What is the origin of chilaquiles and why is it a mestizo dish

In Mexico there is a wide variety of typical dishes based on corn and chili (Photo: Instagram/@tortilleria_taiyari)

Chilaquiles are pieces of tortilla cut in a triangular shape that, previously fried or roasted, are soaked in a hot sauce, the perfect mix of chilies and spices that season and cause an explosion of flavors when tasting the dish. Over the years, the typical recipe for this popular stew has evolved and integrated different ingredients among which different types of meat stand out, however, its true origin dates back to pre-Hispanic times.

Although there are many versions of what the word chilaquiles etymologically means, the version that has prevailed is attributed to the priest and historian Ángel María Garibay who details that the word comes from the Nahuatl chi-l(-li) “chile” and aqui-lli derived from the verb aquia “stuck in”, which together would be “stuck in chili”referring to the pieces of tortilla submerged in sauce.

    Chilaquiles have their origin in pre-Hispanic Mexico (Photo: Instagram/@cocinero_enproceso)
Chilaquiles have their origin in pre-Hispanic Mexico (Photo: Instagram/@cocinero_enproceso)

For its part, the first records about chili sauce are attributed to Fray Alonso de Medinawho during his stay in New Spain learned Nahuatl and served as an interpreter and evangelist by order of the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés. Alonso de Medina recounted in his work Vocabulary in Spanish and Mexican Language what the ancient Mexicans called chimulli to chili sauce.

The tortilla is one of the main ingredients of this dish and Its origin also dates back to pre-Hispanic times, as various investigations indicate that corn has always been the basis of food for Mexicans.. The preparation of tortillas is a process that was inherited approximately 3,500 years ago and that, like many other components of Mexican gastronomy, its use has evolved over time.

Chili and corn are two essential elements of Mexican cuisine (Photo: Instagram/@guacamayaoasis)
Chili and corn are two essential elements of Mexican cuisine (Photo: Instagram/@guacamayaoasis)

Although corn and chili are two essential elements of Mexican cuisine, this is representative saucer various ingredients that came to Mexico as a result of the conquest of the Spanish were integrated into itas is the case with all kinds of livestock. At the moment chilaquiles can be accompanied with chicken or beef and it is common to taste them with a touch of cream and cheeseproducts also of animal origin as well as accentuating their flavor with finely chopped onion.

It took a couple of years for this traditional stew to take shape as we know it today; it was until the year 1831, after the War of Independence, a recipe for chilaquiles was established as such. This fact is recorded in the book. The Mexican cook or collection of the best recipes for cooking in the American style, Although it is unknown who the author is, said work contains three different versions of preparation modes for chilaquiles.

The chilaquiles recipe has evolved over the years and it is common to find different variants of it (Photo: Instagram/@thebubblytalk)
The chilaquiles recipe has evolved over the years and it is common to find different variants of it (Photo: Instagram/@thebubblytalk)

Whether in green, red or even white sauce, accompanied with shredded chicken, egg, a good piece of steak or rib, chilaquiles have become popular throughout the Mexican territory, becoming the best option for a good breakfast and even one of the best hangover remedies that gives after a night of drinks.

As simple as it seems, in this traditional and peculiar dish the vestiges of pre-Hispanic Mexico are captured with the use of tortillas and chiles, but also, the essence of miscegenation and conquest prevail in the cheese, cream, onion and type of meat with which you decide to accompany it.

Although its recipe has evolved over the years, chilaquiles are undoubtedly an important element of Mexican gastronomya symbol of national identity and the ideal dish with which thousands of Mexicans decide to start their day on a daily basis.

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