Veracruz Feature

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Happiness in a Seafood Shack

Some of Mexico's most delicious dishes come from Veracruz. The emphasis is on pescado (fish) and mariscos (shellfish). Some of the best places to eat in the region are the family-run seafood shacks you often find lining the beaches. Just ask for the platillo del día. This "dish of the day" is always fresh and served with a flourish.

Many specialties show the influence of the Spanish and African communities of nearby Cuba, including the state's signature dish, huachinango a la veracruzana (red snapper in the Veracruz style, which means it's simmered in tomatoes, onions, garlic, green olives, and capers). Another dish with a similar influence is salpicón de jaiba, a spicy crabmeat salad usually prepared with tomatoes, capers, and peppers. Other dishes reflect African ties in their use of beans, plantains, yucca, taro, and white sweet potatoes.

Peanuts are used a lot as well. They appear in such classics as puerco encacahuatado (pork in peanut sauce) and the bracing salsa macha, made by grinding peanuts with garlic, chilies, and olive oil. You'll also find peanut ice cream all over the state, as well as other nieves made with mangos, papayas, and other local fruits. Other sweet temptations include buñuelos veracruzanos, golden doughnuts dipped in a sugar and cinnamon mix.

Look out for the charge of toritos (little bulls), a heady alcoholic punch made with cane liquor, milk, and tropical-fruit pulp or peanuts.

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