Mexican food is one of the most popular cuisines in the United States. A full 42% of all ethnic food sales are Mexican foods. At least 71% of all households in the country have Mexican ingredients and foods in them. Salsa is more popular in many areas than ketchup. The American landscape had about 38,000 Mexican restaurants as of 2011. In fact, some estimate that at least one in ten United States eateries serve Mexican dishes. It is the most popular international cuisine in the nation. Many people, however, are busy asking “what is the meaning of enchilada?” and have never had authentic Mexican food.
Signs you have never had real Mexican food:
- You think flour tortillas are authentic. If you are eating real Mexican food, you are eating corn tortillas. Corn is a staple in Mexico. There are parts of the country where people eat flour tortillas. Northern Mexico is one such area but they are not a mainstay of this cuisine. If you are thinking about the meaning of enchilada, you really need to have them with corn tortillas.
- Your idea of a great Mexican meal is a burrito. The burritos you are thinking of were created in the United States. The exact origin of the modern burrito is not known. Some food historians place it in California near Fresno. The bottom line is that the Burrito Brothers meal, which you may love, is not authentic Mexican food.
- You think everything should be smothered in cheese. In authentic Mexican food, cheese is not the staple it is for Tex-Mex. When you think of the meaning of enchilada, you think of something covered in cheese and that is the only real Mexican dish that has that. Cheese is more often considered to be more of a garnish than a main ingredient. PS. the meaning of enchilada is “in Chile.”
- Your tacos have lettuce and tomatoes. If you go to Mexico and you order a taco, you may be disappointed by what you get. It should not have the lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream in a hard shell. What you should get in your Mexican taco will have meat, some onion, cilantro and maybe lime. Most people who think they know a lot about Mexican cuisine have never had a really authentic taco.
- You never order mole. Mole sauces are very popular around Mexico. There are seven different versions of the sauce. You can get: Red mole (Rojo), brown mole (Coloradito), Amarillo, Verde, Chichilo, Manachamantel and chocolare (Negro). If these are not on the menu of the restaurants you go to, you are not dining at authentic Mexican restaurants.
- Your idea of guacamole is something with a lot of mayonnaise in it. Many “Mexican” establishments make versions of guacamole where the avocado is not really the dominant flavor. If these versions of guacamole are not made with copious amounts of mayonnaise, they are avocado mixed with green salsa to create a watered down mess. Real guacamole has avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro and some lime juice. The avocado flavor should be the main event when it comes to guacamole.
- You never order tamales. These are nothing short of amazing. These are truly made from a labor of love. The corn masa is filled with mole, beans or chicken and then shaped into corn husks and cooked. When done right, there are few comfort foods that are as comforting as tamales.
- You think your beer needs some fruit. There are beers in the world that benefit from fruit. Good German hefeweizen beers taste great with a little orange but most Mexican people do not add lime to their beer. It is not done in Mexico, unless you are at Club Med.
- You think pico de gallo is authentic. When you go for Mexican foods, you want a place that serves real salsa, not pico de gallo. That garnish is for Chipotle, which may be tasty but is not authentic Mexican fare.
It is not necessarily a bad thing that Americans have taken Mexican fare and created some hybrid foods. Really authentic Mexican food, however, is not what is on the menu at some places around the country. It is worth it to try the real stuff.