Well, today I learned a few things. First, it is wise to check before using an expression in a foreign language. To celebrate Cinco de Mayo it’s wrong to say Viva La Mexico or Viva El Mexico. No articles in front of the country’s name. Good thing to know since I’m polishing my Spanish skills. Second, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day (which is September 16) but rather a commemoration of the Mexican army’s victory against the French at the Battle of Puebla, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. In the United States, the holiday has become a celebration of Mexican-American culture while in Mexico, it’s still a commemoration of the winning battle, with ceremonial military parades and dancers and musicians in colorful outfits.
Many Mexican restaurants have promotional specials: Qdoba, El Chico, Margarita’s, Don Chido, Cantina Laredo, El Torito, Acapulco, Tijuana Flats, etc. Most offer discounts on drinks and menu items but Margarita’s actually is doing is for a good cause. Twenty percent of the bill will be donated to Goodwill. My two favorite Mexican restaurants are in Norfolk, VA. I like El Rodeo (they have the best Enchiladas Poblanas with its yummy mole sauce) and El Azteca because they have the best Enchiladas Verdes, which is my go-to dish every time. This dish is a celebration in my mouth – savory shredded beef, tangy tomatillo sauce and creamy Chihuahua cheese – mmmmm!
But what we know as enchiladas here in the U.S. is a far cry from what it is Mexico. Enchilada simply means “in chile” and it’s a popular street food – a corn tortilla dipped in a chile sauce and could be stuffed with various fillings such as meat, cheese, sausage or fish. Indigenous Mexicans used to eat corn tortillas folded up around small fish. A traditional way to make enchiladas is to place a tortilla on a plate and pour red chili sauce, then cheese, another tortilla, more sauce, more cheese and lots of chopped onions, a fried egg and lettuce. Kinda a the Mexican lasagna, right? In New Mexico, stacked enchiladas that have a filling between layers and has both green and red sauce, topped with a fried egg is the closest version to the original.
The classic version is the one with red chile sauce made of dried chili peppers soaked and ground into a sauce and seasoned. Today, the enchilada has evolved into many varieties. Swiss immigrants led to the development of Enchiladas Suizas that has a milk- or cream-based sauce. There are also local specialties like Enchiladas Tapatia which is from Jalisco or Enchiladas Potosinas which originate from San Luis Potosi. For me having my favorite enchilada is a good way to celebrate the holiday and maybe a non-alcoholic pina colada!