How Mexico’s Most Popular Dishes Came To Be
Mexican food is as diverse as it is delicious. Full of flavors, spices, special sauces and other fresh ingredients, it simply cannot be matched anywhere in the world. In fact, Mexican food is a complex cuisine with roots that go back to the Aztec and pre-Aztec civilizations that practiced advanced agriculture techniques and cultivated a wide variety of specialty crops. Later, influences from Europe and other parts of the globe also found their way into the Mexican mix. The result? Sabor sin igual! Now that Mexican food has conquered the entire globe, let’s take a look at the history of some of the most popular dishes and learn some fun facts about each one!
While tacos are now the most famous of Mexican foods, they are actually newcomers. Taquerias were born in the working class neighborhoods of Mexico city in the 19th century as quick and cheap restaurants. The many varieties of taco are a result of the different flavors of different parts of the country coming together for the first time.
The taco itself was named after the folded paper explosives used in the silver mines of Mexico during that period. When you think about the spice punch that a good taco packs, that actually makes a lot of sense!
Historians believe that the art of making enchiladas dates back to Mayan times. By rolling a tortilla around a meat filling you can then add sauce to the top layer. Add cheese on top of that and you have created heaven on earth! Thanks Maya!
The word enchilada literary means to “add spice to” (enchilar). That’s because the original enchiladas were dipped entirely in chili sauce before being eaten! There are now more than a dozen specific kinds of enchiladas from across Mexico and the American Southwest.
The history of menudo goes back to the hacienda period of Spanish control of Mexico. When the rich landowners would throw a party, they would kill a cow, take the prime cuts of meat, and then throw out the organ meats. The peasants would often save these meats, especially the stomach (tripe) and have their own party!
Menudo parties are still an integral part of modern Mexican culture. Births, Christmas and many other family gatherings are celebrated by cooking up a huge pot of menudo for all the guests! Yum!
The origin of the burrito is actually hotly contested. Some claim it was invented in the USA by Mexican immigrants (San Francisco’s Mission District to be exact) while others say it actually originated in northern Mexican as a traveling meal. In either case, it was definitely an immigrant staple and is actually one of the most recent of Mexican dishes (a 20th century invention).
Burritos are much more popular in the USA than in Mexico. In fact, you really won’t find burritos at all in many parts of Mexico!
Guacamole is one of those dishes that will never go out of style. In fact, the modern day recipe for guacamole is almost exactly the same as the one used by the Aztecs. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Guacamole was actually believed to be a potent aphrodisiac by the Aztecs. With lots of garlic, chile, and lime, it does have everything you need to rev that circulation up!
Quesadillas are a staple all over Mexico. But many don’t know that the stringy “Oaxacan” style cheese used in them was actually introduced by Dominican monks from Spain. Other ingredients, especially pork, were also introduced at later times.
Quesadillas can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and also as an in between meals snack! While flour tortillas are more common in the USA, most parts of Mexico prefer corn tortillas.
The history of Mexico’s most famous dessert actually goes all the way back to ancient Rome. A custard made from combining eggs and cream and cooking till thick, flan was actually popular all through the middle ages as well. Now a dessert staple in the New World, it’s safe to say that this simple but delicious dish is unstoppable!
While most flans are now cooked in ovens, originally flans were cooked with a flaming paddle just like French Crème Brulee.
Everyone’s favorite Mexican breakfast dish goes all the way back to Aztec times. Named after “green chiles” in Nahuatl, chilaquiles went through many different transformations along the way through. Ingredients like olives and queso blanco were added later as part of the Colombian exchange – the period of the 1500s and 1600s when foods crossed back and forth between Europe and the New World.
Many people consider chilaquiles to be an excellent cure for hangover. Try it out and let us know!
Made with condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream, tres leches is the decadent delicious dessert that sweet dreams are made of. Even though it’s now popular all over Latin America, nobody is really sure of where it came from. The recipe for this hit were first printed on a Nestle evaporated milk can back in the 1960s which is why it spread far and wide so quickly.
Fun Fact: Tres Leches cake is often topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, especially strawberries.
This hearty stew made with hominy corn also dates back to Aztec times. While it now comes in many different varieties, some sources claim that it was originally made out of the flesh of sacrificed victims! Don’t let that stop you from digging in though, pozole is a true Mexican flavor blast that takes “soup” to a whole other level!
Pozole comes in three main types: red, green and white. Each type has a very specific flavor and combination of ingredients, but are all based on hominy and are very filling in and of themselves without a main dish!