At El Chubby’s in Aurora, we serve authentic Mexican food, but if you like it a little more Tex-Mex, that’s okay. Everything is grilled to order and you can have almost anything prepared exactly the way you prefer. So, what’s the difference between Tex-Mex and Mexican food?
According to a Serious Eats article, Tex-Mex food developed in the Texas Tejano population, Texans of Spanish or Mexican heritage who lived in Texas before it was a republic and Mexican immigrants who came mostly from Northern Mexico.
The term Tex-Mex didn’t really appear until the 1970s. Before that, it was all just called Mexican food. There are even slight differences in the Mexican cuisines of Arizona, New Mexico, and California.
Let’s just look at enchiladas to see the difference between Tex-Mex and Mexican.
In the Tex-Mex version of cheese enchiladas, there is grated yellow cheese wrapped in tortillas. It is then smothered in a dark red chili sauce with ground beef. Sometimes, other Tex-Mex ingredients like pinto beans and rice might be served on the side.
But many Mexicans don’t eat cheese enchiladas. Instead, they eat chiles rellenos and salads composed of chayote or nopales. Beef is not often used. In traditional Mexican cooking, it would most likely be chicken and pork. Enchiladas would be covered in a green tomatillo sauce or mole and sprinkled with a white cheese.
Another difference in Tex-Mex food is that cumin is used. Cumin may be used somewhat sparingly in Northern Mexico, but very rarely if at all used in Southern Mexico.
The heavy use of cumin may be attributed to the Canary Islanders who came to San Antonio in the 1700s. Cumin is a key ingredient in chili con carne along with chili powder. It’s said that chili powder was created by a German immigrant in New Braunfels, Texas in the late 1890s. Around that time, chili con carne was sold on the streets of San Antonio at chili stands for cheap prices. Tex-Mex food was made popular by the working class.
Many people think of Tex-Mex as Velveeta cheese and sour cream in store-bought taco shells, but that really came from the introduction of convenience foods in the 1950s. Since then, Tex-Mex has evolved into a varied and more respected cuisine. Today, Mexican food encompasses so many different flavors and ingredients depending on where you are from.
At El Chubby’s in Aurora, it doesn’t really matter what’s the difference between Tex-Mex and Mexican food, because everything is delicious, full of flavor and grilled to order. We are best known for our hot green chili, but come try our carne asada fries, which is our new signature dish.