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What is Jalisco style? [moved from Texas board]

In San Antonio, and probably other parts of Texas there is an abundance of "Jalisco style" Mexican restaurants.

I'm curious to get informed comments on what "Jalisco style" is or means?

An additional side question to this is what food items are signature Jalisco.

Thanks in advance to anyone who wants to contribute.

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  1. Jalisco is a large and heavily populated Mexican state. It includes Guadalajara (Mexico's 2nd biggest city) as well as Puerto Vallarta on the coast. In my travels there, the best regional food came from "campestre" style restaurants. These are huge restaurants that seat hundreds, even thousands of people on Sundays for family dinners. Most cook in big open fire pits. My favorite food from these is birria. Birria is a pit-roasted version of goat or beef. I prefer the goat. It can be served wet (meat in a thick soup) or dry (with a consomme on the side). You also receive tortiallas, refried beans, and some salsas. If you like, they'll place a teuila bottle on your table. It will be marked where the previous table left off drinking, and you pay for how much you drink below the marked line.

    If you try one of the Jalisco style places, let us know what you find!

    1. Jalisco is also the region where everything called 'Tequila' is produced. Nothing produced outside Jalisco, no matter the quality or percentage of blue agave, can be called Tequila. It is instead called by the more broad term, Mezcal.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mojoeater

        Mojo, tequila and mezcal are *not* the same liquor by different names. Tequila is, as you said, produced primarily (but not entirely) in the state of Jalisco. A small amount is legally produced in the northwestern part of Michoacan. The ONLY plant that renders tequila in the distilling process is the Weber blue agave. Mezcal is distilled from other plants. The distillation process of both liquors is similar, but the product rendered is very different.

        As to Jalisco-style cooking: IMHO, the restaurants mentioned by the OP will probably include the recipes learned by their owners in their home state, Jalisco. As Graig mentioned, you'll probably find a lot of birria. Like Graig, I prefer the version made with goat, which is not pit-roasted, as Graig says, but is instead cooked overnight in a rich liquid that includes water, beer, chiles, and other spices. That cooking liquid becomes the consomme in which the meat is served (or which is the side dish that accompanies the meat after it's removed from the cooking vessels). I prefer the dry birria accompanied by consomme, but either way it's a delicious dish.

        Jalisco-style also includes the famous torta ahogada, a sliced pork-leg sandwich bathed in thin tomato sauce with sauce of chile de arbol served to taste, but usually served hotter than the hinges of hell.

        The bean usually prepared in the Jalisco kitchen is the peruano; it's most commonly served either de la olla (freshly cooked with its juice) or refrito (mashed and fried).

        Pozole is another Jalisco specialty. A rich, thick, dried corn and pork-based soup--occasionally you'll see it served with chicken rather than pork--pozole is served in pozoleras, big deep bowls that hold a lot of meat, hominy, and broth. Accompanied by garnishes of shredded cabbage, thinly sliced fresh radishes, minced onion, salsa and coarse sea salt, pozole is addictively delicious.

        There are few other regionally specific dishes from Jalisco, but each Jalisco cook has his or her own twists that add the Jalisco personality to the dishes served all over the country.

        Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

      2. Whittington,

        My parents are both from small towns in the Los Altos region (the Highlands) which is a corner of the state bordered by Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato & San Luis Potosi. Like other people have mentioned it is one of Mexico's biggest states with very distinct regional differences within the state.

        A key to understading the abundance of Jalisco style restaurants is the history of Mexican migration to the U.S. During the Roaring 20's, the U.S. had a laborer shortage while Mexico was coming off a 10+ year revolution and certainly had a lot of people that needed work. At the same time Puerto Rico was mired in a huge crisis, and many P.Ricans were migrating (illegally at that time) to the U.S. There was a huge debate in Congress about how to address the labor shortage after some non-PC deliberations they decided they wanted to minimize the influx of migrants of African & Indigenous ancestry... as well as the "promiscous people of Mexico's coasts". So they created the Bracero program and recruited mainly in Central Jalisco a hot bed of Catholic Conservatism that happened to be a staging an insurgency against Mexico's anti-clerical highly secular government.... and an area of the country where people tend to be of lighter skin tone. After the Bracero program... those of Jaliscan background (a bit homesick) would encourage their hometown friends, relatives & neighbors into the diaspora... and given that it is easier to migrant to a new place... if you know someone there.... everything came together and Jalisco become one of the states with the highest emigration rates. That is how places such as San Antoni & East L.A. with a deep seated Mexican immigrant history ended up with high concentrations of Jaliscans and Jalisco style restaurants.

        With respects to the food.... I think Guadalajara is well represented by Cristina & others. I would add that Ranchero Sauce ( a cooked, saucy melange of Tomatoes, Jalapenos, Onions combined with each persons preferences on herbs & spices.... typically Black Pepper, Thyme, Mexican Oregano & others) is also a signature of Jaliscan seasoning. You find out in Carne / Bistek Ranchero (a sort of Beef & Potatoe pot roast)... Puntas a la Ranchera (seared filet tips sauced), Camarones Rancheros (shrimp in the sauce), Pescado Ranchero (typically a Tilapia like freshwater fish generically known as Mojarra that is dredged, pan fried & sauced) as well as the famous Huevos Rancheros.

        In terms of the regional differences.... the towns along Lake Chapala & the Lerma River basins tend to emphasize lots of freshwater fish & shellfish.

        In the highlands there are two major types of towns. Those founded by Castillians with lots of Native Mexican descendants (such as Lagos de Moreno or San Juan de los Lagos), and those that were founded by 2nd Class Spaniards (Basques & Galicians) typically smaller towns like San Miguel el Alto (a Basque town) or San Jose de los Reynoso a Galician town... I have ancestry from all three types of populations.

        The towns of greater Basque origin have great Dairy & Pickling traditions.... local specialties include Pickled Pork Feet & Skin Tostadas, Crema, Queso Fresco & lots of Milk Fudge.

        The towns of Galician origin tend to be rather culinarily backward... and can be characterized by lots of Potatoe & Pasta dishes, a very low adoption rate of Native Mexican cuilinary techniques & foods.

        The towns with a greater indigenous population offer the most culinarily... they maintain sophisticated use of chiles, saucing & broth making while incorporating influences brought by the Castillians, Basques & Galicians. One of my favorite dishes of the region is Caldo Miche.... a spicy stew typically featuring Catfish, Bass, Crayfish & mixed vegetables such as Chayote, Mexican Zucchini, Potatoes & Carrots it is flavored with a broth of carp head, xoconostles (sour prickly pears), dried chiles & a wide variety of old & new world herbs & spices.

        Then you have local versions of enchiladas which are sauced in a very spicy Guajillo sauce, then simpled folded in to triangles & topped with diced onions, fresco cheese, peas, potatoes & carrots.

        There is alot more to the cuisine of Jalisco... but hopefully that gives you a flavor of its contributions to mainstream Mexican cuisine as well as some of the regional specialities etc.,

        8 Replies
        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          So what would it mean if a dish was described as "prepared Jalisco style"? This is a Tex-Mex place in Houston that has carnitas tostadas, and that description just says "sliced pork", but the Carnitas Tejanas says it is pork prepared Jalisco style, and they reccommend corn tortillas. What do you think the difference is?

          1. re: danhole

            Ah... in this case it just means that the Carnitas are prepared soft, no crispiness, not much seasoning other than salt, as is common in Jalisco... wheras in Michoacan (the most reknown) the carnitas are marinaded in various combinations of Orange Juice, Orange Rind, Coca Cola, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, Mexican Oregano etc.,... and the result is a well browned, slightly crispy carnita (no they aren't griddle or grilled to order... but still crispy that is the beauty).

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              I had this dish last night, and the waiter said the difference was that the Jalisco style was large chunks, and the other was small pieces. So I got the Jalisco style, and, of course, you were right. They had a bit of crispness to it, but it wasn't flavored much. I still thoroughly enjoyed them, but I really enjoy the flavor of pork. Adding some avocado, sour cream, a bit of salsa and queso helped.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                I know you're surely more well versed and certainly more academic about comida mexicana than I am but in my real life experience this generalization about carnitas doesn't play out. I keep running into carnitas here in Los Angeles that are called estilo Jalisco that are invariably crispy fried chunks yet when I was in guadalajara and went to michoacan style carnitas places, the meat was invariably soft/stewed/braised. Even in the market in Paracho where I had some of the absolutely most rico carnitas EVER, there was no hint of crust at all.

                Oh Lord, I've got to have a torta ahogada, right now. To bad I've never seen one here in L.A.


                Cristina, I tried to reach you last May when I was in GDL but never heard back.

                1. re: KayZee

                  Maybe not in LA, but at Cilantro's at La Habra you can find Torta Ahogada. I don't know how authentic it is, but it seems to be stuffed with the softer (not crispy) carnitas, topped with a mild tomatoey sauce and sliced onions, and a side of very hot sauce on the side.

                  Can't say I like it though.

                2. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Mr Nopal,

                  This generalization about carnitas style doesn't play out in my experience. Here in Los Angeles, virtually all of the carnitas I've had is crispy even when advertised as Jalisco style. When I was in Guadaljara and was taken to a carnitaria that called itself Michoacan style, the carne was soft/braised/stewed. Equally in the market in Paracho, Michoacan the carnitas had not the least hint of crust/char. But oh was it GOOD.

                  Regarding campestre style restaurants. I was taken to one off the ruta libre to Tonala and I was thinking about that joke where the fella is trying to describe the wide variety of mexican food but everything winds up being "tortilla, meat and cheese!" and I was thinking, "Yeah, but when it's these tortillas, this cheese, and this meat, that's good eatin'!"

                  1. re: KayZee

                    I see I got called on my generalization.... you are right I have not eaten carnitas in every town in Jalisco & Michoacan... so let me be a bit more specific on my characterization...

                    > The Carnitas vendors in the higlands of Jalisco universally make soft, non-crisped Carnitas

                    > The Carnitas vendor in the two most famous, Carnitas towns in the country... Zamora & Uruapan (both in Michoacan) universally sell Carnitas that are both crispy on the outside & tender on the inside.

                    Whether they are chopped or shredded I think depends more on the vendors... but the vast majority of Carnitas specialists in both areas of the country cook & keep them in very large hunks... and then with a cleaver they hack away to deliver your desired quanitity (usually sold by the kilo)... In Uruapan the chunks of Maciza (loin) were the size and general shape of a 12oz Filet Mignon... the small pieces is something I associate with the North of Border eateries that are re-heating... and don't specialize in carnitas.

                    Lastly regarding your last paragraph... what did they serve at that restaurant near Tonala? I think THE definition of Campestre is a restaurant that is located at the source of production of some specialized good... for example in the Bajio.. the Campestres usually have a million ways to prepare Orejona lettuce (kind of a cross between Romaine & Butter) or Strawberries (depending on season)... around Mexico State its mushrooms etc.,

              2. re: Eat_Nopal

                how would a jaliscan mole taste different from a oaxacan one?

              3. The replies from Christina and Eat Nopal are amazingly detailed. A lot of the dishes they describe show up on the menus of the newer Mexican restaurants in Yuma, a border town with heavy Jaliscan influence. One dish available here (that they didn't mention) that is alleged to be from Guadalajara is Carne en su Jugo - beef cooked in broth with bacon and beans

                Oddly enough though, the one restaurant in town that calls itself "Taqueria Jalisco" is actually being run by a family from San Luis Potosi. I also suspect that a restaurant in Texas that calls itself "Jaliscan" is primarily announcing that it is not a Tex-Mex restaurant.


                2 Replies
                1. re: Ed Dibble

                  Good point about Carne en su Jugo its definitely a specialty common in Jalisco as well as some other states including neighboring Michoacan & Zacatecas. I should note that Carne Ranchera as I described it is a variation on Carne en Su Jugo (which at its most basic is a method of poaching beef).

                  1. re: Ed Dibble

                    thanks for the heads up , ed. Going to Yuma next month, will check the SW board for rec's.

                  2. In addition to some of the specific dishes that Cristina, Eat Nopal, and I have mentioned as typical of Jalisco, I would expect a Jaliscan restaurant to be different in some fundamental ways from older Tex-Mex style places. There should be greater use of corn tortillas instead of flour. Tacos should generally be soft, not hard/folded. In general, I would expect tacos to have cabbage, not lettuce, on them and not to have cheese. When cheese does show up, on frijoles for example, it often will be white, not yellow. Similarly, pork should be more common than in Tex-Mex places, with meat choices like al pastor and carnitas. No dishes should be made with ground beef except albondigas. I would expect greater use of green chilies, tomatillos, nopales, and other vegetables. There should also be agua frescas to drink - things like jamaica, horchata, tamarindo, or other fruit-based beverages. I would expect a Jaliscan restaurant to offer more caldos and fewer combination plates. The salsa and other dishes may be more spicy hot than at standard Tex-Mex places. I realize that many of the things I have mentioned are not specific to just Jalisco, and I am also not sure that all these specific things would apply in all restaurants, particularly in the context of Texas; nonetheless, the contrasts I've pointed out mark the differences between the newer, more Jaliscan influenced restaurants in Yuma from the old line/old school places that have operated for more than 50 years.

                    Please do try one or two Jaliscan restaurants in your area and let us know what you find.


                    1. Thanks to everyone for their wonderful input. I'm doing research about what "Jalisco style" means in San Antonio. I'm trying to establish some loose consensus on what "Jalisco style" possibly should be, or what one would expect it to be, and then I'm going to go around and see how it matches up.

                      I think the comments about the diaspora and Bracero program migration is critical to understanding why there are such an incredibly high number of places here referencing Jalisco.

                      If anyone has any new thoughts please continue to share! Thank you!

                      1. I am kind of curious also. My new favorite Mexican place is Jalisco style, or so they told me. Prominently display as #1 specialty on the menu is the Torta Ahogada, but no birria to be found.

                        I ordered the potatoes taquito today and much to my surprise it's not rolled up, but more like a mini potato taco. Is that how it's served at Jalisco? Sope is also on the menu, as is the campechanos topping, which I don't recall seeing other places.

                        Lastly, they serve fresh corn tortillas on the weekend breakfast menu. I asked them if they serve fresh corn tortillas with their tacos during the weekdays and they said that's not Jalisco style. I was wondering as the famed La Super Rica at Santa Barbara served fresh corn tortillas with everything, so now I am curious what region that is...

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: notmartha

                          I would say fresh tortillas are served in almost every region, but the main difference is that in major cities, you'll probably find most people buy freshly made tortillas or pre-made tortillas as most people don't make them, they buy them from a tortilleria, much like here, and in big cities like Guadalajara, Jalisco where few people have the freshest masa(dough) widely available and time is an issue as opposed to more rural areas and the countryside where making a batch of tortillas is a daily ritual, in which dry corn kernels(an ingredient widely available in the corn growing areas of Mexico) are boiled with lime(the mineral) the day before(this makes the inside soft yet remains starchy white, much like wheat) let it cool overnight, and take the nixtamal(corn kernels in present from, which is also used to make the hominy in pozole), to a mill, or a grinder the next morning to grind the kernels into masa dough, which they then take home to make the tortillas. Also I think most Jalisco style restaurants are owned by people that migrated from cities and towns where tortillas were not homemade daily, but rather bought.

                          1. re: notmartha

                            Torta Ahogadas are definitely a speciality of the state's capital Guadalajara. Restaurants in Mexico tend to be highly specialized... and places that offer Birria normally don't carry that much else... so its not shocking that your place doesn't have it.

                            Smashed Potato Taquitos... folded over, not rolled... very traditional usually have some thick Crema & pungent Queso Seco.

                            Sopes Campechanos. I have written about the term Campechano before... it has two connotations.... something in the Campeche style... which to be honest after having eaten in Campeche... I don't see many dishes in the U.S. that are truly Campeche cooking (its fairly similar to Yucatecan with the Sour Oranges, Pickled Red Onions, Achiote based marinades, Banana Leaves etc.,... but it also incorporates Hoja Santa quite a bit... which is not true in the Yucatan).

                            This brings us to the other definition of Campechano which means easy going, friendly & inviting. The people of Campeche are known for very high rates of intermarriage among Native & African peoples and anyone else that wants to join the orgie is welcome as well... so there the term Campechano is an adjective to describe mixtures & fluidity. So I normally see the term used in Mariscos places for Cocktails a la Campechana which are usually mixes of say Shrimp & Octopus, Octopus & Crab etc.,

                            The issue is slightly muddled because Campechanas frequently involve Octopus and Campeche IS well known for its Octopus... so maybe there are some regional recipes that influence the term Campechano on top of the social factor I discussed above.

                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              Thanks for the explanation.

                              The potato taquitos were served with shredded lettuce, crema, and some white cheese that somehow reminds me of a milder feta. They also gave me a side of tomato-ey sauce (not spicy, maybe it's ranchero?).

                              I asked them what the campechanos is and they told me it's asada and chorizo, so I guess they just used the 'mixed' meaning. Nice to find/learn something new!

                          2. Not entirely on topic, but interesting enough. I read yesterday in a book on Mexican bread that anything from Jalisco is given the name Tapatio, from breads to people to food styles. Apparently the people who began the hot sauce company are from there or something. I thought it was a pretty neat thing to find out.

                            3 Replies
                              1. re: kare_raisu

                                I can't remember the name or author and I can't find it on the infranet. It's at my school's library, I'll check on Monday and post the info. It's a pretty neat old book, no recipes, just a bunch of black and white photographs of layouts from different bakeries around Mexico and a lot of random history and facts about mexican breads and pastries.

                              2. re: rainbowbrown

                                Yeah... to be specific Tapatio is derived from a native language that combines influences of Nahuatl & Purepecha and means "3 Times As Worthy"... technically Tapatio is only used to describe people from Guadalajara but the definition has been broadened a little bit... but some people outside of Guadalajara would strongly object to be referred to as Tapatios... in the highlands people proudly refer to themselves as Altenos and in the mountain towns of the western Sierra Madre... people refer to themselves as Serranos.