Did you know that not all Mexican food comes from Mexico? Here at El Chubby’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Aurora, we wanted to share a little about the history of what is popularly served in Mexican restaurants in the United States.
Mexico has a long and rich culinary tradition and it has definitely influenced many of the dishes we’ll discuss today. Because of the Mexican inspiration, many Americans think of them as authentic. A little additional information shows the interesting origins of how these meals, snacks, and drinks became a part of many Mexican restaurants here in the U.S.
Chile con Queso
Though its origins are solidly Mexican, the chile con queso that many of today’s Americans have come to serve couldn’t have become so popular without the advent of Velveeta which was developed by Kraft Foods in 1928. This processed cheese quickly proved to be easy to melt and well suited for the fondue-like dipping sauce.
In traditional Mexican food, cheese dips, such as queso fundido, have gone the way of using traditional cheeses (not processed and usually white in color). Meanwhile, chile con queso has become an American favorite, especially when the Broncos are playing. Usually, chile con queso dish combines the processed cheese with canned tomatoes and canned chilies.
Taco Salad Shells
Further proof that not all Mexican food comes from Mexico are the crunchy shells often used for salads. These originated at Fritos. Elmer Doolin, founder of the famous chip company, sold a product called Tacups, taco cups – get it? These Frito cups were first sold in Dallas, which was the Fritos headquarter location.
Tacups sales expanded to Casa de Fritos, which was a Disneyland restaurant. There the Tacups were served with typcial ingredients found in Mexican dishes, such as beans, ground beef, cheese, and sour cream. The popularity of this dish at Disneyland grew. Ultimately, different versions began cropping up, resulting in the taco salad you know now.
Taco salads served in restaurants now are often pre-formed versions and the salads have expanded their ingredients to include lettuce, tomatoes, onions, salsa, and sometimes even more elaborate concoctions. Their versatility provides a lot of room for creativity.
This delicious dessert is a little like a biscuit and a little like a French beignet. Sometimes they are sweet and sometimes they are savory. Most often, they are served with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and cinnamon. Sopapillas were actually invented around 200 years ago in what is now New Mexico. It is thought that sopapillas were a variant of Native American fry bread and were developed by Mexican and Native Americans who live in the area.
Pre-formed Taco Shells
The pre-formed and pre-fried taco shells you can find in restaurants and grocery stores today were really born out of a need for efficiency. Though taco shells are a Mexican tradition, Glen Bell, the creator of Taco Bell, came up with the idea for pre-forming the shells to make his restaurant run faster. The pre-formed shells spread in popularity, as did Taco Bell, eventually spawning versions of the shell for every-day home consumption.
The history of the chimichanga is a bit muddied. There are claims it was developed by accident in Tuscon, Arizona and other claims that it originated in Phoenix. It is not a Mexican dish and in fact, a number of Mexicans are a little miffed at the suggestion that Americans think chimichangas might be. So, beware of the debate when discussing the notion that not all Mexican food comes from Mexico.
Though this dish didn’t start to spread until the 70s, its likely origins were near the west Texas-Mexico border and it is thought that the dish originated from Mexican workers who lived in the area in the 1930s. These men were given cuts of meat that wouldn’t sell, such as intestines, head, and skirt steak.
To make this meat more palatable they would marinate it in lime juice and tenderize it by pounding it. Finally, they would cook it over a fire and wrap it in a tortilla. Eventually, it became a menu item in McAllen, Texas.
This dish has Mexican roots, but it happened to be invented in Texas and now it has variations that include chicken, shrimp, and other beef cuts. Also, it is now popularly served with roasted peppers, onions, jalapenos, even tomatoes, as well as a variety of garnishes. If you visit El Chubby’s check out our Steak Order dish for similar flavors.
Tortilla chips are a staple snack food in many homes and restaurants in the U.S., either paired with salsa and guacamole or smothered in cheese to make a tasty plate of nachos. And though they’re derived from tortillas, which are Mexican, the chips originated from leftovers. Originally, imperfect tortillas made at the El Zarape Tortilla Factory in Los Angeles were thrown out. One day, the company president, Rebecca Webb Carranza, cut some of the rejects into triangles, fried them up, and served them at home to her family.
Her family seemed to like them immediately and so Carranza started selling them at her Mexican deli in Los Angeles. By the 1960s, tortilla chips were popular enough that El Zarape started selling them as their central product. Eventually, it became a staple in American households, parties, and gatherings.
While not all Mexican food comes from Mexico, you may think it’s safe to say that burritos are authentic. However, the burritos frequently found in the U.S. are not the same as burritos found in Mexico and typically stuffed with many ingredients. The first were called mission-style burritos and created in the Mission District in San Francisco in 1961.
Today, burritos tortillas are often even larger to accommodate our obsession with stuffing them full of deliciousness. Mission burritos are incredibly filling and enjoyable as a result.
Even though you now know that not all Mexican food comes from Mexico, you’re still likely feeling a bit hungry. So, come visit us for some delicious and tasty food at El Chubby’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Aurora. From authentic tacos and stuffed mission-style burritos and don’t forget our signature carne asada fries, we’ve got exactly what you’re craving.