From the quesadilla to the mole
With its long ties to its southern neighbor, Mexico, it’s no surprise that Texan food shows strong Mexican influences. The cuisine so closely coincides with Mexico’s food that an entirely new genre of food was created, Tex-Mex, which combines traditional Mexican flavors and techniques with American customs. Most of today’s Mexican food is based on Mayan and Aztec traditions combined with culinary trends introduced by the Spanish colonists. Quesadillas, typically flour tortillas with chicken or beef, cheese and salsa, serve as a staple to many Austinite’s diets. Chili peppers represent the indigenous spice used generously in almost every dish and create colorful foods when used in combination with a variety of vegetables and Mexican meats.
Quesadillas are one of the mainstays of Mexico’s street-side stands, and are considered quintessential Mexican. It turns out that they, like Mexicans themselves, are hybrid creations, half indigenous and half Spanish. The corn tortilla on which quesadillas are based is Native American; the cheese, as well as the pork, and/or beef that may accompany the cheese is Spanish; of the garnish, the hot-sauce made with chili pepper is indigenous, but the shredded lettuce is Spanish.
To get an idea of what a fancy Mexican dish is like, let’s consider Mexico’s most fervently honored dish, mole poblano, of which two sesame-seed-sprinkled dishes are shown at the right, as photographed through a store window in Puebla. Each dish is about a foot across. Mole (pronounced MOHL-leh) is a very rich, thick sauce made from several kinds of pepper and a remarkable number of seasonings, which vary from recipe to recipe, and which can number over a hundred different items. Among the prime ingredients of one recipe are ground peanuts, sesame and anise seed, cinnamon, salt, black pepper, sugar, garlic, onion, clove, coriander, tortilla, wheat bread, tomato, raisins, lard, pieces of pork, and… chocolate. Don’t forget that chocolate is a native Mexican invention, so it has every right to be here.
While one thing that distinguishes Tex-Mex with Mexican food is the former’s reliance on cheddar, Mexican food depends more heavily on white cheese. Chile Relleno, a popular Tex-Mex favorite, consists of a giant poblano pepper that’s stuffed with a meat, cheese, onions and eggs. Chips with queso (melted cheese with salsa), or guacamole (smashed avocado and salsa), or just plain chips and salsa are eaten as appetizers in nearly every one of Austin’s acclaimed Tex-Mex restaurants. Usually in a variety of heat levels, salsa literally warms people up for the even spicier entrees to follow.
Some of our favorite local Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurants:
Fonda San Miguel Do not fail to attend their Sunday Brunch
Carlos and Charlie’s At Lake Travis fun and good food
La Condesa Contemporary Mexican cuisine with traditional regional influences
Cantina Laredo Check on their beautiful terraza
Manuel´s Do not miss their chiles rellenos
PD For those who know about gastronomy I have sad news for you, El Bulli one of the most renowned restaurants in the world is closing its doors.
El Bulli is undoubtedly the most controversial and experimental restaurant in the world that receives up to 1,000,000 reservation requests a year, where only 8,000 lucky ones get a table.
Ferran Adrià – the chef who earned El Bulli its worldwide fame is one of the most famous people in Spain and has been acclaimed to be the best chef in the world.