Did you know that one of the hottest food trends in America at the moment is traditional Mexican food? You’d be forgiven for thinking that might already be the case, but then you’re probably confusing authentic Mexican fare with Tex-Mex which, as we know, is already a firm favourite in US food culture. Tex-Mex (taken from Texan and Mexican) is a fusion of the two cuisines, it began hundreds of years ago when Spanish/Mexican recipes combined with Anglo fare, but it was only labelled as such in the 1940s.
So what exactly is the difference? According to Thrillist, an online media brand covering food, drink, travel and entertainment; the main difference can be summed up in the use of a few key ingredients, ones that aren’t normally used south of the border: beef, yellow cheese (like cheddar), wheat flour, black beans, canned vegetables (especially tomatoes), and cumin. Beef was the mainstay of Texan ranchers so it made sense to include it in so many dishes, but it’s rarely used in the authentic food. Your quintessential Tex-Mex foods are nachos, chilli con carne and fajitas – bet you thought they were the real thing, didn’t you?
Which begs the question then, what is real Mexican cuisine? Well the answer is a little vague. So vague in fact that it’s made it onto the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, where it’s defined as a ‘comprehensive cultural model comprising farming, ritual practices, age-old skills, culinary techniques and ancestral community customs and manners’. If you’re looking for a more tangible answer, examples of authentic Mexican food would be a taco, but not the hardshell kind favoured by American fast food chain, Taco Bell; instead it’s the small and soft tortilla filled with lightly spiced meat, fresh salsa and white cheese. It’s an enchilada, but not the stuffed with ground beef and cheese variety, drowned in enchilada sauce and then baked with even more cheese added; instead it’s the tortilla that’s been lightly fried and dipped in spicy enchilada gravy, rolled up with a conservative amount of meat and vegetables and then garnished lightly with white cheese and served immediately without baking.
And it’s the mole (pronounced mōh-lāy), a sauce which can include upward of 30 ingredients used as a base to build a stew or used as gravy to pour over meat or poultry. Unlike most sauces, the mole is considered so important that anything served with it is secondary – so esteemed in fact, that it’s Mexico’s national dish, despite not being a dish itself. As the world’s best-known chef from Mexico, Enrique Olvera, says ‘[mole] is central to Mexican Cuisine. If you’re celebrating something then you’re having Mole. Mole is Chaos. There is ingredients from almost everywhere … and when you put them together it makes sense. They become Mexican for some magical reason. That summarises Mexico’.
If you feel inspired to add some Mexican flare to your menu, you’re not the only one. Whether it’s Tex-Mex you’re after or the authentic cuisine, look no further than N1 for all your Halaal certified meat and Halaal fish needs – here’s to delicious and aromatic dishes, Ole!