Certainly one of America’s most favored ethnic cuisines is unquestionably Mexican. How far we have come from those hard, crisp tacos and lard-laden refried beans. Going back to the Mayan culture circa 1500 BC, corn and beans have formed the foundation of original Mexican foods and still comprise an important portion of their foods. They were plentiful and easily stored. Gradually, many different fresh ingredients have been added over time, along with chicken, beef, pork and seafood, to delight the palates of many everyone, from fast food to Del Taco, and everything in between. But the basics which we adore probably the most still top our hit parade. So let’s check out the whole enchilada:
As early as 5000 BC, possibly 7000 BC in Pre-Columbian history. the tamale (or “tamal”) is corn masa, individually wrapped in a corn husk and was the ideal portable food. Sort of your early fast convenience food, these people were often carried by warriors, hunters and travelers as a kind of meal on the go. Early tamales were often full of turkey,frog, flamingo, axolotl (salamander), gopher or rabbit (would I make that up?). Homemade tamales are still a tradition at Christmas in Mexican homes, as well as their preparation is labor-intensive and time-consuming, usually steamed inside their husk but an essential part from the holiday meal.
Enchiladas date back to Mayan times, perhaps earlier, when the technique of rolling corn tortillas around other foods made for easy meals. Inside the lake region of the Valley of Mexico, the folks traditionally ate corn tortillas folded or rolled around small fish. As you may know them now, enchiladas remain corn tortillas rolled around a filling, including various meats, cheese, beans, potatoes, vegetables or perhaps a combination and engrossed in a chili pepper sauce, topped with cheese.
In a class by itself, Enchiladas suizas (Swiss-style) are topped having a cream-based white sauce, like béchamel, which had been produced from Swiss immigrants in Mexico who produced cream and cheese.
Burritos can also be rolled tortillas but made from wheat, stuffed with rice, beans or meat, called ‘coçito’ inside the Yucatán and ‘taco’ in Mexico City. Burritos may have been created during times of war, easily transported and eaten on the run, primarily throughout the Mexican/American strife of the early 1900s. As they are enclosed and easily eaten standing up, they make great street food.
Quesadillas certainly are a flat circle of cooked corn tortilla, warmed to soften it enough to be folded by 50 percent, and then typically filled with Oaxaca cheese (queso Oaxaca), a stringy Mexican cheese. They originated in central and southern regions of Mexico and will also contain chicken or shrimp.
Arriving late at the party, chimichangas made their look in 1946 because of Woody Johnson, founder of Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen, who claims he invented them when he put some burritos right into a deep fryer as an experiment at his original Phoenix restaurant Woody’s El Nido. The name means “trinket” loosely translated.
For anyone cooks who would like to re-create their favorite dishes at home, you might like to include these basics on your shopping list:
Rice – brown, spicy or plain, a great accompaniment
Beans – both refried pinto beans and black beans
Salsa – a large number of combinations, both cooked and fresh
Avocados – either sliced or mashed with tomatoes and spices for any tantalizing and delicious guacamole
Red or verde (green) sauces to squirt on the top or drown your favorite dish
Corn, white or wheat flour tortillas
Assorted peppers and chiles, both spicy and mild
Cheese (queso) usually crumbled or shredded blends, the most famous is cotija and anejo, even (drumroll) Velveeta now offers Mexican and pepper-flavored cheese blends
Tortilla chips for dipping
Although most towns and cities host the most popular fast food and chain restaurants, like Taco Bell, Del Taco menu prices, Chipotle, El Torito and Acapulco’s, frequently the very best Mexican foods are available in small, family owned shops, or in emdzgy area also known as “Old Town” which can be a wonderful combination of restaurants and street vendors, all serving up our favorites. Buen apetito.