't break. If it's clay - and purchased in Mexico - changes are good it won't make it in one piece.

                          1. re: Sam Salmon

                            "You haven't been to Toronto or Vancouver lately have you?"

                            Re-read my comment, to which you're commenting.

                            1. re: gomexico

                              "Re-read my comment, to which you're commenting."

                              I read it and just re-read it-you don't know either place-that's obvious.

                            2. re: Sam Salmon

                              Sam Salmon, Would you be willing to share the names and addresses of shops where I can buy Mexican food products and kitchen gear in Vancouver? Thanks.

                              1. re: foodarazzi

                                THANKS to everyone who has responded. It should be fun going through the food markets.