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California Mexican vs. Tex Mex?

This is a bit of a thread jack, but what is the difference between Tex-Mex and California Mexican food?
I have got into several arguments with people over the years trying to say that I thought California was the better of the two but I have a hard time defining it.
To me California Mexican tends to be a little healthier, with an emphasis on fish, avocados and generally with more vegetables. Beans are sometimes whole and not refried. Tacos tend to be crispy. Garlic is use more liberally than in Tex-Mex.
The cheese enchilada with a meat sauce seems to be the quintessential Tex-Mex dish. Tex-Mex in general has an emphasis on cheese and beef in all their forms.
Tex-Mex rellenos use Hatch peppers while California uses Anaheim. California chips are usually not thin while Tex-Mex often are.
Which of these points am I wrong about and what am I missing?

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  1. I'm under the impression that California Mexican food has a lot more fresh herbs and cheeses, as well as lean steak and chicken. Tex-Mex is more about the processed glop.

    3 Replies
    1. re: brattpowered

      I'll beg to differ on the "processed glop" comment -- but Tex-Mex is heavier on the cheese and beef side of things and heavier in general.

      When I first moved to San Antonio many, many years ago, the food was better (when you sat down you'd get a bowl of hot, greasy chips and some butter to smear on 'em), lots of green sauce, everything was made with lard . . .there was no cilantro to be found. In college at UT, we'd go into East Austin (when NO one would venture to that side of 35) and get a hefty bag full of chips just fresh out of the grease for $4. But damn, that was good eating.

      Now, with more people moving into the state from elsewhere, the Mexican food seems to be moving more toward the Cal-mex side of things to accommodate those tastes (and later-day health concerns): black beans, more cilantro, fish tacos, more vegetables.

      1. re: bebevonbernstein

        This is so old I hesitate to answer to it, but.. someone on that side of 35 did the cooking for you, and presumably even (gasp) lived there.

        1. re: shanagain

          Though old, and some of the contributors might not be around any more, this is a subject that comes up in several boards, especially those along the US/Mexican border. Over the years, I think that I have contributed to a half-dozen.

          I feel that the discussion will continue, with, or without, some of the original contributors here. I also feel that it serves a good purpose, as newer subscribers to CH should be able to benefit from the discussions.

          This is not an easy, nor a black-and-white subject, and many will have their own opinions on what constitutes the differences. Every time that I visit this thread, I learn some new ideas/observations, and find some things that I had not considered.

          Comment away, as others will likely benefit.

          Hunt

    2. As a native California who grew up on CalMex, and now a long time resident of Texas, where (surprisingly?) TexMex originated, to me, the differences are these:

      First off, when you move from one area to another, you'll find name changes. What I grew up calling a tostado in California, changed from being a whole flat crispy tortilla topped with a layer of beans, maybe some kind of meat, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheese, maybe sliced jalapenos, and topped with a dollop of sour cream turned out to be a... tortilla chip in texas! Blew my mind. Lots of name differences, but with the passing of time and population mobility, I think a little progress has been made toward consistency.

      Things I was used to and took for granted in California, were black olives (NEVER in Tex Mex!), avocado and guacamole in California, are now far more common in Texas than they were 25 years ago (apparently thanks to Taco Bell!), sea food in California (one of my faves was crab enchiladas at Su Casa, in La Jolla) but fish tacos, for example, are only recently reaching Texas. Shredded beef is more common in CaMx than in TxMx. And I found a greater variety of cheeses, especially Mexican (type) cheeses, used in California, whereas my experience is that generally in Texas you'll find a lot more cheddar.

      When I first moved to Texas, the tamales made me cry. Sooooooo stingy with the filling (like they filled a thin drinking straw with the filling and then injected it into the masa) and a Texas tamale is rarely as large as two fingers in diameter.

      I've never found bowls of pickled carrots and other veggies served with soft tacos in Texas the way they are in both southern California, and Tijuana, Mexico.

      TexMex food seems most reflective of west Texas, and the desert, leaving the food sort of barren when compared to California's wide and rich variety of everything. Even when you move into the richer and greener parts of Texas, where cattle ranching is common, agriculture doesn't lean much in the direction of fresh produce. This is all reflected in the food.

      A short true life story that, for me, reflects the difference between CalMex and TexMex... When we first moved to Texas (El Paso), I was working two jobs. One day I was running late for a meeting across town but was starving! Saw a huge sign that said, "Chico's Tacos." Parked, dashed in, wanted two beef tacos. FOLDED beef tacos! The counter girl looked at me like I was crazy. "We only serve rolled tacos, ma'am." I irritably replied, "No. You don't sell ANY tacos! You sell FLAUTAS!" And I left, still hungry. IMO, Chico's Tacos serves the worst flautas I've ever tasted, but they are HUGELY popular in El Paso. But hey, that's TexMex!

      54 Replies
      1. re: Caroline1

        "What I grew up calling a tostado in California, changed from being a whole flat crispy tortilla topped with a layer of beans, maybe some kind of meat, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheese, maybe sliced jalapenos, and topped with a dollop of sour cream turned out to be a... tortilla chip in texas! Blew my mind. "

        Native Texan here, and I have NEVER heard of that item called a "tortilla chip." Those are known as either tostadas or chalupas, which are basically different names for the same thing. Chalupa is more common in the panhandle.

        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

          Well, when I moved to El Paso, every time I asked for tostadas (as in two for lunch) I was brought a bowl of tortilla chips. When I asked what was going on, the reply was, "Ooooh... You mean CHALUPAS!"

          There was a great tortilleria there that also deep fried their tortillas and sold them by the brown paper grocery bag full, and they had them on their menu as "tostadas."

          Lots of things are regional. I just asked my housekeeper, who is a native of Dallas, and she says that in this area chalupas AND tortilla chips are both called "tostados," just as they are in El Paso.

          And here (http://mw1.m-w.com/dictionary/tostados) you'll find:

          tostados
          One entry found.

          tostada

          Main Entry: tos·ta·da
          Pronunciation: \tō-ˈstä-də\
          Variant(s): also tos·ta·do \-(ˌ)dō\

          Function: noun

          Etymology: Mexican Spanish tostada, from Spanish, feminine of tostado, past participle of tostar to toast, roast, from Late Latin tostare — more at toast

          Date: 1935

          : a tortilla fried in deep fat

          1. re: Caroline1

            Oh, wait. I just COMPLETELY misread what you had originally written. Clearly, I am a moron. Sorry about that.

            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              LOL! Welcome to the human race! Or are you just doing this to make me feel like I'm not the only one? '-)

            2. re: Caroline1

              well, El Paso is closer to Los Angeles than to East Texas.

              Coming from Houston, Tex-Mex definitely has more cheese than Cal Mex, and I also think deeper, richer flavors, more chile, more spice, more oomph. Hatch green chiles are a West Texas/Arizona thing, not seen as much in Houston/the Eastern part of the state. There are also planty of barbecue influences.

              1. re: cocktailhour

                I think people always prefer whatever it is they grow up with, or taste first and like.

                How picante/spicy/hot things are varies greatly from region to region, and sometimes changes greatly in just a few miles. For example, I would expect Houston's proximity to Louisiana, and the Big Easy, to influence the spiciness of Mexican food in your region. Here in Plano, and the parts of the DFW metroplex I've sampled, things aren't so spicy that I can't eat them. In El Paso, things were about the same as here, but drive thirty miles north to Las Cruces, and the New Mexico penchant for "if it don't cauterize your brain and make your eyeballs fall out on your cheeks, it ain't hot enough" kicks in.

                Bobby Flay has had a huge impact across the country on how "picante" things are, not only in Southwestern and Mexican style foods, but in everything. Not to mention what he has done for blue corn.

                In this area where I now live, in my experience with close to twenty Mexican restaurants, the large majority (about 75% of those I've tried) do not char and peel a chile for a chile relleno. The result is a crunchy chile that I've never had anywhere but here. Cheese chile rellenos are also more the exception here than the rule, with things like meat and poultry, sometimes with raisins and spices in the meat/poultry fillings, not typical of the chile rellenos I've experienced in the rest of the country.

                As for "deeper richer flavor," I think that, like beauty, that's something that is always in the eye -- and tastebuds -- of the beholder. '-)

                1. re: Caroline1

                  "drive thirty miles north to Las Cruces, and the New Mexico penchant for "if it don't cauterize your brain and make your eyeballs fall out on your cheeks, it ain't hot enough" kicks in."

                  Sounds like my kind of place! Any recommendations?

                2. re: cocktailhour

                  well, just because I have driven from San Antonio to Los Angeles more than once ~~ and always stopped for the night in El Paso, I had to check this on google maps.

                  El Paso to Los Angeles ~~ 802 miles
                  El Paso to Houston ~~ 745 miles

                  thus providing conclusive proof that East Texas is still closer. I hope you can read my tongue in cheek

              2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                I grew up in Dallas from 50's on. I've been reading a doctorate dissertation in the UT archives where Vanessa Fonseca says that chips and salsa is a Texas invention. As early as 1918 the Dallas-based El Fenix, served whole fried tortillas with salsa. Around 1940 they started cutting them into wedges. She states that “tostadas” were commercialized around 1912 by B. Martinez Sons Co. (founders of El Fenix) and "tostados" is the word used by non-Hispanics for fried tortillas. These were fried but not called "Fritos" but "tostadas" because they thought it would have a less negative connotation in Spanish.
                I don't know if this explains anything or not but I have always known a chalupa as a bean, lettuce, tomato and cheese topped, whole, fried tostada.

              3. re: Caroline1

                I don't know about West Texas, but here in Houston, Taco Bell had nothing to do with avocados and guacamole being more common now than 25 years ago. And Flautas are rolled and fried tacos type things. Just to have a taco rolled doesn't make it a flauta. Maybe it's an El Paso thing, or maybe it's a California thing. I don't know.

                1. re: danhole

                  Don't know why I seem to be raising so much controversy? A taco USUALLY has some sort of fresh stuff in it, along with the standard fillings of meat, poultry, beans and/or cheese. For example, chiffonade of lettuce, diced tomatoes, chopped onions or scallions, stuff like that in a beef or chicken taco. Fish tacos are usually served with Mexican cole slaw. A flauta, however, is simply a meat or chicken filling rolled inside a corn tortilla, and sometimes secured with a toothpick or other means prior to deep frying. Even when rolled, tacos are rarely, if ever, deep fat fried with all of the fresh goodies inside them, not to mention any cheese or sour cream. It would make a splattering dangerous mess!

                  Apparently I didn't make clear that a place In El Paso (and while they do have multiple locations, I believe they are all within that ciy) called "Chico's Tacos" does not sell tacos at all. None! They sell flautas, and flautas only. Deep fat fried until they are break-your-teeth hard, topped with shredded cheese, then served in a cardboard boat with a cup of chili flavored liquid that looks like red dishwater to pour over them to soften them. I had never heard a flauta called a "taco" until I moved to El Paso, and stopped in Chico's Tacos looking for a real taco. My point is that there ARE regional differences in what things are called.

                  Sorry it's so difficult to follow. And again, Houston may well have been on the avocado band wagon long before many other parts of Texas because of your proximity to Florida. If it's too far to cart the avocados by land, it's a short sail on the gulf.

                  Houston, however, is not like the rest of Texas. And the rest of Texas isn't like the "rest of Texas" either simply because this is such a very very very large state. California, on the other hand, even though it is the third largest state, after Texas ranking second only to Alaska, is far more uniform in its "CalMex" style of food, despite its size. Even prior to California's vast overpopulation, it was like that. Historical factors probably play a role in both states.

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    I didn't get the part about the "tacos" being deep fried. Also I think perhaps Houston has more avocado because of Mexico, not Florida.

                    We moved back to Houston in 1970, and I was 13. The only mexican food I was familiar with was out of a frozen dinner, so I was pretty amazed at the Tex Mex. I went with this family, that we knew from living here back in the early 60's, on a trip from Houston and around the state in a clockwise direction. We were in Laredo and stopped at a mexican cafe. The menu was in spanish, so my friends father ordered for me. It was a soft taco with stuff in it like you described, and I liked it. I had never had anything like it before. I asked what kind of meat was it, and he told me it was goat. My eyes bugged out, and he quickly said no, it was pork. He lied, I was pacified and didn't find out for a few years that I was tricked! That trip showed me how diverse this state truly is. From the Forest at Big Bend to the border towns, the desert, and then the rolling plush greenery in the panhandle. First time I had ever had figs off of a tree, in Abilene. Gorged myself until I got sick! Ah, good times!

                    Didn't mean to offend you Caroline. Sorry if I did.

                    1. re: danhole

                      So you had the "cabrito surprise" eh? LOVED this story!

                      1. re: danhole

                        You certain you live in Texas? The forest at Big Bend? The Chisos Basin is relatively lush, but surrounding it(and contributing much of Big Bend and the neighboring reserve) is the Chihuahuan Desert. The Panhandle is mostly prairie. Maybe you are thinking of verdant Houston and The Piney Woods?

                        To bring it back to Tex-Mex, I disagree with many of Caroline1's apprehensions(I usually do), but here's a specific: I've never had a Tex-Mex chile relleno made with a Hatch chile or an Anaheim. Until you get to far West Texas...Hatch chiles are basically unheard of...
                        when I think chile rellenos, I think stuffed poblanos. Also, as another poster mentions, proximity to Florida has nothing to do with avocado usage in Tex-Mex...that's a definite Mexican influence.

                        1. re: aelph

                          It was a LONG time ago, and I was new to the state, but I know we camped out in a forest with lots of trees southwest of Houston, and darn you are right about the panhandle. I got Amarillo confused with Abilene. Abilene was the plush greenery! Oops! And we didn't get to the Piney Woods that trip, but I went to college in East Texas.

                          Yes, I learned what cabrito was, in a very roundabout way! LOL! Cabrito is very popular around here and is served at a lot of places.

                          1. re: aelph

                            aelph, I need to come to the defense of my buddy Dani. In the mountains, that reach over 7800 feet, not the basin, there a is remnant forest of ponderosa pine that go back to the late pleistocene era, along with douglas fir and other trees found in cooler climates. This is part of the beauty of Big Bend, you go through several climate zones, from desert floor to pine forests in the mountains.

                            1. re: James Cristinian

                              Thanks James. I could have sworn there was a forest.

                            2. re: aelph

                              Since I am a Texan and was a Dallasite for 50 years, and a avid connoisseur of everything Tex-Mex and Mexican, I can think of numerous instances where I have had the long green one...
                              While you are mostly correct, that mainstream, "popular with Gringos" Tex-Mex joints typically use poblanos, I have had Hatch or Hatch-like chiles in those places and at hole-in-the-walls (that were more Mex than Tex), many times. I remember because I thought Whaaaat (?), till I got used to it being as good or better than the poblano.
                              See, Big C, I'm watchin your backside".

                              1. re: Scargod

                                The first time I had a poblan, I thougt I was getting rooked. In New Mex, the big green rellano.

                              2. re: aelph

                                So, I'm not certain any of the supposed Texans actually live in Texas. If you did, you would know that EVERY YEAR! Central Market does a Hatch Festival in August. Which is glorious btw, go and try all of the delicious hatch foods that they create, especially hatch sausages.

                                Also, (and I say this as someone who's tried Mexican food and variations all over the place, Chicago, New England area, California, Florida, Texas, and some of the border towns in Mexico) your interpretation of Tex Mex doesn't do the cuisine justice. I will admit that Tex Mex is less healthy than Cal Mex, and quite frankly, that's the way we like it. Also, your interpretation of tacos is inaccurate. If we're going to talk real authentic tacos, then we've gotta talk street food, because that's what real Mexican tacos are. They're made on soft corn tortillas, almost always homemade, and have only the meat filling, chopped raw onion, cilantro, and a dash of lime juice. Maybe there will rarely be cheese.

                                In that sense, the Cal Mex taco is definitely a healthy reimagining of that, and the Tex Mex taco is a bigger, fuller version.

                                I feel like Tex Mex evolved out of a plentiful supply of red meat and cheese, whereas Cal Mex reaps the bounty of the land, especially with regards to the vegetables. Neither is really better or worse. The flavors of Tex Mex, in my opinion, are more bold, spicy, explosions-in-your-mouth, whereas I find a more subtle flavor in Cal Mex cuisine, with multiple, harmonious flavors come together.

                                That being said, I'm a kick in the mouth flavor kinda gal, and I'll take Tex Mex over Cal Mex any day of the week, hands down.

                                1. re: wanderingtexan17

                                  Hey -- I even won a place in one of the annual Hatch cooking contests at CM!

                                  Also, I am not going to agree that Cal Mex is any healthier. Just because you add fish or veggies to the mix does not make it healthier if is not prepared with this in mind. In fact, fish tacos can have more calories and fat than you would imagine. What do you think is in Baja sauce?

                                  1. re: RGC1982

                                    I wouldn't define "fish tacos" as "Cal Mex." Fish tacos are "Baja Cal Mex" and I don't recall the originals being made with FRIED fish! But now fried fish tacos are ubiquitous. Here in the Dallas/lFort Worth area, EVERY place has them. Even Long John Silvers! Fried fish tacos are disgustingly un healthy! To me (a fifth generation native Californian on my father's side), Cal Mex is better typified with avacados and black olives. Avacados are now more common throughout the country in any type of Mexican food, primarily because of guacamole, but black olives are still pretty much a California thing. Pity!

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      I definitely agree with Caroline1 on the fish taco thing, they are not indigenous to Cal-Mex food.

                                      Everyone thinks fish tacos were "invented" or originated in San Diego. Not. The fish taco chain Rubio's did originate in SD and was the brain child of Ralph Rubio who ate tacos in San Felipe, Baja California del Norte when he'd go surfing down there during Spring Break. The reality is that fish tacos have long been a staple of the Pacific coast of Mexico and pre-date Ralph's surfing days by many years.

                                      Where I differ with Caroline is in the frying. A Baja-style fish taco is almost always fried in a light beer batter and served in a corn tortilla, topped with shredded cabbage and a "white" sauce. In Baja that white sauce is most likely going to be McCormick's Mayonesa (that comes with lime already in it) that has been thinned with crema and lime juice. NOB, the fish taco is going to come grilled or fried, in a corn or flour tortilla, the cabbage morphs into a zillion variations of "slaw" and the white sauce is everything from ranch dressing to sour cream and almost always included shredded yellow cheese (which you will almost never see SOB)

                                      For me the difference between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex is a difference in flavor profiles. It's also the difference between green and red. Cal-Mex is the green cuisine and is based more on the use of fresh green chiles (jalapeños, serranos, poblanos and Anaheims) and Tex-Mex is the red cuisine base more on the use of dried chiles. Cal-Mex is going to make more extensive use of lighter meats and seafood (because, well, because we're on the coast) and Tex-Mex more extensive use of beef and pork. The flavor profile of Cal-Mexi is lighter, less spicy and more subtle; Tex-Mex is bolder, spicier and more in -your-face. Cal-Mex is probably also going to include more vegetables and a greater variety of vegetables because they are readily available, particularly in areas like the Central and Imperial valleys where Mexican migration firt settled. California raised vegetables, Texas raised beef, both of which gave birth to the regional variations of the cuisines the Mexican brought wtih them

                                      It's certainly not cut and dried and both Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex are delicious sub genres of Mexican food. But a fish taco is always fried ;-)

                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                          Words like "always" always make me nervous when talking about food. My first fish taco was from a street vendor on the beachy outskirts of Tijuana, in the '50s. It was made with ceviche of white fish on a soft corn tortilla with a few crunchy veggies. I remember sliced pickled carrots, but don't recall the rest. It was some time before I had another fish taco and it was fried fish. I was VERY disappointed! I have always regretted that ceviche tacos are not the style that caught on. Better flavor and healthier! I also remember (not fried) shrimp tacos. And Su Casa restaurant in La Jolla did a mean crab leg enchilada back then. I think frying everything, from Twinkies to chicken fried bacon and fried fish tacos are a development of the late twentieth century, not mid. If you've never had a ceviche taco, try it, you'll like it! At least I hope you will! '-)

                                        2. re: Caroline1

                                          Ah, avocados. Had not thought of that as an ingredient. Now, I have had great Tex-Mex guac., but if I see sliced, I know that I am having Cal-Mex, in most cases.

                                          Good call,

                                          Hunt

                                      1. re: wanderingtexan17

                                        I would also add that Tex-Mex is usually a bit heartier, than Cal-Mex (or AZ-Mex). The flavors in the latter are more subtle, and are often imparted by the veggies involved, where one will often have more cooked (often to almost the point of burning) onions, and beef stock, in lieu of so much tomato and the juices of those.

                                        I have also found that more salsas are purees with Tex-Mex, where with Cal-Mex, one has more veggie chunks.

                                        I do not care which is the healthier option, as it's about the taste. In AZ we have a small chain of "healthy Mexican" restaurants. They use no lard, no animal fats of any sort, and the food is just plain bland. Which is "better?" I'd say that it's up to the palate of the diner.

                                        Now, I do find that NM-Mex/Indio is closer to what I typify as Tex-Mex, with the addition of blue corn, which I do love. Still, there are influences from East & West of NM in their cuisine, plus a very healthy (not in the Healthmark terms) doses of Native American (Indio) influences. Different, but good in their own right, at least to me.

                                        If one gave me a plane ticket to go and get "Mexican food," I'd head for San Antonio, with maybe a side-trip to Del Rio, or Laredo.

                                        Hunt

                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          Bill, where do you go in San Antonio? I've been there 3 or 4 times over the last couple of years and haven't really found a whole lot that was very inspiring. I'm sure it's just a matter of not knowing exactly where to go. I may be there again this Spring; I'm definitely open to suggestions. Oh, and I usually have a car.

                                        2. re: wanderingtexan17

                                          I can respect that, and that's cool and all, but I'm just the opposite. I go for Calmex hands down, no contest any day. The flour tortillas in California are so much better tasting than the thicker smaller Tex Mex variety. I always go to Otay Farms Market in Chula Vista in California and bring back tons of dozens of flour tortillas to DFW where I live, and my friends who tried them absolutely loved them. The flour tortillas in DFW are not that good in my opinion.

                                          1. re: SoCalnative74

                                            I was born in Texas and spent my formative years up and down the Eastern seaboard from Florida to NY/CT and can definitively state that your "home" food will always be superior to the versions of said food prepared anywhere else. It's just human nature.

                                            Also, if your friends in DFW are Texans, they're just being polite if they stated they liked your version over "their" version. ;)

                                            1. re: shanagain

                                              True, good point. I will agree to that, although I have consistently received comments from people as well as experienced having lived in Mexico that the food from Arizona and California is more consistent to what is found in Mexico. I like some of the Tex Mex foods, don't get me wrong. And when everyone says "let's go get some mexican", we're all running out the door to the next best place here in Fort Worth to go eat. But the comments on the tortillas I've heard are very consistent. My co-worker said that they were more like what was found in his home state of Zacatecas and he never really could acquire a taste for the tex mex variety. Another one of them always liked this bakery in Lewisville until I brought him some of Otay Farms. Now he always asks me when I'm going back to San Diego and bringing back some more. I always eat at and promote San Diego Tacos Shop in Irving and always eat there. People I sent there absolutely loved it and went back. I eat their carne asada and machaca burritos all the time. Like you said, regional preferences. Valid point. I eat anything good here in DFW but will always bleed San Diego. That said, Go Mavs!

                                              P.D. When on the east coast, how did you survive away from all the good food? I suffered during my half year in Orlando without my home cooking. lol

                                              1. re: SoCalnative74

                                                I'm a regional chameleon - when in Virginia, eat blue crabs. CT? Strangely, the BEST hot dogs anywhere. Ny, pizza, etc, etc. The trick is to appreciate what you have, while feeling smugly superior over what everyone else is missing. (The saddest East Coast foods I've ever had were chicken fried steak and enchiladas - I learned that lesson quickly.)

                                                On trips to Texas our very first stop was always at a Dairy Queen for steak fingers, which I never, ever eat now that we're back home in rural Texas.

                                                1. re: shanagain

                                                  I hear ya. I lived many years in Owensboro, Kentucky, and we always eat "burgoo" over there when we go back. It's a soup with mutton and vegetables and is oh soooooooo GOOD!! You can order some from Moonlight BBQ in Owensboro in case you're curious. It's the country music BBQ version of beef stew. When in Southern California, we eat the special quesadillas, which is a cotija cheese filled empenada on steroids. It is VERY large and tasty yet fattening. And of course, when we go back to the Dominican Republic, we 1) eat sancocho and 2) I make them enchiladas and tacos and they eat them all up. None leftover hardly. lol

                                                2. re: SoCalnative74

                                                  Tex Mex is it's own thing though, it's not trying to be what is found in Mexico. It's a regional cuisine. I would absolutely agree that it is closer to what is found in Mexico, but again, Tex Mex is not trying to emulate food from Mexico. It is very comforting and heavy.

                                                  1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                    Well-stated.

                                                    Once I got beyond the border, the closest that I found was in the state of Jalisco - but there were some major differences.

                                                    Tex-Mex is, well Tex-Mex, and is great, at least to me. It is what I grew up with, and still suits my palate. To others, maybe not so much. It is about what one enjoys, and nothing more, though also nothing less.

                                                    Thank you,

                                                    Hunt

                                                    1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                      I think that is correct. Otherwise it would't have it's own name to describe it. As in Cal Mex also.

                                                  2. re: shanagain

                                                    BTW, the text mex brisket absolutely kicks butt! It's very similar to the machaca found in San Diego and at San Diego tacos shop. Never had brisket till I came to DFW. Wish we had more of that on the west coast.

                                                  3. re: SoCalnative74

                                                    I believe that 'Tostada' is just a word that describes. Something toasted crispy. In California, we call a crispy corn tortilla with toppings a tostada, but really it's a regionalism. So, too with what constitutes 'tacos'. Tacos are probably defined by a corn tortilla with filling. Whether it is folded, fried or or rolled are incidental regionalisms. Here in the west, soft tacos, corn tortillas grilled dry or with some grease till soft and then filled are a delicacy.

                                                    1. re: SoCalnative74

                                                      I know this is really old... but if you're still in Dallas, hit up Baleadas Express in the NW strip-center off Coit and Spring Valley.

                                                      To me a good flour tortilla isn't regional. It's about the simplest thing you can do with flour after all. It's wether it's made fresh. And there they're made fresh. The frijoles con queso baleadas are awesome. Like a vegetarian-ish, (they have lard I'm sure) quesadilla.

                                                      Also at Coit & LBJ, in the Texaco, Taqueria Rosy makes the best fajita tacos in the state. Two corn tortillas grilled with lard. Nobody gets that right. Their other meats are decent, you'll find better pastor at Fuel City. But the fajita. You'll never had better for the rest of your life. :-)

                                                3. re: danhole

                                                  I wasn't offended. But you were the second one who seemed to miss what I was trying to say, so I was becoming frustrated with my own writing skills! And I'm a writer...!!! Scary.

                                                  You're right about avocados from Mexico being quicker and easier to reach Houstan than from Florida.

                                                  Love your story about the cabrito taco. Depends entirely on what part of Texas you're in for availability. My experience is the closer to the border, the easier to find. But they are spreading! Try a cabrito burrito some time. Or if you can't find them, it's at least fun saying it! '-)

                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                              I have found the pickled carrots and other veggies served with soft tacos right here in the Dallas area. I have also found black olives. There are great tamales and terrible ones, just like you might find anywhere else. There is also a ton of pico de gallo and avocado on most platters in Texas. Nope, I don't agree 100%.

                                              I am originally an East Coaster who has spent a lot of time in California, so it is not "Texas Pride" that you are seeing in my answer. It is just a fact.

                                              There are good places to eat and bad places to eat in both regions. Over time, most restaurants of all kinds have begun shifting to more fresh veggies in all dishes. It is a fact that this area is dominated by carnivores, as evidenced by the relative scarcity of great seafood restaurants versus, say, steak houses. It is likely just a general reflection of the tastes of the the people who live here. 300 miles from the ocean seems to be enough to make fish less popular, but not impossible to find.

                                              And, oh yes, many restos offer borracho beans or black beans as an alternative to refried, so I can't say that is entirely true.

                                              I think if you are thinking about the typical fast food place, Taco Bell, Taco Bueno or Taco Cabana, yes, everything you are saying is true. But not in the higher quality places.

                                              1. re: RGC1982

                                                Right on the pickled carrots, onions and jalapenos, but not that common. And you can find all kinds of beans, a lot depending on the class of restaurant. I remember several (and not necessarily dives), where they would give you the complimentary small bowl of simple pintos, which bordered on being borrachos, as an appetizer.
                                                As you say, it depends on the place. There should be more fish in Dallas than there is.

                                                1. re: Scargod

                                                  It's been my experience that every single Mexican restaurant in Texas has them. At least every one I've been to, and that's quite a few. But if you have a white face, you have to ask for them. They don't arrive automatically. Ask for pickled jalapenos - or escabeche.

                                                2. re: RGC1982

                                                  Though not a native of the area, when we lived in New Orleans, a small chain from either Dallas, or Fort Worth (yes, I know, they are NOT the same), named El Chico did it this way and that was my first introduction.

                                                  When I married in '71, we spent a month driving throughout the country of Mexico, sampling the fare of many states. Once back in the US, we began to travel along the US (Texas)/Mexico border and got to experience many treatments on what we had encountered on our honeymoon.

                                                  While I love most of the "border fare," and have traveled most of its length, the Tex-Mex, and several Mexican states' versions are my favorites. The farther west that one goes, the more it changes.

                                                  Now, living in AZ, I am a bit less a fan of what we often have here, though there are some Jaliscan-centric restaurants that I do favor.

                                                  Many differences, just like the Southern food differs from North Carolina to Mississippi. All good, just different.

                                                  Hunt

                                                3. re: Caroline1

                                                  I feel like it is unfair to say that ALL tamales in Texas are skimpy. First of all, you should never buy tamales from just anywhere, and never pre-made from a grocery store, because that is just ridiculous. The best bet, if you live anywhere near a high school with a good Hispanic student population, is to see when the various high school clubs are doing fundraisers. Inevitably, someone will be selling homemade tamales. The reason tamales in restaurants are so skimpy is because they are very labor intensive, and the owners want to make money for the effort put into them. So I would suggest you go find a local high school, get some delicious homemade tamales, and stop disparaging my home state for being stingy on something that is impractical for restaurants to serve anyways.

                                                  Also, FYI Chico's Tacos is a purely El Paso thing. It's ONLY in El Paso, and it will likely only ever be in El Paso. You can't make a judgement of Tex Mex based on a highly localized thing.

                                                  1. re: wanderingtexan17

                                                    First off, yes, I am fully aware that Chico's Tacos is (at this juncture in time) a strictly El Paso thing. Thank God!

                                                    As for skinny tamales, I have had home made tamales from TEXAS friends, tamales in Mexican restaurants, tamales from Juarez street vendors, tamales from hole-in-the-wall restaurants, tamales from tamales-only-specialty shops, and just about any place else you can think of and for the most part they were ALL thin wimpy things. The exception so far is here in the DFW metroplex at Gloria's Restaurants, where they serve hand made El Salvadoran tamales wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed with a spiced chicken and potato filling that isn't bad. The tamales of my childhood, and the tamales I love most, are a Oaxacan tamale that is large and round and fat and stuffed with a cornucopia of delights and one tamal is enough to engorge a grown man. I can't get them here. I could rareley get them in California, unless they were home made by friends, when last I lived there.

                                                    I have lived in Texas for a long time now and the Tex-Mex food I most disparage is here in the DFW metroplex. I have been served chiles rellenos in no less that FIVE "very good" (not my assessment) TexMex restaurants in Plano, and surrounding towns where the chiles were NOT roasted, NOT peeled, and were more like stuffed celery than a chile relleno. Until the food in this part of Texas improves, I will feel free to disparage as I see fit. '-)

                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                      Not roasted, not peeled and stuffed like celery?!?!?? Oh girl, I feel your pain. Definitely not a proper chile relleno on either side of the border

                                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                                        Yup. Chiles rellenos are now placed firmly on my if-you-want-good-ones-stay-home-and-cook list. <sigh> Life doesn't have to be this way! Well, unless you live in Dallas. '-)

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          We have 5 little New Mexican restos in town and they all make great rellanos.
                                                          A heart-stoppingly good chicharone burrito w/ green chile sauce too.

                                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                                        The tamal. It can be so very different, depending on the country, or the state in that country. If one just limited themselves to the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico, there would be dozens of totally different tamales. The size, shape, filling, masa and even the wrapper would differ. We were very fortunate to have a restaurant in New Orleans (of all places) with basically Guatemalan roots, but which did over a dozen different tamales, and each as authentically, as was possible. We'd go in an order the "mixed dozen" and were delighted in Cuban, Vera Cruz, Nuevo Laredo, Guatemalan, Costa Rican, Nicaraguan and a few more variations. Each was great, and each was different.

                                                        Now, with my Tex-Mex experiences, I would associate a thinner masa with more filling and often smothered (or at least heavily influenced by a beefy sauce), with that cuisine. In AZ and CA, the masa is usually much thicker, and the filling usually less, at least compared to the masa. Are there thicker, larger tamales in Texas? I'm sure that there are. Are there thinner tamales with less masa in CA? Probably so. Will one find tamales with strong influences of a gravy/sauce beyond Texas? Probably so again. Still, those are some of the aspects that I often associate with regions.

                                                        We have two restaurants close by, that have heavy Jaliscan influences (Guadalajara in these cases), and they are more like Tex-Mex (though from Central Mexico), than the normal Sonoran and Cal-Mex fare here. When last in Guadalajara, I found their cuisine to be more like Tex-Mex, than other, similar cities, like Mexico City, DF, and certainly unlike Vera Cruz, which I found more like Cal-Mex, though farther from the Pacific.

                                                        Give me what I normally think of as Tex-Mex tamales, and I am a happy camper. With some other versions, I will often order some mole to smother the dudes, even if that is not even close to "authentic." Again, it's about one's palate, and what they want, or grew up with.

                                                        Hunt

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          Really old, but the tamal you're describing is common around El Salvadoran shops around DFW. Gloria's is a bit Americanized IMO. "Salvadorian Cuisine" in the shopping center up at Arapaho & Custer has just what you're looking for. As well as papusas that put Gloria's to shame.

                                                          A Tamal, a Papusa, some Maranon to drink. Heaven for like $6.

                                                        2. re: wanderingtexan17

                                                          Discussing the tamal, (singular for tamales) is huge. As they say, so many tamales, so little time! If you've crossed the border in TJ you've seen the elote tamales signs. Maybe you've stopped, maybe you said, WTF? An elote tamal is slim and subtle, with a bit of green chile if you're lucky. If you've been to Tucson you might have encountered their wonderful version of a tamal--it's shredded corn, cheese and a bit of chile. A fluffy thing that requires a plate beneath it due to it's tendancy to explode. They're very large and filling but very addictive.
                                                          I certainly agree with wanderingtexan about the best place to buy them. I rarely take the time and trouble to make them any more since I've found my source of homemade ones for Christmas. I always order every kind available, especially the elote and the sweet ones. My sources do the most amazing job of seasoning the masa, unlike most restaurant versions. Plus they're always so beautifully wrapped with their husk ties.

                                                          I'm encouraged that tamales are on the rise--many bbq sites are now selling tamale steamers.

                                                        3. re: Caroline1

                                                          Hi Caroline,
                                                          Just finished reading your post. I too, am from Cali, born and raised there. Now living out here in Oklahoma. Yes, here the tamales are thin as a pencil. (terrible) As a child I recall my aunt making very fat/thick tamales. Since moving out here to Okie-homa, I am not able to find anyone who is able to produce a fat tamale. Would you happen to have a recipe for making thick California tamales? Any help would be greatly appreciated. I'm going to make them myself for Christmas.
                                                          Tedd5y

                                                          1. re: Tedd5y

                                                            Do a google search for "El Salvadoran Tamale". Pretty sure that's what you want.

                                                            Armed with that, look for El Salvadoran restaurants. I see a whopping 1 location in OK City on Yelp. But where there are Papusas there may be Tamales. Good luck!

                                                        4. Have I been wrong for a generation? Aren't the chiles grown in Hatch, NM the Anaheim variety? We just used to call 'em green chiles.

                                                          10 Replies
                                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                            Anaheim, Ortega, and Hatch chiles -- at least SOME Hatch chiles -- are the same thing. A guy whose last name was Ortega took seeds from New Mexico to Ventura, California, where he successfully grew them and became famous. That was ... early 1900s, if my memory hasn't died? Then a decade or so later, someone took the Ortega/Anaheim chile seeds back to New Mexico, and they caught on.

                                                            New Mexico State University, in Las Cruces, has an extremely loooong history of developing chiles, and was at least a background to the New Mexico, California, New Mexico chile migration. In their original state, they were very susceptible to disease, not very reliable on heat levels, and wild critters loved to eat 'em all up before they could be harvested, so whatever NMSU was called way back then jumped in and saved the day. They still do a lot of hybridization with all sorts of chiles, but the Anaheim/Ortga/Hatch chile is the primary chile crop of New Mexico, and the driving force of the Hatch/Las Cruces agricultural economy.

                                                            They've developed both a mild jalapeno and even a mild habanero! I forget his name, but one of the guys in the agriculture/chile extension took some of the mild habaneros to a chile eating contest and walked around munching on them like they were apples. No one knew they pretty much were! I think he did it to demoralize the competition. I don't remember all of the details, but I think he was a contestant in the chile eating contest too. Famous around the Las Cruces/El Paso area.

                                                            Trying to develop a chile that everyone will uniformaly find hot or mild is a real challenge. When we lived in El Paso, and the kids were still in school, we would go out for Mexican food regularly. It didn't take long to realize that when the standard bowls of tortilla chips and salsa were brought to the table, if my daughter and husband said the salsa was mild, it would burn my son's and my mouth out! And the converse was true too. If it was mild for me and John, then my husband and daughter couldn't eat it. It happens that way with some friends too, so I have to assume there is a fairly wide variance in people's taste buds.

                                                            In California, New Mexico, and west Texas, the Anaheim (Ortega, Hatch) chile is standard for rellenos. In the Dallas area, Poblanos seem to be the standard, and as I said in a previous post, unroasted and unpeeled so they are crunchy. And HOT! As in not deveined and no seeds removed. Not for gringas! At least not this gringa!

                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                              I must be getting senile. I thought (and remember from eating in Dallas and Ft. Worth) that ALL peppers for chile rellenos had the skin removed. The seeds seemed to be another matter; mostly with seeds removed. I thought it was incorrect to leave the seeds in or the skin on. I thought the crunchiness came from doing the proper batter and frying it perfectly.

                                                              I can remember some rellenos made with long, skinny peppers but most with dark green squatty ones.
                                                              Does anyone remember eating at Pancho's Buffet? Really gruesome stuff. The chile rellenos were like a cross between a snowball cupcake and a rubber ball. Thick, spongy, synthetic rubber-like coating.

                                                              1. re: Scargod

                                                                We went to Pancho's excactly once My husband is from TX and while we were living in IL he told me about the flags on the table. I was intrigued. Even my toddler spit out the food. Why oh why does this place exist when there is so much GOOD Mexican/Tex Mex in Texas???

                                                                1. re: pickychicky1979

                                                                  I used to go to a Don Panchos in Albuquerque while I was getting my masters at UNM. Ninety-nine cents for all you could eat! The rellanos weren't too bad and I cleaned them out of guacamole.

                                                                2. re: Scargod

                                                                  Exactly my point! I've always had them with the skin removed and the batter a bit crunchy, not the peppers! But I suspect the thing all of us may be overlooking is that food is ALWAYS regional. Sometimes from block to block! Watch Mario Batalli preach about if you're making a Tuscan dish, use Tuscan olive oil and Tuscan wine and Tuscan cheese or it won't be authentic. It seems TexMex is like that.

                                                                  Food also changes quickly in some areas. I moved to the DFW metroplex 2 1/2 years ago. After about 4 months, I developed a desperate longing for a cheese chile relleno like I've "always" had before. I don't know if it's just a streak of absolutely abominable luck (wouldn't be the first time) or if it's the way things have always been in these parts, but it took a whooooole lot of hunting and asking to finally track down places that serve chiles relleno with the pepper roasted and peeled prior to cooking. It would be natural for me to assume that's "standard" DFW fare, but that could well be a wrong assumption and just a streak of stepping in doggie doo too many times in a row!

                                                                  As for Pancho's Buffet, it too is regional! They're state wide. There were three in El Paso, and one in Las Cruces. Some were better than others, but none as bad as here. The one in Las Cruces (30 miles north) was my favorite because it served tacos al carbon at their buffet. Made it worth the 30 mile drive. So I was excited when I found a Pancho's here in Plano. How many ways can I spell "yuck!"? No chilles relleno, the tacos were terrible, and they made the enchiladas with flour tortillas.

                                                                  Same thing with Taco Cabana. In El Paso, all of the Taco Cabanas have cheese chiles relleno on the menu, but they only have tortilla soup in the wintertime. Who needs soup when it's 105F, right? Again I was thrilled to find a Taco Cabana in Plano. Again, how many ways to spell... Well, you know. NO chiles relleno on the menu at all. And for tortilla soup they gave me a cup of chicken soup and some warm flour tortillas to dunk in it! And THEY made my enchiladas with flour tortillas too! What is it with that? Who needs enchilada dumplings? Not me!

                                                                  Everything is regional. Maybe all I need to do is drive to Fort Worth? <sigh>

                                                                  1. re: Scargod

                                                                    long, skinny = Anaheim
                                                                    green, squatty = Poblano

                                                                    1. re: aynrandgirl

                                                                      Ya I know, after years in New Mexico, I never ate or saw either a poblano or a black bean. Out of necessity, I started I started eating them here in Maine. What a funny world it is.

                                                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                                                    And damn, they send all the mild jalapenos (jala- peeenos) up to Maine, I eat them like celery and the locals think I nuts.

                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                      " In California, New Mexico, and west Texas, the Anaheim (Ortega, Hatch) chile is standard for rellenos."

                                                                      Happy to report that in most reputable Mexican restaurants in Califonia, not only are fresh poblanos or anchos being used for rellenos, they are first charred and peeled and cooked with the stem on so you know they are fresh not canned. The flavor difference over canned Anaheims is a world. Many such places also use cotija to stuff, not Jack.

                                                                      1. re: toodie jane

                                                                        Then this is a change over the last decade or so. Or do you live in northern California? Cotija seems a curious cheese for rellenos since true cotija is a hard cheese similar to Parmesan, commonly used for grating. Queso de Chihuahua, as fas as I know, is the traditional cheese for chile rellenos. Since Monterey jack is similar, it was adapted in places where Chihuahua cheese was difficult to come by. Charring and peeling any chile before stuffing is standard. Well, except in some strange places here in the DFW metroplex.

                                                                  3. Growing up in Dallas in the 60's, there was El Fenix. This was very greasy, cheesey food. Comments that Tex-Mex is "richer" means much more lard or cheese content! Cheese sauce on enchiladas, thin, brown, meat sauce on tamales, yellow cheddar cheese in your hard tacos, etc. A chalupa was a hard tortilla with mashed beans, lettuce, tomato on it. We had flautas, which I knew as rolled up corn tortillas with a little meat inside and burnt to a crisp in the deep fat fryer. I never cared for them. The meat was always ruined. Jack-in-the-Box sold a horrible flautas-like taco, often soft from the grease.
                                                                    In the 70's we would go frequently to El Fenix to eat and devour the salsa. This was a cooked varity. When our waiter would return we would jokingly, but sometimes with straight faces, ask for more "Mexican soup". Then we'd see how fast we could polish that bowl off (before they returned) and ask for more. It was not terribly spicey. I didn't know of a "soft taco", menudo or tortas for many years.

                                                                    Today there is a healthier version of Tex-Mex and there is more fish and truer Mexican dishes offerred. It has evolved. I can't compare it to Cal-Mex, only New Mex-Mex, which I love and think of as fresher and lighter. I think that most of the salsa in MN is fresh.

                                                                    19 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Scargod

                                                                      El Fenix is still around... http://www.elfenix.com/

                                                                      I was afraid to ask the difference between a "meat taco" and a "beef taco."

                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                        That made me smile and perked me up. There's always been a joke (at least in Dallas) about what's in the tacos, tamales, etc.
                                                                        Yes, beef, I think...
                                                                        The Jack in the Box was always suspect because the filling seemed to be half masa (or similar filler grain) and the other half greasy??
                                                                        Have you tried Zuzu, Mia's or Cantina Laredo in Dallas ?

                                                                        1. re: Scargod

                                                                          I think I'm gonna swear off TexMex for a while... In a fit of total self indulgence, I just ordered a full dozen cook books -- primarily Japanese and Chinese -- and a flat bottomed wok and steamer baskets to replace the old much much larger round bottom wok and baskets. It's such a joy to have lots of Asian markets in the area!

                                                                          When I get tired of that, I'll go looking for some Anaheim chiles to make my own REAL chiles relleno! '-)

                                                                          Meanwhile, since you enjoyed the last website, heres a little more nostalgia for you:

                                                                          http://miastexmex.com/EATwithUs.html
                                                                          http://www.cantinalaredo.com/

                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                            I ate at both last year. My Mom really liked Cantina Laredo which was created as a high-end gourmet El Chico's by the Cuellar family. As kids we would get the "taco kit" from the grocery store (where you get shells, seasonings for the meat and [I think] a tin of salsa). We would make refried pinto beans and rice to go with them. It was an inexpensive and novel and inexpensive way for a widow to feed five kids.
                                                                            I was really enjoying the "afraid to ask the difference" comment.

                                                                            Yes, you are in Asian food heaven, aren't you?

                                                                            1. re: Scargod

                                                                              Huh, that's what we do w/ our five kids. Bean tostadas is a family favorite. I buy 40 lb bags of pintos and corn tostados in bulk, cheese yoo. In New Mexico they are tostados, I never heard chlaupas until Texas. Unfortunately chalupa sounds like chalupe, the South American word for cock roach.

                                                                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                Not cucaracha? Perhaps those South American ones are eight inches in diameter?

                                                                                1. re: Scargod

                                                                                  No, cucaracha refers to another roach that is smoked. "La Cucaracha" is a drug prevention song. The lyrics "No que puede que fumar (+-)" Means that you shouldn't smoke the cucharacha and they don't mean BBQ.
                                                                                  Nope in 8" in length, they scare the hell outtaya when you step on them barefoot at night. Not bad stir fried though.

                                                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                    The version I heard expressed the need for mary jane:

                                                                                    La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha, ya no puede caminar.

                                                                                    Por que no tiene, por que le falta,

                                                                                    Marijuana para fumar!

                                                                                    Translated, La Cucaracha (named for some popular object about which I am unfamiliar) can't go or move because it doesn't have any weed.

                                                                                    Regarding the tostado/chalupa business, hear in la I've always thought a "tostada" (note feminine form of the noun) was either a flat, fried tortilla topped with a smear or dollop of refried beans, lettuce, cheese, and generally beef or chicken plus optionally onions, tomatoes, guacamole etc. It also means a flat fried tortilla topped with seafood (and nothing else save salsa). The former may well be Gringo-mex, the latter seems more popular with native Mexicans.

                                                                                    1. re: broncosaurus

                                                                                      You are absolutely correct on all counts and I stand corrected. But you must understand that I teach high school English in a small, conservative, New England town and spies are everywhere. And if I professed real knowledge of Mexican food, I'd be tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail (Real local history!) as liberal!!!!
                                                                                      PS I also learned Spanish by the beer method; never had a formal lesson.

                                                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                        Mrs. Uribe for me, in 1-3rd grades.(58-61) She was from Paraguay though, not Mexico. She was also our rhythm band teacher. Has served me well.

                                                                              2. re: Scargod

                                                                                I've had lunch at both El Fenix and Cantina Loredo. I do remember thinking the food at El fenix was bad. Really bad. The food at Cantina Loredo...? I guess I need to own up to the fact that I'm a purist, and Cantina Loredo is what I think of as fusion food. When you serve pork shanks and call them "carnitas," what's wrong with this picture?

                                                                                Oh! That's another difference I find between Dallas TexMex and El Paso TexMex, as well as California and Baja California "CalMex." Carnitas! In those other places I've lived, "carnitas" are small cubes or chunks of pork that are cooked in their own juices, then drained and cooked a bit more to crisp them up a bit. Often served "family style" in restaurants, with a generous platter of carnitas, a basket of warm corn tortillas, and an assortment of things like cilantro (gotta have fresh cilantro with carnitas!), diced tomatoes, diced avocado or guacamole, sliced green onions, lettuce and/or cole slaw, sour cream and such. In this area I have ordered "carnitas" but been served what I call shredded pork. Well, it happened in one restuarant and after that, I didn't try again. So my question is, which version do you guys call "carnitas?" Chunks of unshredded pork or shredded pork?

                                                                                The other thing that's bugging me a lot lately is that it is getting more and more difficult to find Mexican restaurants that fry their own taco shells, except for "puffy tacos." I hate Taco Bell taco shells! <sigh> Do ya think I'm a fish out of water?

                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                  I think you need to sprout some legs and enjoy it.
                                                                                  Shredded; I'm sorry!
                                                                                  Keep looking, too. I'll try and help. I've been here in southern CT for almost six years now and I am just beginning to feel comfortable at finding my way around and knowing where the chow spots are. The Dallas-Ft. Worth "Metroplex" is roughly as big as Connecticut!
                                                                                  If you haven't tried them I suggest Blue Mesa in Addison, Rosita's or Rafa's, in Inwood Village and La Cale Dos for Mexican seafood. It's been a while for these but Cuquita's on Henderson Avenue is worth a try (used to go there),
                                                                                  How is Cristina's, El Norte or Luna de Noche in Plano?

                                                                                  1. re: Scargod

                                                                                    Caroline1, my heart aches when I hear El Paso's food called TexMex. Any student of history knows that El Paso was taken forcibly from the gentle and peaceful state of New Mexico during a siesta, (But that's ok, we don't want it back.). Just look at the food in El Paso. It is still New Mexican (tastes better), not TexMex, please!
                                                                                    Shredded pork too.

                                                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                      LOL! Passadumkeg, you have a lovely sense of humor! Even today, there is a fairly large faction of El Pasoans who would like to secede from Texas and rejoin New Mexico.

                                                                                      You now live in New Mexico, right? How often do you go to El Paso? Or rather, how far from it do you live? Today, El Paso, Juarez, and Las Cruces are fast turning into a metroplex of its own. Except crossing the bridges to shop in Juarez has become too much of an effort. It's gonna kill me when I have to pay stateside prices for a pint of Posa vanilla!

                                                                                      I'm placing an order with my kids when they come for Thanksgiving... Untreated ristras so I can make my own enchilada sauce and have a nice kitchen decoration all at the same time. In the fall, I really miss the smell of chiles roasting out front of a market when I go shopping. <sigh> And I also miss my water rights from the Rio Grande to water my lawn! <grumble><grumble><grumble>

                                                                                    2. re: Scargod

                                                                                      I started to say I've been to Blue Mesa, but I haven't. I've been to Blue Goose. Not bad if you order the camarones, but their nachos are the absolute worst imaginable!

                                                                                      Anyway, I'm through with Mexican food for for a while. Stocking up on rice noodles to deep fry and watch them explode, and I'll be making steamed buns stuffed with pork, and REAL Chinese sweet and sour spare ribs with a sauce that is brown (not fluorescent red!) and so pungent with venegar you'd better not inhale when eating it or you'll choke! Good stuff! And a whole bunch of Chinese cook books on their way to bask in. And a cupboard full of gohan and nori and a bunch more Japanese cook books on their way too... Who cares if these Dallasites don't know shredded pork from carnitas? I'm gonna feast! '-)

                                                                                    3. re: Caroline1

                                                                                      Neither. In Michoacan, home of the very best carnitas, big 3-4 kilo chunks are cooked in huge caldrens (sp). This skin, fat, meat and bones. The fire is either a wood fire or a ring fired by propane. Either method, the pork is cooked in its own juice and fat over a long period of time. Basically the meat is boiled in its own oil. The pork here is too lean to prepare that way and consequently just isn't what I would thing of as real carnitas.

                                                                                      For tacos, the meat is hacked off the big chunks and rough chopped. In each taco there is meat, fat and a little of the very chewy skin. Tortillas are hecho a mano and cooked while the meat is being chopped. A taco is two soft fresh tortillas with a big serving of meat. No "salad", cheese or sour cream. Maybe there will be some nopalitos or sliced manzano peppers, but maybe not.
                                                                                      The very best carnitas, IMHO, are at Carnitas de Carmelo in Quiroga, Michoacan.

                                                                                      1. re: Pampatz

                                                                                        Sorry to disagree.... the best Carnitas are in Uruapan! Similar preparation... but much greater diversity in their use of the entire pig... for example you can find entire racks of ribs, a thick slice of tenderloing, ears, snout etc., whatever you want. Oh yeah... and the marinade made with orange peel & juice, garlic etc., used in Uruapan really is key to the best carnitas.

                                                                              3. re: Caroline1

                                                                                I think El Finix is horrible, and I don't understand why it is so popular.
                                                                                I also don't understand how in Texas, with all the great family owned Tex-Mex restaurants, how places like On The Border and Chewy's becoming dining options...ever.

                                                                            2. Funny, this thread just got me back on a Mex kick, not that I left it for long.
                                                                              Holy guacamole Lone Ranger!