Mexicans can eat enchiladas for three months without getting bored. This can happen because there are 100 registered varieties of the dish. Anything can change in an enchilada, from the flavor of tortillas to the types of salsas and fillings.
“One can stuff them with meat, chicken or dip the tortillas in salsa and top them with cream, onion and cheese,” said Rodolfo Vázquez Figueroa, a gastronomy graduate from Le Chef College in Boca del Río, Veracruz. “They do not necessarily have to be dipped in salsas. They can be made with beans, tomato or pipián [a peanut and pepper sauce] if you don’t eat much spice, and there is even more variety.”
The dish dates from pre-Hispanic times. The “Florentine Codex,” a 16th-century study carried out by friar Bernardo de Sahagún, mentions the chillapitzalli, a tortilla folded like a flute and covered with pepper sauce.
Legend has it that one of the most prominent enchilada types was born in the Soledad municipality, in San Luis Potosí. Cristina Jalomo, the owner of a nixtamal mill, is credited as the inventor of the dish.
Once, while grinding corn, she accidentally dropped a dried pepper into the mill. Intending to save the dough, Jalomo continued preparing tortillas for personal consumption. Her family was pleased with their peculiar flavor.
After the lucky mistake, Jalomo continued making chili-flavored tortillas. When she used these tortillas in quesadillas, dipped them in salsa and covered them with cream, the famous enchiladas potosinas were born.
Jalomo sold enchiladas potosinas on weekends and holidays. The dish became popular, spreading throughout Mexico. Today, all Mexicans recognize the contribution of San Luis Potosí to the enchilada culture.
“I love enchiladas. They are the perfect dish for when you don’t have time and budget,” said Eduardo Vargas, an engineer from Veracruz. “Making them is very easy and, although some more gourmet varieties have a different preparation method, making them does not take more than ten minutes.”
Are you interested in joining the enchilada culture? Try preparing your variety!
20 fried or fresh tortillas
1 lb shredded chicken or cooked beef
2 lb queso fresco
1 quart of the salsa of your choice: red, green or tomato
16 oz cream
1 lb sliced onion
Fry the tortillas. Preheat the salsa. Dip the fried tortillas in the salsa and place them on a plate. Stuff them with the filling of your choice: chicken, meat or cheese. Bathe them with more salsa. Top with onion slices, crumbled cheese, and cream.
(Translated and edited by Gabriela Olmos. Edited by Kristen Butler)