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What is the difference between Mexican-American food and Mexican-Canadian food? [Moved from Canada board]

A friend and have been having this discussion regarding the way foods of particular ethnicities change when they pass into different countries. For example, Indian food in America is a poor shadow of Indian food in England (most definately due to England's imperialism).
My question then goes out to all of those people out there who have partaken of Mexican-American food and Mexican-Canadian food. Is there much of a difference? Is the Mexican food in Quebec different than Vancover? Or is Mexico far enough away, and Mexican immigration too low to make Mexican food in Canada anything more than a copy of it's US neighbor?


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  1. I can't say that I have noticed much difference, having eaten "Tex-Mex" in the U.S., Canada - and in Mexico, where it is widely appreciated, and not at all looked down on, although a close relative who spends much time in both New York City and Toronto insists that Herrnando's, on Yonge, is the best Tex-Mex restaurant he has ever tried in both cities. I can't say I wholeheartedly agree with him.

    Howvever, southern Ontatrio is getting a large number of agricultural workers from Mexico, to the extent that the Mexican Government has set up a Consulate among the tomato fields of Leamington, Ontario. Perhaps this will have a favourable effect on the amount and quality of Mexican food available here.

    1. I'll add England in here if I may, cheddar is usually used in Tex Mex cheese in the UK but in the US it's Jack or something like it.

      1. I've only been to Texas once, so I can't say too much about Tex-Mex, but in Toronto, "Mexican" food is a combination of ground beef, tomatoes, lettuce, cheddar cheese, and either a hard or soft shell. Sometimes, they throw in a little gaucamole. My Chinese wife thinks this bears as much relation to real Mexican cuisine as the places offering sweet and sour chicken balls do to Chinese cuisine.

        8 Replies
        1. re: KevinB

          Mexican-Canadian?....that's the first time I hear of this? What would make it Canadian? The Mexican I tried in Canada (Vancouver only) over the years (including this year) is a v. poor version of what is available in California and specifically places like Salinas or Santa Maria....

          1. re: Pollo

            Exactly. Canada has a huge variety of ethnic cuisines,but Mexican is simply not here, with very, very, very few exceptions- and those exceptions are NOT in Quebec, for heaven's sake.

            1. re: John Manzo

              =) I would argue Mexican cuisine barely exists here in the States... and just starting to find its stride.

                1. re: Pollo

                  Kind of.... I don't know about about the agricultural towns in between... but the Bay Area & L.A.... both have a ways to go... its hard to find real Fondas & regional specialties outside of a very small repetitive list of about 100 dishes that get recycled over & over again. L.A. has just started to get more regional cooking... but certainly not in any critical mass...

                  As Kare_Raisu is my witness... as I have "interviewed" Mexican diners at some of the most authentic eateries in Sonoma County... those 1st generation immigrants who came as adults... when asked where we can find the real cooking of their regions... always look sheepish & embarrassed when they respond... aqui puros tacos, birria y menudo... no se puede encontrar platillos de mi pueblo.... here there are only tacos, birria & menudo... you can't find the dishes from my town.

                  1. re: Pollo

                    I don't understand why you think they would replicate their native cuisine in a new area. Those folks stayed home. I see as many workers around here eating at chinese buffets
                    and hamburger stands as at taco trucks.

                    It's not Mexican food. It's Mexican-American food.
                    ....and Canadian-Mexican food.

                2. re: John Manzo

                  Interestingly, outside "tex-mex" and horrid stuff found in bars, a lot of our so-called Mexican cuisine here in Montréal is actually made by people from farther south, in Central America. Several Salvadorean and Guatemalan places also feature "Mexican" dishes - strangely, so have a couple of Brazilian places.

                  There is little semi-skilled labour migration from Mexico here - the Mexicans I know in Montréal are professionals. This may change with the increase in farmworkers brought here - who may stay on, especially if they marry local people (some have already) or in Western Canada, where there are skilled workers in the oil patch who may go into another field when that boom eventually turns down.

              1. re: KevinB

                Good Lord that description made my stomach turn... it reminds me of the many Chinese owned "Mexican" taco shops that still abound in Manhattan.

              2. There is no such thing as "Mexican Canadian" food. "Mexican" food in Canada is execrable. We simply have too few Mexicans, and among them too few Mexican restaurant owners.

                13 Replies
                1. re: John Manzo

                  What is the state of Canadian food in Mexico?

                  1. re: paulj

                    So what would you call "Canadian" food?

                    1. re: Pollo

                      Deep fried zucchini sticks, all dressed pizzas, cheese curds, beaver tails,

                      1. re: WelcomeBack

                        What is a "bever tail"???....I have seen Inuit eat fermented beaver tails (the real deal) and paws but that's not the stuff you will find easily and most Canadians never heard of. All the other stuff you list sounds like Mid-West USA....

                        1. re: Pollo

                          beaver tail is a sweet fried dough.

                          1. re: Lucia

                            Never heard of it in 20+ years of living in Vancouver....

                            1. re: Pollo

                              I've had it in Montreal. Maybe it's a Quebec thing.

                              1. re: Lucia

                                It's an Eastern Canada thing, including Eastern Ontario (they're standard Rideau Canal food).

                                1. re: piccola

                                  They also have them in Manitoba, but I believe there that they're referred to as elephant ears.

                              2. re: Pollo

                                I believe they can be found at Canada's Wonderland. I don't know if I would call it "Canadian". What is Canadian could start a whole other thread (if it hasn't already) and would quickly become what is French Canadian, Atlantic Cdn, Western Cdn, etc.

                                1. re: pescatarian

                                  Beaver tail is like what's called an elephant ear at many of the State Fairs in the South. Probably not far off from the taste of a funnel cake.

                          2. re: Pollo

                            Québec definitely has a distinctive cuisine, whether old-fashioned dishes (such as tourtière) which may be tasty but are heavy - peasant fare for cold climates, or contemporary urban cuisine.

                      2. I'm not expert but Tex-Mex is clearly Mexican-American food, as it's a fusion between the two borders.

                        1. I cannot directly address your question, regarding Mexican-Canadian, but can talk about Mexican-American. The border is ~ 2,000 miles and encompasses Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and the Mexican states of Baja, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon. Each area has it’s own take on cuisine, though some of the names may be the same. An “authentic” taco al carbon in San Diego will be different, than one in Nuevo Laredo. If that common border offers so much diversity, image how things might well get translated, when one goes to Canada. Disregarding the geographical distances, I’d also guess that many of the ingredients will have to be changed, due to availability.

                          On the Southwest CH board, folk are always asking for “authentic” Mexican fare. The usual response is, “authentic to where?”

                          I think that one would have to take a specific dish, as prepared in a specific location in Mexico, or the US, and compare it to the same dish in a specific area of Canada. Then, one should look at the state (State in Mexico) of origin of the recipe. It is not a straight-line comparison.


                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Many times, in such cities as Guadalajara and Mazatlan, which are nowhere near the U.S. border, I have seen Mexicans happily eating what we seem to call "Tex-Mex" food, not seeming to care about the difference.

                            1. re: ekammin

                              Once you get to Jalisco, or Durango, almost everything has changed dramatically. I do not think there would be that many dishes that would directly compare to Tex-Mex. Now, Jalisco does use some beef-based gravies, but the prep will usually be far different (raw, or blanched onions, vs carmalized ones), than what one might encounter in Nuevo Leon. Even by the time you get to Monterey, the dishes have changed from ones, with the same name, served in Reynosa. When in Mazatlan, State of Durango, you have so much more reliance on seafood, similar to Baja. Even though the Gulf of Mexico offers a wealth of seafood, one doesn't see that much in the Tex-Mex menus. It's not until you get into a Houston, fine-dining Mexican restaurant, that much appears.

                              Though I will say, that with globalization, many regional cuisines are being re-interpreted, and fusion does not have to combine cuisines of different countries - it can be different regions of a country. It might be possible to find some chef's take on Tex-Mex in the Yuccatan, though it's not the food of the region.


                              1. re: ekammin

                                Let us clarify what you mean by Tex-Mex... because on another Tex-Mex thread the Texan posters erroneously kept listing off traditional Mexican dishes as Tex-Mex.

                              2. re: Bill Hunt

                                I can chime in here as a SoCal native that spent summers in Mexico with expat Grandparents and I can tell you that SoCal has some amazingly authentic Mexican of the street food variety. The tacos that we can get here in LA are exactly the kind I grew up eating in Mexico. Now as an adult I took a trip to Texas and eveyone kept telling me I HAD to try Tex-Mex....um all I can say is my then 14 year old son ordered a beef burrito expecting a mouthfull of charred steak he took a bite and let the ground beef spill out on the table! He was horrified and I had to explain the difference but he was so done with THAT burrito and refused to try any other Mexican for the rest of the trip. (Poetic justice, he is now away at college in Louisville...good luck with the Mexican food there kido!) The two are so vastly different that they should not be compared....one is not better than the other, just what you are brought up with as Mexican is what you think of as Mexican. Not really fair when you think of the size of Mexico and how hugely different the foods are from one area to the next.

                              3. Since Canada has very little in the way of Mexican food, I think it would be more interesting to ask what the differences are between American-Chinese and Canadian-Chinese, since dumbed down (but still delicious in its own right, IMO) Chinese food is widespread through both countries. I know there *are* differences, too... in fact, I think I found a Wikipedia page outlining some of them awhile back, but I can't seem to locate it now.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: vorpal

                                  I think the U.S., or more specifically, big cities such as New York, were ahead of Canada in introducing Chinese food years ago. Thus, I think there are more "Chinese-American" (chop suey, chow mein, etc.) places in, say, New York than there are "Chinese-Canadian" restaurants in Toronto (I can just think of 2 or 3.)

                                  However, with a vast number of immigrants from Taiwan, Hong Kong and the People's Republic here in Toronto now, we have a large number of Chinese (or, I guess, "Chonese-Chinese" places, which seem to be satisfactory to people from China.

                                  1. re: ekammin

                                    Perhaps we differ in what we consider Chinese-Canadian... what would you take it to be? By my opinion, there are many, many more than two or three such restaurants in TO.

                                    1. re: ekammin

                                      Prior to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, the Canadian government initiated a "entrepeneur immigrant" policy - if you had $500,000 to invest, you were in. Many, many Chinese people took out Canadian citizenships as an insurance policy. They'd set up their wives and children in either Vancouver or Toronto, and then fly back and forth. The men spent so much time at 35,000 feet, they were called "spacemen".

                                      But definitely, the influx of so many people with money meant a huge increase in the quality of Chinese food. I haven't spent much time in Vancouver, but their access to fresher seafood and many reports say that it's the best Chinese food in Canada. Toronto is second, but it's still great.

                                    2. re: vorpal

                                      What amuses me is how some people can extol the virtues of another "bastardized" cuisine (such as Chinese-Indian) while simultaneously bashing another form of bastardization (such as Chinese-American) and claiming it was invented for dulled palates with a sweet tooth... does that mean people who adapted Indian tastes (like spices and chilis) to Chinese food can't appreciate subtlety and only like to be bludgeoned with too many flavours?

                                        1. re: hungryann

                                          That reminds me of Chinese place in Masset, Queen Charlotte Islands. In the middle of a rainy week of camping, we drove into town to eat out. Other than a bar with burgers, this was the only option. It was about as plain as one can go when it comes to decor. I don't recall much about the food. At least we didn't get sick, and we got to eat inside.

                                        2. re: vorpal

                                          That's a good point Vorpal. Infact because of its ubiquity around the world Chinese food is a great case study of how one kind a cuisine can adapt differently when its introduced into different countries. Not just US and Canada but all over the world. I heard a radio program about this topic a couple of years ago. I'd love to hear what Chinese food is like in Sweden, Jamaica, Mozambique etc!

                                        3. i can't really tell you what is the difference because i haven't been to canada and i have only visit the us 5 times 3 to texas mainly in san antonio and 2 to los angeles but what i can tell you is that mexican american food in these two places are very different than in here in mexico.mexican american food (maybe is because i am not use to it) maid me want to vomit. i don't know how is it in canada but if is a copy of the one in the us that is just a copy of the real mexican food than it can't be good.

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: Navarro

                                            mexican american food (maybe is because i am not use to it) maid me want to vomit.

                                            Post of the year candidate =)

                                            1. re: Navarro


                                              Am I correct that you are from Mexico? If so, which state?

                                              Just like the US, there can be strong regional differences in the cuisine from region to region and from state to state. I'm curious as to how the Americanized Mexican cuisine differed in the US, especially in the San Antonio, TX area, as I am familiar with that. LA, not so much.

                                              Personally, I appreciate the cuisine from the Texas-Mexican border areas more than from the upper Sonoran and Bajan areas, but that's just me, and my tastes. Now, the cuisine that I knew in Jalisco was a very refined version of what I loved along the Texas-Mexican border, though here in Arizona, it's almost 100% Sonoran, with Bajan filling in the blanks. I also have encountered more of this style in California, which is no surprise.

                                              I'm not arguing with you, but would like to get some detail on the differences that you found. I love a lot of Asian cuisine, but having good friends in the restaurant business in the US, know that even some special family recipes do get "Americanized," and have to admit that I like those better than some of the traditional Chinese fare.

                                              I also found that the differences that I encountered in several states in Mexico did not differ that much from what I knew from the border areas. Yes, more seafood on either coast, but not the differences that I had expected. All of the food was great, just not THAT different, but maybe I dined at more "international" restaurants, and missed the "authentic."

                                              I am also with you, in that I have never had anything remotely "Mexican" in Canada, so have no frame of reference to the OP's questions.

                                              Just curious, as I love "Mexican" food, and especially what is often referred to as "Tex-Mex," but realize that even in my travels might not have gotten into the "real" cuisine of much of the country.



                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                Mr Hunt,
                                                You're being way to kind to address Navarros response. If you look at the profile, there is only one post and obviously the id was created just to make a rude remark.

                                                1. re: janetms383

                                                  Thanks for the info. I attempt to give the "benefit of the doubt," until someone proves me wrong and shows their true colors. You are probably correct and I am wrong - still, if he/she has some input, I'd be glad to learn and address those.

                                                  Did not check the profile. Had this been a thread with reviews and there was a major negative, that is when I usually Google the poster. In many instances, I have found some folk, who just pan every restaurant where they dine. These folk are usually fairly easy to spot and appear here, plus many other dining review sites.

                                                  Thanks for pointing that out for me. Hey, not the first time that I've been duped...


                                                2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  I just came back from Mexico City from a week long b-trip and was very unimpressed....I had much better Mexican in the states than down south....go figure? I guess in the states there is more competition....
                                                  Also, what passes as "seafood" in Mexico is quite lame...at least by what I'm used to...

                                                  1. re: Pollo

                                                    Each state in Mexico can have a totally different take on the same dishes. Heck, the same can be stated for different regions in a state.

                                                    Much of the culinary impression can be built around what one is used to, and what they enjoy.

                                                    For me, with my biases, I still think at Tex-Mex does it best - but that is just me and my gringo palate.

                                                    It is first the geography and then the individual palates.


                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                      No argument here....it's just what I experienced in Mexico City....how should I put it....lacked attention to detail....maybe it's a Mexico City thing???
                                                      I plan another trip to Mexico...down south...on the Pacific coast...I hope that will be much better....

                                                      1. re: Pollo

                                                        While I have not dined in Mexico City, DF, I did spend a great deal of time in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and there was great attention to detail. I do have to add that this was sometime in the past, and everything might well have changed, and not necessarily for the better. The thing that we loved about their cuisine was that it had not been Americanized, to our knowledge, so we got to experience something a bit different. That said, I am still a big fan of the Tex-Mex fare right along the border, where there is a melding of two cultures (well, actually three cultures), but that is my palate, and my wife's. We greatly appreciate to sample the cuisine of many cultures, whether we come away with a new "favorite" dish. The learning, and experiencing is what does it for us.

                                                        Same with the more traditional cuisine of Hawai`i. We've been very fortunate to have been invited to several "true" Hawaiian events, and while not every dish did it for us, the opportunity to dine with these wonderful folk and share their food was an ultimate for us.

                                                        Please report on your travels and the food that you encounter.

                                                        Travel safely, and dine well,