A Look at the History of the Enchilada


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If you live in the United States, the chances are good that you have eaten Mexican cuisine at some point. There were about 38,000 Mexican restaurants around the nation in 2001. Our fascination with Mexican dishes does not end there. Nearly 10% of all eateries serve Mexican cuisine. It is the most popular kind of international food in the United States. We also like to cook it at home. It has been estimated that about 71% of all American homes have some Mexican ingredients. When we think of Mexican dishes, it is hard to not think of the of the enchilada. When it comes to the word, we know the meaning of enchilada but not everyone knows its history.

Luckily, the Gourmet Sleuth has taken a deeper dive look into the yummy Mexican meal. They report that the word itself should be pronounced “ehn-chee-LA-thah). Typically when you take a tortilla, dip in into chili sauce, stuff it with things ranging from chicken to beef to pork or cheese and then bake it, you have discovered the meaning of enchilada. At least that is how many of have been taught and conditioned to think. In truth, the real meaning of enchilada is “in Chile.” To restaurants in Mexico, this is not a dish to serve. In that country, this is something you get from street vendors.

The Aztecs really were the inventors of the modern enchilada. They were the first to take tortillas, wrap them around a filling and then cook them in a variety of ways. They may not have known the meaning of enchilada, nor did they use the word but the dishes they were making were enchiladas.

The first time the word was used was un 1885. In an article on American language, the meaning of enchilada is given as a Mexican dish made for tourists and not locals, this was written in 1949.

In Mexico, the enchilada has a different taste than in the United States, It is most often a corn tortilla that has been dipped in some kind of chili sauce. It is crispy where the American version is more soggy or soft. In Mexico, these are not serves swimming in cheese, as they are served in the United States. The classic, Mexican dish is most often service “street style.” Typically, these are served in a red sauce. One version, called Suiza (from the word for Swiss) features a cream sauce.

There are two main ways that enchiladas are made. In the first version, a tortilla is fried, then dipped in a chili sauce, filled with a filling, rolled and then baked or fried. In the second version, the tortilla is not fried but dipped in a sauce, filled, rolled and then baked or fried.

In the United States, the most popular and common form of an enchilada is a rolled enchilada. The tortilla is stuffed, rolled and then covered with cheese and sauce and either baked or fried. A less common form is the stacked enchiladas. In this creation, the tortillas will be fried a bit, they are then stacked with the filling. After three layers are placed on the dish and then the entire thing is baked. This is a common kind of enchilada in Mexico, Sonora and then in many parts of the United States southwest.

There are a number of different fillings that are used in enchiladas. They can be filled with chicken, pork, beef, vegetables or cheese. Some of the earliest enchiladas were stuffed with olives, onions, and oregano from Mexico. Early enchiladas did not feature cheese in the stuffing but it was sometimes added on top.

As the fillings differed in early enchiladas, so did the sauce. The red chili sauce that people so often find on enchiladas today is made from dried chilies that have been rehydrated. Sometimes, people also add tomatoes and other seasonings to the sauce. The creamy Suiza sauces offer another option. The last option is the mole sauce, which is a chocolate sauce.

Most people in the United States who have had the occasion to go out for Mexican cuisine have either had or seen enchiladas. They may not be truly traditional food but they are delicious.

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