As I sat staring at the menu of Manuels Mexican Restaurant tonight with a fellow extern it dawned on me about a conversation we had months prior about mexican food in general.
If memory serves me correctly (which it sometimes doesnt) the original question posed to me was about the difference between Tacos, Burritos, Chimichangas, and Enchiladas.
As I thought about it I realized that many people may not know why they are so named aptly.
So get that pen and paper ready, cause next time you eat out ala Mexicano you can wow family and friend with in depth knowledge of these dishes.
As with alot of dishes it may be only a small change in preparation or cooking method that differentiates each dish.
So we will start with the most famous of all mexican foods:
Burrito: a flour tortilla folded and rolled to completely enclose and of several savory fillings. Usually including Shredded/Chopped Meat, Refried Beans, Grated Cheese, Sour Cream, Lettuce, etc.
Now onto one of my personal favorites. It's hard to find one done well, but when you do you fall in love. Its also a good sign that the establishment knows what they're doing if they can make a good:
Chimichanga: Hailing from Sonora Mexico this dish is actually a burrito that is fried or deep fried. It can contain a number of fillings, most commonly pork, chicken, or beef. The burrito itself is often encased in a second protective layer of flour tortilla to protect it during frying.
This brings us now to the also very popular:
Taco: A mexican-style "Sandwich" consisting of a folded corn tortilla filled with various ingredients such as beef, pork, chicken, Chorizo sausage, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, onion, etc. Most commonly served in the United States in a crisp(Fried) tortilla shell, but can also be served with a soft shell.
Last but not nearly least we have ourselves the:
Enchiladas: Mexican specialty is made by rolling a soften corn tortilla around a meat or cheese filling. Served hot usually topped with a tomato-based salsa and melted cheese
As you can see each is very similar yet differentiated by one or two things. Such is the case with many different foods and dishes. A good example, and sticking with our theme, would be chiles. Chipotle chiles for example are nothing more then dried and smoked Jalapenos stored in Adobo sauce. By drying and smoking a single type of chile we change its name, such is the case with many dishes.
Now keep in mind weve only scratched the surface of Mexican food, and the dishes listed above were picked because of their popularity in North America. Mexican food, Nay, South American food is a very diverse and misunderstood mix of fresh ingredients and amazing adaptation to local surroundings.
South American cuisine in general is very defined and mostly so due to region, climate, and accessability. Cuisines of South America have one of the richest and strongly rooted foundations then most. Influenced by numerous cultures and backgrounds it has managed to define itself as a very different and unique cuisine.
If you can manage to locate an authentic South American eatery near you I invite you, no I implore you to try it when the next craving for a Supreme Burrito or Nacho Salad from your local Taco Bell or other tex-mex fast food joint lurches at your stomach.
You may find yourself pleasently suprised.
All definitions came directly from Food Lovers Companion 3rd edition