If you are a fan of exotic food with flavors ranging from sweet to hot and mild to extremely spicy, then you’ve most likely tried Tex-Mex. Ever wondered how it’s different from traditional Mexican food? If you ask me, I don’t see the difference at all. So now we focus mainly on Tex-Mex vs Mexican Food and how one is better over the other (is one really better?)
We start differentiating the two with a little history lesson. Back in time, Anglo-American settlers migrated towards the West into what is now known as Texas, where they first encountered Mexican cultures and cuisines. Later on, you will come to realize that the single most important influence on Mexican cuisine is actually Mexico’s proximity to Texas. Back to the story: these settlers then found that the area beyond the Rio Grande had a variety of exotic dishes which was, of course, traditional Mexican food.
More and more settlers then decided to make Texas their home. The result? Mexican food became more popular as well. Mexican food to them was new, within close proximity, and the ingredients were very abundant. Anglo-American settlers which were then known as Texans started attempting to make Mexican food in their own kitchens, using ingredients found in Texas but not in Mexico. These include beef and wheat flour. The number of Mexican restaurants boomed and the demand for this new type of exotic food was high. Along the way, they just started adding more and more Northern ingredients either to make it more interesting, more flavorful, or just more palatable as true Mexican food can sometimes be bland, This is how Tex-Mex was born but it wasn’t called as such until the 1940’s to the 1970’s.
Having said that, we now know how exactly to differentiate traditional Mexican food from Americanized Mexican food – it’s the ingredients! The use of ingredients found in the United States that are scarcely used anywhere South of the Rio Grande is a sign that what you’re eating is most likely Tex-Mex. These ingredients include beef, yellow cheese, wheat flour, black beans, canned vegetables, and cumin. It is known that beef was actually the meat of choice for Texan ranchers back in the day.
Mexican food, on the other hand, uses three basic ingredients—corn, beans, and rice. Corn is then used to make other components of Mexican food such as tortillas and tamales. Beans are also cooked many different ways, and go with almost every meal.
There you have it. So, burritos and chili con carne are actually of Tex-Mex origins while tortillas and tamales are more of traditional Mexican. Does it matter to know which is which? Heck no! They both taste good either way!