Authentic Mexican Food Question

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Jeff Adkins, May 25, 2004.

  1. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

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    I'm curious how Mexican food in the country seems to be so, so different from what I've experienced in numerous visits to Mexico. For starters, ground beef is used. Every time I've eaten in Mexico, I've never seen any ground beef used, ever! Maybe it's used in other provinces that I've not been to???

    Also, Mexican restaraunts in the U.S. put cheese & lettuce on Tacos. In Mexico, they always seem to have only cilantro, onions, and salsa. The taco found at Taco Bell, doesn't resemble the Mexican version of a taco in the slightest? Even many of the restaraunts around here advertised as "authentic" use ground beef, cheese and lettuce on Tacos (except for Baja Fresh, which seems to be at least somewhat authentic).

    Coud someone shed some light on this for me?

    Jeff
     
  2. Randy Tennison

    Randy Tennison Screenwriter

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    Ever had authentic italian pizza? It tastes nothing like Dominoes.

    Ever had authentic german beer? It tastes nothing like Heineken.

    Ever had authentic Greek food? It tastes nothing like the Gyro you get at the mall.

    We Americanize food. We like cheese and tomatoes on tacos. We like sauce and extra cheese on pizza. We like cold, light colored beers instead of warm dark beers. We take dishes from other countries and make it our own.
     
  3. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    Those so-called "authentic" restuarants, obviously aren't so. But you're right, the food is very different.

    Out here where I live, most places advertise as being "New Mexican food", which is much more accurate. Still much better than you probably can get in IN but still not truly Mexican. One of my most horrifying "Mexican" food experiences was eating a chile relleno that was actually a stuffed bell pepper and marinara type sauce as salsa.

    Ground beef is out. At least I don't care for it, though many New Mexican places offer it. And salsa, like the stuff found in the supermarket, is out as well. There's usually either chile sauce (red or green) or pico de gallo. The crispy taco shells are available but instead of being the flimsy cardboard things Taco Bell has, they're actually fried bread. Most of the restaurants I go to serve the more authentic soft tacos instead. I've seen cheese served on every dish here.

    Now I don't claim to be an expert in authentic Mexican cuisine since most of my experience is with New Mexican food. All I can say is that New Mexican is different enough for it's own classification. And of course, the New Mexican/Mexican food found in this part of the country is very different than supposed "Mexican" food in most other parts of the country.
     
  4. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I’m not aware of all of the differences or reasons, but I’ll at least kick things off.

    Where have you traveled in Mexico, Jeff?

    First, I don’t think that any comparison involving fast food restaurants has any merit. None of these places has only passing resemblance to either Mexican or the various types of American-Mexican food.

    Next, most of what is referred to in the majority of the U.S. as Mexican food, is really TexMex. In California, of course it is a bit different—one might say CalMex. And in Arizona and New Mexico, I think something that might be Southwest/Mex.

    TexMex comes out of the Rio Grande valley and areas of traditional Mexican-American population such as San Antonio. Some of the best I’ve had is around El Paso. Here also there are variations. For example Dallas has a very high number of Mexiacn-Americans from an area not too far from Guadalajara. Not surprisingly, there has (in some restaurants) been a bit of a change to traditional TexMex by this part of the population. Basically the TexMex cuisine, is Mexican from the border adapted to use some local ingredients and made to suit local (Texan) tastes—over the years.

    The same dishes in New Mexico, are usually a bit hotter and much more likely to use Hatch chilies. We get them here too, but most of the TexMex green salsas are more based on tomatillos, and not quite so hot. There has also been a lot of influence from areas like Veracruz, so you will find lots of fish tacos here. Some upscale places will now put anything into a taco—including lobster.

    Many (and most good) restaurants here, would make their tacos (carné) with beef that is not ground. This does not mean expensive places—they can be real hole in the walls with great food.

    Tacos in many places are often served with some lettuce and chopped tomato on the side, instead of in the taco. And usually with rice and beans on the side as well.

    Here we have both TexMex and Mexicans places. And the Mexican ones tend to emphasize the cooking of a particular region. But even our straight TexMex places, that emphasize tacos, enchiladas and so forth, often serve moles and other dishes that don’t often appear on menus outside of the Southwest (including California).
     
  5. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    I should have just waited for you, Lew, after explaining how I'm totally NOT a food person. LOL

    But New Mexican food I love, especially the Hatch green chile. Still no expert, but I suppose that's one type of food I know a little about. So maybe I could be a New Mexican food critic, that might work [​IMG]
     
  6. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    To add to Leila’s post, I’d comment that most TexMex places here will have one or two salsas that are made at that restaurant. Nothing bottled. In any true TexMex place, you will get chips and salsa, where the chips have probably just been fried from corn tortillas. This is not so true of Mexican restaurants, where you may not get chips and salsa to begin—and they may not be available even if you ask.

    The salsas tend to emphasize cilantro and some chili.

    Tortillas with food are served in a separate dish and are never fried—often you are asked if you want wheat or corn tortillas. Tacos might be served either crisp or soft—or you might have a choice. In a TexMex place, dishes like tostadas use crisp ones, while fajitas always use soft ones.

    One of my favorite Mexican restaurants (very cheap) always begins with a soft corn tortilla (very subtle) on which you smear butter and eat just like a roll or bread. Some dip in a salsa---or not. It all depends.

    I’m getting hungry.
     
  7. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Not at all—and we both agree on the merits of Hatch chilis.

    BTW, I notice that you commented on the texture of the food in your post. I stand by my view that texture is important—even if you don’t think about it much. [​IMG]
     
  8. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    I guess with that, I'll have to agree. [​IMG]
     
  9. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    What to add after Lew goes? My word Lew, I'm hungry too.

    May I add



    It would't, it's a Dutch brew.
     
  10. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

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    Right, I'm aware of that. I just threw out the Taco Bell name because they use the same types of ingredients as some of the full-scale "authentic" restaraunts use.

    So, I guess my main question has been answered. Authentic tacos are not made with ground beef, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, correct? Beef (not ground), cilantro, onions and salsa would be the standard throughout Mexico, right?

    Jeff
     
  11. Randy Tennison

    Randy Tennison Screenwriter

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    Oops. My bad. Your right.

    Let me change it to "It doesn't taste like St. Pauli Girl".

    All this talk of mexican food is making me want to go to my favorite mexican place in Kansas City. El Sombrero!
    No ground beef. And everything covered in cheese.

    It might not be authentic, but it's darned tasty!
     
  12. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    As stated, Heineken is Dutch and for the record, I've had quite a few "authentic" German Pilsners that taste remarkably like Budweiser (which is a Pilsner beer). Plus, everyone knows the only authentic Indian food in the world is from London and the best Chinese food is from San Francisco[​IMG].
     
  13. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    I like the Cal-MeX syle here. There is a problem with this term as it is used loosely and every Mexican restaurant here seems to represent a different region. Something I would leave to Lew to describe.

    Typically, the Cal-Mex uses whole avocado, white cheeses (jack), fresh salsa, white beans (sometimes black) usually lean carnitas or chicken breast. I find it a bit lighter on the tummy if not void of any real style and character. Tex-Mex is a whole different experience. There is place very near here, that been in business since 1975, literally a box of an establishment. Family migrated from southern Texas and brought their wonderful recipes here. Including a one-of-a-kind salsa, that hasn't quite been the same since Mama passed on. If there is such thing as comfort food, then this is it.

    As to the other regions of food mentioned. I'm no expert, but it does appear that many of these restaurants from Yucatan, Caribbean, Cuban, Inca, there is a bit of Californianizing of the food everywhere. If I can notice, I'm sure even an intermediate palate could.
     
  14. Craig S

    Craig S Producer

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    Man, I just had a great plate of TexMex at a new restaurant yesterday, and after reading this thread I'm ready for some more. I don't think anyone would say it's "authentic" (whatever that means), but a steaming hot plate of TexMex with a cold Dos Equiis (Amber, of course) is one of life's great pleasures. [​IMG]

    That said, I also love the New Mexican style as well. I'll be passing through Albuquerque this fall and I'm already looking forward to eating there...

    Leila, as a resident do you have any recommendations?

    Is it lunch time yet??
     
  15. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I quit apologizing for TexMex a long time ago. True it is not authentic Mexican, but it is not supposed to be. Plus, as I live in Texas, it must be authentic here. [​IMG]

    I love TexMex. And most Mexican. And New MexicanMex. And combinations.

    I’d probably drink a Bohemia with mine, but the double X is a very close second. Good call Craig.
     
  16. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    That would probably be Reynosa (right across from Hidalgo).
     
  17. Randy Tennison

    Randy Tennison Screenwriter

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    Just got back from enjoying my burrito, enchilada and taco at El Sombrero!

    I'm not sure what you would catagorize this mexican food as, but I just call it Yummy!
     
  18. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    I love Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex, but they really aren't Mexican. Recently a vacant lot at a nearby corner was bulldozed and paved and a nice permanent restroom building and covered outdoor eating area installed. Soon a couple of gleaming new catering trailers were installed, one of which sells real authentic tacos, quesadillas, and burritos and the other specializes in Colima-style Mexican seafood. The tacos do not have any cheese or lettuce and the meat is your choice of several types none of which are ground beef. I like the Asada which is sorta chunks of marinated steak. The menu board is only in Spanish, but I think Adobo is pork, Pollo is chicken, and they also have what I translate as brains and tripe as choices. They come on heated soft corn tortillas and have onion and cilantro but no lettuce or cheese on them. The burritos are huge and have rice and beans, and the quesadillas are the real white Mexican cheese, not cheddar. There is a selection of fresh made salsas, most of which should be used sparingly until you get used to them.

    I've yet to try the seafood trailer, but they do seem to have lots of shrimp dishes.

    I can get a satisfying meal there for $7 tops. Ordering is a bit difficult as they only speak a bit of English and my Spanish is improvised. I know this stuff is the real thing by the clientele, almost exclusively Hispanic.

    I love these semi-mobile kitchens.

    If you're ever in Fresno, check out the corner of Clinton and Chestnut, just west of the airport.
     
  19. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    Two of my favorites are Los Cuates (on Lomas just west of San Mateo) and Sadie's (4th St). People also rave about Garcia's, and El Pinto, though I've never been there so I can't personally vouch for them. If you need directions or something, let me know and I'd be more than happy to help.
     
  20. Mary M S

    Mary M S Screenwriter

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    I was a bad little texican, and refused most Mexican food growing up, I was the bane of my mother’s existence as it was impossible for a waiter to arrive at table with a “dry” chicken fried steak, as ordered. One of very limited items I was willing to consume she could count on being available on most menus. My mother tore out her hair when she had to return the 1000th gravy covered steak to the kitchen. It was simply not possible for kitchens to remember to plate a chicken fried steak sans topping. “Can’t you just please scrape it off?”
    On two trips to Monterey, when young, I lived on fresh Strawberries. (I thought I was in heaven ...I loved stawberries).

    Now acquiring the taste it can be hard to travel out of Texas. In Alaska disembarking, we passed a tiny Mexican food restaurant and instead of returning to the ship for dinner, dropped in. We expected it to be different from our accustomed, but had to have Mexican. Partially through the meal, I inquired of the waitress if the cook happened to have migrated from Texas. Her reply …”No, but the owner is….What is it? Is it that Tex-Mex thing….everyone calls it that from your region!” and it was…very distinctive.

    I finally succumbed to my birthright (in a limited form) and we have to do Mexican at least once a week.
    Lee, if I may bother? Your recommendations for a few favorite hole-in-the-walls you prefer in Dallas?
    We need some new finds.
     

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