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Mar 28, 2011 09:15 PM

Rice & Beans in Burritos in the US vs. Mexico - Why?

I've only been to Mexico via Club Med (please don't make fun of me) so I've never tasted real street food there. Can someone explain to me the real differences between a burrito in the US versus a burrito in Mexico? I live in northern California and the burritos here come with rice and beans. Not my style. I love rice and beans, but not in a burrito. Whenever I go to a semi-authentic Mexican place and order a burrito, it never includes rice and beans within the burrito; but yet this seems to be the norm. I heard that this is a California anomaly. But can I get some insight as to why this happens? I don't even think Mexicans in Mexico eat burritos that much and that's it's more of an Mexican-American thing, is this true?

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  1. The burrito was invented in Los Angeles. I think it's like sushi, not necessarily slave to "authenticity" (a good thing in my opinion)
    But basically my point is, the burrito is not Mexican in the sense that its *from* Mexico, so your search for the true Mexican burrito may disappoint you.

    3 Replies
    1. re: iheartcooking

      Burritos have a fairly long history in northern Mexico where beef and flour tortillas are common.,Tthe difference is they don't resemble the everything-but-the-kitchen sink burritos you see in the U.S.

      The addition of rice and beans in CA is more frequently found in NorCal than SoCal, and in San Diego if you put rice and beans in a burrito it's considered a sacriledge.

      1. re: iheartcooking

        Burritos were invented in Ciudad Juarez.

        1. re: mextex

          That's a possibility but not a certainty.

      2. What I have heard is that tacos are truly mexican (they came out of making a small thing - bits of meat - be bigly satisfying.) But that Burritos are Mexican/American - reveling in abundance.

        So you're not going to find a true Mexican burrito, as it is a dish that happened in America.

        1. I'm guessing that a lot of places throw the rice and beans in as filler. Rice and beans are a lot cheaper than meat and cheese, so you can serve up big filling burritos that don't cost a lot to make.

          Personally, I like beans in burritos, but not rice.

          2 Replies
          1. re: TuteTibiImperes

            Same could be said for the rice and beans on the platters at Mexican restaurants. Are they being cheap because they don't fill up the platter with carne asada? A mission style burrito doesn't necessarily have less meat than an all meat one; they typically use a much larger tortilla.

            1. re: TuteTibiImperes

              Exactly; beans and rice are a cheap filler. I always specify meat and hot sauce only. Some places charge more for it but I'm willing to pay extra.

            2. I'm seconding happybaker. I don't believe that there's anything actually Mexican about a burrito, just as there's nothing Mexican about nachos. They're just American interpretations of what Mexican food might be, enjoyed on this side of the border. Yes, you may be able to buy them in Mexico now, but that's just for the tourists. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

              6 Replies
              1. re: gilintx

                Nachos were "invented" in a bar in Mexico. I want to say in Monterrey, but that may or may not be correct. Monterrey is in northern Mexico, it's not Monterey, which is in California. They were named after the inventor, a guy named Ignacio. Nacho is the nickname for Ignacio. (Source for this was an article by Robb Walsh in Sauver magazine a number of years ago). The bar is still in business.

                Both burritos and nachos have their beginnings, roots and heritage in northern Mexico. They were not "invented" in the U.S. They just found a wider (much wider) acceptance and audience in the U.S. American operators have taken great license and liberty with both dishes and morphed them into something unique and totally different from the original dish.

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  Depending on who you ask, nachos were either invented in Acuna (across from Del Rio) or Piedras Negras (across from Eagle Pass). That they were made to feed tourists is not really in dispute, and you would not have found them even as far south as Monterrey.
                  Burritos do show up from time to time in Mexico (ie not in a border town), but they're not really prevalent. My mom grew up in Northern Mexico, and she never saw one until she moved to San Antonio.

                  1. re: gilintx

                    gilintx, I have absolutely no doubt that your mother did not see a burrito while growing up in northern Mexico. I agree they were popularized by the American markets, but not invented by them.

                    For your consideration...
                    * The Diccionario de Mejicanismos published in 1895 is credited with making the first reference to burritos. They attributed it to regional terminology from Guanajuato. (Okay, the Bajio is further south than norther Mexico) .
                    * There is some documentation that burritos were sold during the Mexican Revolution (1910-21)

                    The term burrito comes from the word burro, or donkey (which everyone pretty much knows). Whether it is because the compact shape of a burrito resembles that of a burro, or because it resembled the bedroll generally carried on a burro, is not clear. I've read both versions.

                    There is also the version about a street vendor selling hot food from his burro and cart. Alledgedly he wrapped the food in a hot flour tortilla to keep it warm and then in a cloth napkin to further insulate it. Locals and traders were supposed to have tracked him down by asking where the "comida del burrito" (food of/from the burro/donkey) could be found. I'm more inclined to think that the story is a piece of Mexican folk lore, but it could certainly have happened.

                    Credit for introducing the burrito in the U.S. generally goes to El Cholo restaurant in Los Angeles in the 1930s and received their first mention in the U.S. media in the mid-30s (1934 or 35 or maybe 36, I can never remember exactly which).

                    I'm guessing from your user name that you're from Texas? If you're like me and grew up on the border then you know it's a pretty fluid place (especially before 9/11 and terrorism) and that there is a lot of flow of people, ideas and food going in both directions across it on a constant basis. And the border demarcation itself moved around quite a bit for a lot of years. So it wouldn't surprise me a bit to hear that something akin to a burrito - food wrapped in a flour tortilla - had been going back and forth over the border long before it got mentioned in the U.S. press. So, while El Cholo gets the credit for introducing the burrito, I'm guessing versions of it were already showign up in TX, AZ and NM.

                    My only point, really, is that these items were not "invented" in the U.S. There is enough documentation to show that Mexico was the point of orgin. I think it is fair to say that both burritos and nachos have a wider distribution and appeal in the U.S. than they do in Mexico and that the American food industry has done a lot more development with both items than Mexico has.

                    I'm not a big fan of either nachos or burritos. I think there are way, way, way more delicious and interesting Mexican food items, and neither defines Mexican cuisine for me. FWIW, they're kind of like a blip on the Mexican food radar screen, I know they're there, but they're not something I would generally seek out or order (although I have been known to order and enjoy a CAB several times a year).

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Thanks. I also have access to wikipedia, and have admitted that burritos are not strictly a border food. I also never said that that these items were "invented" in the U.S., only that they were an American interpretation of what Mexican food might be. Please check upthread to confirm this.
                      Food wrapped in a flour tortilla (itself a Northern Mexican creation) is generally thought of as a taco. A giant tortilla that totally encases your food is nothing that you will find south of Sonora.
                      For the record, I've been known to enjoy either a burrito (rice or no rice) or a plate of bean and cheese nachos (easy to throw together in about fifteen) from time to time. Work with what you've got, right?
                      I agree with your point that the border region is fluid: but I have to stand by my assertion that they're not really Mexican food, but rather, the KFC bowl of Mexican cuisine.

                      1. re: gilintx

                        Truce? Don't give me that much credit, I didn't even know we were fighting :-D!That's what I hate about these types of forums, all the verbal nuances and cues are missing. Trust me, I'm not that hard core about this stuff. I think we misfired; you didn't say they were invented in the U.S., other posters uptread indicated they were, which was what I originally took exception to. I think we were a little at cross purposes. Nachos and burritos have definitely hit their zenith in the U.S.

                        I think we're pretty much on the same page, I agree with most of what you wrote. No, you won't find a giant flour tortilla south of Sonora, if even that far. And the present incarnation of these items in the U.S. is the product of the American food industry (in which I've spent 30+ years working). I'm not sure I would categorize a burrito as an oversized taco, I can see the analogy, but no self-respecting taco would allow itself to be built that way ;-)

                        I grew up in SD (currently a mecca for the CAB and the equally upbiquitous "rolled taco") and neither burritos or nachos were that popular. When I moved to L.A. I lived almost within walking distance of El Cholo. I don't think I ever ordered a burrito there in spite of the "home of" claim to fame.

                2. re: gilintx

                  To me, a burrito is just a large, completely enclosed soft taco.

                3. Diane Kennedy in "The Cuisines of Mexico" published 1972 defines burritos as tacos made with flour tortillas. She lists recipes for shredded pork, crisp shredded beef, scrambl;ed eggs and refried beans as possible fillings. Like others have mentioned, the high ratio of rice and beans to any other filling is because it's cheap. That said, my favorite burrito is beans and cheese with a little onion--tacos, now that's a different story.