Appetites: Mexican Food’s African Origins

El Chubbys

Appetites: Mexican Food's African OriginsAt El Chubby’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Aurora, we are an authentic Mexican food restaurant with a deep interest in the history of our cuisine. When it comes to exploring appetites: Mexican food’s African origins influence the traditional Mexican food we enjoy today.

Mexican food is truly a multi-cultural cuisine. Did you know that black beans and rice, a traditional component of many Mexican dishes, came from Africa? It’s true.

According to an NPRNEWS article, even the technique of deep fat frying came from Africa as well.

Many Mexican dishes are made with ingredients that were brought from Africa to Mexico. These include rice, plantains, coffee, the tamarind and jamaica for aguas frescas, as well as the sesame seeds used in pipianes. Even watermelons and yams came from Africa.

Many people do not know about the African influence in Mexico. A University of California Press article reminds us that the second president of the Mexican Republic, Vincente Guerrero, was of mixed African descent and even had a state named after him.

Mexico, then known as New Spain, was a key port of entry for slave ships, and slaves came with their owners. Eventually, they assimilated into Mexican culture bringing their food and way of cooking. Like America, the blending of cultural influences creates a rich array of foods that become favorites of the people and a rich part of the country’s heritage.

One of the foods they brought to Mexico was the humble peanut. Although not original to Africa, it was brought to Mexico by the Africans. They used peanuts in meat stews, vegetable and fish dishes, and in pastes. Often peanuts were  mixed with onions and chiles to form a sauce like the salsa. These sauces are used for chicken and pork. Peanuts are also used in desserts, drinks, ices, and ice cream.

Africans also brought platoons (plantains), which are used to make dough for gorditas, tortillas, and empanadas.

But it doesn’t stop there. Africa also introduced tropical roots, like the yucca, malanga, taro, and sweet potato to Mexico. They were cheap and easy to grow. They were used in garlic and tomato sauces, dessert fritters, and sweet tamales. Sometimes they combined the roots with fruits like coconut and pineapple for desserts.

According to a Los Afro-Latinos article, the way Mexican food is prepared was also influenced by the Africans that came to Mexico. In fact, the way tamales are prepared today, with the addition of fat in the filling and the process of frying them, was introduced by Africans. The technique used to make the Mexican candied fruits even came from Africans.

Although many people do not know the history of Africans in Mexico and how they changed Mexican food, there is a growing interest in how the cultures have influenced each other. So, bring your appetites: Mexican food’s African origins have influenced many delicious traditions at El Chubby’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Aurora. Come see us today!

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