Tortillas are a staple in mexican and tex-mex fare. Some people prefer tortillas made from corn, and some prefer the softer variety made from wheat flour. There has long been an argument between foodies as to which style of tortilla is better.
In this article, we will be discussing the differences between these two types of flat breads, and taking a closer look at some of the may ways to enjoy them both. Keep reading to learn more about the great tortilla debate.
The Tortilla Origin story
Tortillas are no modern invention. Corn tortillas predate the arrival of spanish conquistadors, and have been a staple food of the indigenous people of mexico for thousands of years. According to Maya legend, tortillas were invented by a peasant for his hungry king in ancient times. The first tortillas discovered by archaeologists, which date back to approximately 10,000 BC, were made from the dried kernel of the native grain, called maize, which we know today as corn.
In the spring of 1519, Spaniards led by Hernan Cortes arrived in what is now Mexico. They found that the indigenous inhabitants of the land made a flatbread prepared from ground maize, known in the native Nahuatl language as tlaxcalli. This bread was later given the Spanish name tortilla, or “little cake.”
Traditionally, maize tortillas were made from maize which had undergone a process known as nixtamalization, in which kernels were soaked in a solution of lime (calcium hydroxide) and water to remove their skins and soften the kernel. The corn was then ground into a meal known as masa and formed by hand into small flat disk shapes before being placed on a hot griddle. This is still the most common method of making tortillas in Mexico to this day.
Flash forward a few hundred years to the 1800’s. Back when America was still young, Anglo-American settlers moved west into what is now Texas. As they spread westward, they came across Mexican cultures each with their own traditional styles of cooking.
As more and more people settled in Texas, the popularity of Mexican food grew and grew. These styles would later come to be emulated in homestyle southwestern cooking, The result of this marriage of cultures and cuisines would come to be known as Tex-Mex. There are several differences between the two styles of cooking, one of the most notable being the substitution of wheat flour in place of the cornmeal masa used in traditional mexican preparations. This may have been due to an unavailability of traditional ingredients, or even just a matter of preference. Whatever may be the reason, the result is a much softer and pliable tortilla.
Various Uses for Tortillas
In most mexican-american restaurants, you will commonly find both flour and corn tortillas on the menu. Tacos have long been a favorite among Mexican and American diners alike, and you will usually find that most Summerlin Restaurants that specialize in Mexican and Tex-Mex food will allow you to substitute one for the other in most cases, but tacos are not the only way to enjoy tortillas.
Corn tortillas generally tend to come in one standard size, about 5 inches in diameter. Flour tortillas however, come in a wider range of sizes, and the glutenous nature of the wheat flour used to make them gives these tortillas a greater flexibility, both in structure and use.
One food item that is widely thought to be an authentic mexican dish, the burrito, actually gets its origin in Tex-Mex cuisine. Usually made with larger tortillas, a flour tortilla is wrapped around ingredients like beans, meats, vegetables and various salsas, in effect creating a meal that can be eaten with one hand while on the go.
Corn Tortillas are often cooked crispy in hot oil or on a griddle, then combined with eggs, salsa, cheese, and other various ingredients in a popular preparation known as chilaquiles. This is a very popular breakfast dish in mexican cooking, and is the best hangover cure in the morning after a bit of tequila-fueled hedonism.
Flour tortillas can also be used as a sweet treat as well. Fried flour tortillas are then coated in cinnamon sugar, and served with honey, chocolate sauce and whipped cream in a dessert known as a buñuelo.
Corn Tortillas are Usually served along with stewed meats and soups, seafood, mole poblano, and just about any other dish in mexican cuisine.
When it comes to the argument over which style of tortilla is best, the jury is still out. One thing that is certain however, is that tortillas are much more than just a bread. In mexico, the tortilla is life. The most basic staple of the people for thousands of years. Among many restaurant goers in the United States, Going out for mexican food is a special occasion. With that in mind, its safe to say that warm tortillas can represent an idea of fun and warm feelings of togetherness felt when sharing a meal with loved ones.
What is your preference when it comes to tortillas? Leave us a comment and tell us why you prefer one over the other.