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Restaurants are inappropriately using flour tortillas instead of corn? :(

x
xhepera May 4, 2011 12:14 PM

Okay, I'm not Mexican but I grew up in southern California in a Mexican neighborhood and learned Mexican cooking from friends and in-laws in the area. Tacos such as carnitas, seafood or carne asada were always served in grilled corn tortillas. Quesadillas, likewise, were always made with corn tortillas. This was true in restaurants and households.

Flash forward a hundred years to my current abode in the Midwest. The town I live in has several Mexican restaurants. And they all make quesadillas with flour tortillas. Same thing with the soft tacos. Now, if asked, they will make the tacos with corn tortillas but the default is flour. They balk at making a quesadilla with anything but flour and will usually say that they only make them that way. There was one restaurant, no longer in business, that billed itself as serving authentic and traditional Mexican food and they did it correctly.

All of these restaurants are Mexican owned and operated. I'm tempted to ask them, "Is this how you make this at home?!" So I'm wondering if this is a trend in the Midwest only or is this taking hold all over? I know that I can visit L.A. or San Diego or San Francisco and still have it done properly at the neighborhood taqueria. Are Midwestern restaurants appealing to, or attempting to appeal to, uneducated palates? What gives?

  1. s
    small h May 4, 2011 12:22 PM

    In my (mostly east coast) experience, quesadillas are always made with flour tortillas, and tacos - soft or hard - are almost always made with corn tortillas.

    11 Replies
    1. re: small h
      o
      ospreycove May 4, 2011 12:32 PM

      Maybe it is that flour tortillas keep longer than corn? We have a tortilleria that I go to for breakfast occasionally and they serve fresh made tortillias, corn, w/your dish. When I buy a few "pacquetes", they seem to be no good after a day or two.

      1. re: ospreycove
        s
        small h May 4, 2011 01:54 PM

        That may be the case. You can heat up an oldish flour tortilla, and it will still be okay. But an oldish corn tortilla is (in my opinion) not really salvageable. Also, corn tortillas are smaller than flour tortillas, so a quesadilla made with a corn tortilla would not be a good candidate for cutting into six pieces, which is how they're usually served in Manhattan, where I live.

        1. re: small h
          x
          xhepera May 4, 2011 02:51 PM

          Well, I must respectfully disagree on the heating issue. Flour tortillas contain fat, which can go rancid and contribute an off flavor. Of course, I guess it depends on how you're heating it. Stale corn tortillas can be fried or used in dishes that have a liquid component and rendered palatable whereas they wouldn't be if simply grilled for a taco.

          Yes, corn tortillas are smaller. That's why when you order a quesadilla in a traditional taqueria it's either not as expensive as the flour ones OR you get 2 or three smaller quesadillas. The quesadillas I grew up with weren't meant to be Mexican-style cheese pizzas! :-)

          1. re: xhepera
            s
            small h May 4, 2011 03:49 PM

            Oh, you'll get no argument from me. I make my own flour tortillas, and I microwave them or heat them in a cast-iron pan on days 2, 3 & 4 - they don't get any older than that. And I (a non-carnivore) make 'em with Crisco, which I don't think goes rancid, ever.

            I could not come up with one single place that serves corn tortilla quesadillas around these parts, save this one:

            http://www.tortillerianixtamal.com/wh...

            Note that it's a kid-size portion. 'Cause the corn tortillas are small.

          2. re: small h
            c oliver May 5, 2011 04:00 PM

            I buy several dozen freshly made corn tortillas at a time and freeze half. The rest hold up for a couple of weeks. They might start to tear a bit towards the end of that time but still tasty.

            1. re: c oliver
              s
              small h May 5, 2011 05:20 PM

              Maybe I'm too hard on the poor elderly corn tortillas. The only time I have them at home is as part of a take-out order, and I don't think the leftover ones are very good. I've never bought them fresh in bulk (I'd have to haul my ass out to Queens for decent ones), so perhaps I just don't know what I'm missing.

              1. re: small h
                c oliver May 6, 2011 04:16 AM

                I do fry them up in just a sheen of lard, not crunch but some slightly crisp spots. I'm sure that helps.

                Oh, you poor baby! All the way to Queens?? How do you bear it? I drive 100+ miles roundtrip :)

                1. re: c oliver
                  s
                  small h May 7, 2011 08:33 AM

                  I know it sounds a bit ridiculous. But the route from my house to Tortilleria Nixtamal involves a bus (15 minutes), two subways (40 minutes) and a 15 minute walk. You could drive your 100 miles in the time it takes me to get there and back.

                  1. re: small h
                    c oliver May 7, 2011 11:13 AM

                    Oh, I know. We used to live in SF and distances were measured in time not miles :)

        2. re: small h
          x
          xhepera May 4, 2011 01:23 PM

          Fresh ones will always be SO much better! The less fresh are still good for things like chilaquiles or quesadillas though. Just not for tacos or out-of-hand eating.

          1. re: small h
            x
            xhepera May 4, 2011 01:25 PM

            Well, except for the quesadillas they've got it right! :-)

          2. m
            monopod May 4, 2011 12:28 PM

            I think it all has to do with the availability of fresh corn tortillas. In big California cities, there are lots of great little tortillarias turning out fresh, delicious corn tortillas, which are IMHO the greatest tortilla there is. But corn tortillas don't last very long. In the Midwest, the only corn tortillas around are the mass-produced ones at the supermarket that have sat in a bag for a month, making them rubbery and tasting like nothing. Whereas flour tortillas can sit around for a while and still be decent when heated. So, in the Midwest, people would rather have a decent flour tortilla than a crappy corn tortilla, and that becomes the standard after a while.

            I always preferred flour because I'd never had a good, fresh corn tortilla. When I finally did, it took me a little while to come around from my former preferences, but now I'm corn all the way (if it's fresh).

            16 Replies
            1. re: monopod
              x
              xhepera May 4, 2011 01:22 PM

              Good point. I buy my tortillas from a small Hispanic market here that gets very fresh tortillas and freezes or refrigerates them.They have a high enough turnover so that they're never stale. When I buy them at the supermarket it's only to make something like chilaquiles, for which "stale" tortillas are best. If I'm feeling *really* industrious I make my own, but that can be such a pain sometimes. ;-)

              1. re: xhepera
                o
                ospreycove May 4, 2011 03:53 PM

                Ahh, Texas Migas, (chilaquiles), now that is comfort food!!!

              2. re: monopod
                x
                xhepera May 4, 2011 01:36 PM

                I guess it boils down to a matter of taste, and at 58 yrs of age I'm more comfortable with what I grew up with and have had all my life. My friends and family in L.A. are appalled when I tell them about the flour tortilla thing here. I recently went to a restaurant and ordered a carne asada taco and an order of taquitos. The taquitos were done with flour tortillas and I sent them back. For the carne asada I specifically ordered a corn tortilla and got something that looked like it was from Taco Bell! I told the server that I wanted a soft tortilla. She apologized and brought me back one done with a flour tortilla. *sigh* I'm sorry, but it did not taste good or "right." Soooo, what I did was throw some refried beans on it and a bit of pico de gallo, rolled it up and pretended it was a mini-burrito. That worked.

                On the other hand, at the restaurant that is now out of business, I ordered a carnitas taco and a quesadilla. Both came with flour. I told the server that I wanted corn and he told me they didn't do that! As he was returning to the kitchen, the owner stopped him and asked what the problem was. After a brief conversation with him she came to me and asked what I wanted. I told her. She beamed at me like she had found a long lost friend who appreciated the way it should be done. She then told me that she would make me some corn tortillas "a mano" (by hand.) Every time I went there after that she always made my corn tortillas by hand, extremely pleased that I enjoyed them so much. One time she came out and apologized, saying that they were so incredibly busy that she didn't have time to do them and would packaged be okay. Loved that place!

                1. re: monopod
                  s
                  soupkitten May 4, 2011 06:23 PM

                  whoa. "the midwest" is a pretty big place. you won't have too much trouble getting fresh corn tortillas in chicago or other metro areas in "the midwest." however in many areas of "the midwest," mexican immigrants opened eateries serving northern mexican style foods--including the use of flour tortillas, because that is where they originally came from. the op has decided there is only one monolithic mexican cuisine-- which is as problematic as saying there is one monolithic italian cuisine or or one monolithic indian cuisine or one monolithic american cuisine. reminds me of a guy who looked at the menu of an excellent northern italian restaurant and claimed it couldn't be italian because there was no pasta and red sauce. he was convinced the owners must be chinese because of the risotto on the menu.

                  1. re: soupkitten
                    x
                    xhepera May 5, 2011 01:31 PM

                    Well, I'm the. OP and I claim no such thing. Please don't put words in my mouth. I have been very careful to say that things are what *I* am used to and grew up with. And also that perhaps it's just a matter of taste. What I've said is no different from people in Italy, for example, who say that *their* area's bolognese is the way it *should* be made. I'm much too old and experienced to ever claim that my way is gospel.

                    1. re: xhepera
                      s
                      soupkitten May 5, 2011 07:47 PM

                      the title of the op contains the word "inappropriately"-- inappropriately, to whom?

                      please tell me how your strong, non-ambivalent use of "improper" and "proper," as well as the words "authentic," "traditional" and "correct/ly" in your op is me somehow misreading your intent? sorry, but i'm not putting any words in your mouth that you didn't write yourself, or inventing any premise which you haven't already stated:

                      "Are Midwestern restaurants appealing to, or attempting to appeal to, uneducated palates?"

                      perhaps you should put your very neutral and inoffensively worded question to chef rick bayless, i'd be interested to hear his response.

                      1. re: soupkitten
                        s
                        Steve May 5, 2011 08:55 PM

                        It was use of the question mark that the OP brings doubt into the original hypothesis.

                        I would not attribute all flour tortillas and burritos served by Mexicans in the US as a product of what they grew up with. I think it is often bowing to the tastes of an American public.

                        1. re: Steve
                          x
                          xhepera May 6, 2011 01:09 PM

                          Thanks Steve. You and others got what I was asking.

                        2. re: soupkitten
                          x
                          xhepera May 6, 2011 01:07 PM

                          I take it your close reading did not take into account the fact that I put a question mark at the end of my topic head? I also take it that you did not read any of my other comments in the thread in which I say that I think that folks who replied are likely correct in citing the geographical element as a reason for the difference?

                          You say that "the op has decided that there is only one monolithic Mexican cuisine." Nothing could be further from the truth. You're talking to someone who can prepare four, different, regional moles from scratch when most people think mole poblano is the only mole.

                          In any case, I know for a fact that Rick Bayless would agree with me on one of my points. He's on record as saying that in Mexico, quesadillas and flour tortillas have nothing to do with one another. I refer you to the episode about quesadillas on his PBS show, "Mexico—One Plate at a Time." It's episode 708. And Bayless is always careful to point out when he's interpreting what he considers to be a "traditional" dish.

                          1. re: xhepera
                            c oliver May 6, 2011 01:51 PM

                            And here's what Diana Kennedy (maybe a tad more of a authority than Bayless) has to say about it:

                            http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Articles...

                            1. re: c oliver
                              paulj May 6, 2011 02:05 PM

                              "Quesadillas Quesadillas are tortillas, usually corn but also flour, that are folded over a filling of cheese, sometimes with the addition of an epazote leaf, squash blossom or other ingredient, and cooked on a greased or ungreased griddle until the cheese is melted and the tortilla begins to become crisp. In some areas an uncooked corn tortilla is folded over the cheese and sealed like a turnover, then fried in oil until crisp"
                              http://lomexicano.com/mexicanfoodreci...

                              1. re: paulj
                                c oliver May 6, 2011 02:11 PM

                                Er, yep :)

                                1. re: paulj
                                  paulj May 6, 2011 09:32 PM

                                  A curious twist on the masa based quesadilla are los pastes from the state of Hidalgo

                                  http://www.guiadetacos.com/recetas_me...

                                  This is a Cornish Pasty with a Mexican flair, originating with Cornish miners who came to the area nearly 2 centuries ago.

                                  1. re: paulj
                                    MinkeyMonkey May 7, 2011 08:50 PM

                                    This sounds so delicious and I've never heard of it! I'll have to try this some day. Thanks for the link.

                              2. re: xhepera
                                s
                                soupkitten May 6, 2011 02:21 PM

                                i guess i'd still like to know why you think it's appropriate to paint the entire area that is "the midwest" with your broad brush. are you seriously saying that given your local restaurants' offerings, therefore that somehow people can't get corn tortillas in mexican restaurants in chicago, cleveland, detroit? topolobampo caters to "uneducated palates" while your local corner taqueria in l.a. caters to refined ones? that's. . . a bit of a stretch, don't you think?

                                btw i certainly don't have any problem whatsoever w finding my alambres on corn double-stacks in minneapolis. you haven't disclosed where your residence, which we apparently are to presume is the representative capitol of "the midwest" (wink wink). . . if it's a podunk town 50 miles northeast of topeka, well yeah, of course-- the mexican restaurants may leave a little something to be desired-- as well as the hospitals and the local symphony orchestra. . . that doesn't justify stating that cleveland's orchestra must be crap because it's also in "the midwest," or that rochester mn must be pretty weak on the healthcare front based on m.d. dave's family practice clinic on main street. frankly your op reads like just another biased post which disparages a whole region and invites others to pile on, based on your expectations that may or may not be out of whack for where you are living. naturally there will be trade-offs for folks moving from large metro areas to very small ones-- the good news is that if corn tortillas in "the midwest" are your personal biggest letdown, you can get 'em fedexed from wherever you prefer.

                                in your op you state "All of these restaurants are Mexican owned and operated. I'm tempted to ask them, "Is this how you make this at home?!" "
                                yes i did read your op carefully-- and to me, this reads as if you don't think that anyone originally from mexico would use a flour tortilla under any circumstances in their own home. okay. so now halfway thru the thread you've flip-flopped and are stating that you *do* think some folks use/prefer flour tortillas, based on their original home/family's region, and that you *don't* think there is one, monolithic mexican cuisine. so. . . you haven't asked anybody running/owning your new local restaurants where they are from, or anything about the food they may specialize in, on or off-menu. i wonder: why not? how do you know you aren't being quite insulting to folks from sonora (for example) when you reject the food they prepare out of hand, insisting instead on mexico-city style or cal-mex preparations? would you know a great beef barbacoa, for example, served with hot flour tortillas, if it landed on your table and waved its little arms around, or would you walk out the door in disgust, or send it back, as you've described doing with other dishes accompanied by flour tortillas in your follow-up posts? would you also hate on a japanese restaurant that served ramen and udon noodles, but no sushi-- or a south indian vegetarian restaurant, because of the absence of chicken vindaloo or korma on the menu-- or would you actually taste food that doesn't quite click w your own expectations, and try to judge it on its own merits, without trying to dictate to the restaurant how food should "properly" be prepared?

                                if you actually eat as widely and adventurously as you are claiming to, i don't understand the point of your original post, which seems like someone wanting "proper" cookie cutter l.a.-style taqueria food in "the midwest," no changes, no variations.

                                1. re: soupkitten
                                  s
                                  Steve May 6, 2011 04:44 PM

                                  I still think you are misinterpreting the OP. The OP blatantly says what their history and experiences were. That's what is 'known' to the OP. By asking the question, the OP was willing to learn, so a change during the thread was called for. I think it's rare on Chowhound when someone can admit to a change in attitude during a thread.

                                  For example, where I live there is a taqueria that has a 50/50 clientele of hispanic and non-hispanic. It sometimes takes a long time to get your food, plus I eat my stuff there at one of the four stools. Almost eveyrone gets there food to go. In all my many times of eating there, I have heard plenty of orders come and go. I can honestly say I have never seen a hispanic person order a burrito there. They are sometimes getting huge sacks of twenty tacos to go, but never the burritos. It's like they don't exist. Meanwhile, most non-hispanic orders will include burritos. My conclusion is that burritos are an invention by and for the non-hispanic. If I were to post about that and I was corrected by someone, then you might find a similar thread.

                      2. LorenM May 4, 2011 01:46 PM

                        I think flour tortillas for soft tacos is a Taco Bell thing. They make no claim for being authentic. I think the phrase they use is "Mexican Inspired" so I don't think they are at fault. I know a ton of people that like them that way. I do have a little Mexican restaurant a block away that has a couple of grannies in the back patting their own corn tortillas all day. Good stuff.

                        1. s
                          Sherri May 4, 2011 03:19 PM

                          I believe the answer to your query may come from geography. Generally speaking, flour tortillas are more prevelent and popular in the North of Mexico while corn reigns supreme in the rest of the country. In most regions, except Sonora, Chihuahua and Baja del Norte, when one asks for tortillas, corn tortillas will be served.

                          Perhaps your Midwestern Mexicans are from the Northern regions of Mexico. I have a friend who is from Sonora and her husband is from Oxacaca in the South. They're a divided family -- she eats flour tortillas while he eats corn. Since they've been married over 30 years, I don't expect this to change. Their "mixed marriage" has produced both corn and flour tortilla fans in their children.

                          1. m
                            mlipps May 4, 2011 04:12 PM

                            It's definitely a regional thing, although I'm a little puzzled still...from what I've heard in the past, in very broad, sweeping, generalizations, northern Mexicans tend to eat Flour tortillas and live in the Southern US, since they can return home fairly easily. Southern mexicans can't go easily either way, so often moved north. All I know is, I can't find a flour tortilla in Chicago that is 1/4 as good as the ones I had in San Antonio.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mlipps
                              e
                              Eldon Kreider May 5, 2011 03:45 PM

                              Mexicans in Chicago are predominately from central and southern Mexico. More than a few grocery stores carrying tortillas from multiple factories do not even stock flour tortillas from some factories. I tend to pick the brand of corn tortillas based on which ones are warmest from the factory.

                              The Latino population of Chicago itself was 778,862 in the 2010 census. I would guess that somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of these have Mexican origins, so the market is pretty large.

                            2. c
                              cocktailhour May 4, 2011 05:21 PM

                              I agree re the regionality of Mexican food. I would also add that another factor could be the influence of Tex-Mex on your midwest places. I think of Tex Mex as its own regional cuisine and it uses flour tortillas for quesadillas, fajitas and corn tortillas for enchiladas, tacos. Cal-Mex is a completely different style.

                              1. EWSflash May 4, 2011 07:04 PM

                                I grew up in southern AZ, in the old days before Mexican food (Sonoran, in my case) had been TacoBellized or otherwise bastardized. A cheese tostada, which is now called a cheese crisp, :( was a really big fried or broiled flour tortilla with cheese on it, period. Tacos = corn tortillas, or they weren't tacos, but could be soft or fried into a U shape or rolled. Same with enchiladas, make them with flour tortillas and they're burros enchilados. Quesadillas can be made either way, based on what part of Mexico your people came from, wheat would only grow in the north part of Mexico where it was dry enough. the rest of the country grows corn.
                                Corn quesadillas are pretty damn good, if the tortillas are good and yes, they're very authentic- ask Diana Kennedy. In other words, part of that stems from where the people who are cooking come from. Mexico's a huge country with many different climates, and the cuisines are extremely varied. I don't know if midwestern restaurants are trying to hoodwink uneducated palates, but I'm guessing not. People usually make food that they're proud of.

                                1. Kajikit May 5, 2011 09:43 AM

                                  Never mind. I know nothing about Mexican cooking and my answer was entirely wrong... I'd have guessed it was because a palate not used to the flavour/texture profile of corn tortillas finds them unpleasant. I don't care what's 'authentic', give me a soft fluffy flour tortilla any day, over a hard, gritty corn one.

                                  16 Replies
                                  1. re: Kajikit
                                    x
                                    xhepera May 5, 2011 11:30 AM

                                    lol! I don't think I'd care for hard and gritty either. But I find the commercially available flour tortillas to be like the difference between Wonder Bread and a nice artisan loaf. Don't get me wrong. . .I love flour tortillas for burritos or for eating as an accompaniment/scooper for some Mexican dishes. . .just not tacos, enchiladas, taquitos or quesadillas. :)

                                    1. re: xhepera
                                      paulj May 5, 2011 11:51 AM

                                      What would you call a flour tortilla folded over a filling (taco style) as opposed to being wrapped (burrito style)? Or is it just plain wrong to do that regardless of name? :)

                                      A taquito like item made with a flour tortilla is sometimes called a flauta, especially if deep fried.

                                      Flour quesadillas have good Mexican roots - north Mexico that is. Nothing in the name requires corn ('cheesy thing'). Even if you make them corn, there is still the question of whether the tortilla should be cooked or uncooked before adding the filling. D Kennedy specifies 'uncooked tortillas stuffed .. and folded over to make a turnover'.

                                      For enchiladas most agree that corn tortillas stand up to being soaked better than flour. But the name just means 'something in chile (sauce)'. Sometimes 'entomatados' or 'enfrijoladas' are used if the sauce is just tomato or beans. And things other than tortillas could be served 'enchilada' (in chile sauce).

                                      1. re: paulj
                                        x
                                        xhepera May 5, 2011 12:46 PM

                                        What would you call a flour tortilla folded over a filling (taco style) as opposed to being wrapped (burrito style)? Or is it just plain wrong to do that regardless of name? :)
                                        --------
                                        Well, I can only answer that from my own perspective. I don't intend what I say to be considered gospel. As I said earlier, I just know what my friends and family in California and Mexico (as well as the restaurants in East L.A.) agree on and what I grew up with. That being said, I'd call it sacrilege! ;-) lol! However, I quite often use a flour tortilla to scoop up or loosely wrap (taco style) things like chile colorado or verde. I guess I really don't call it anything though. It's like bread.
                                        ...
                                        A taquito like item made with a flour tortilla is sometimes called a flauta, especially if deep fried.
                                        --------
                                        I think taquitos and flautas should always be fried. At least they are traditionally. I think you're right about the difference too, although I've seen the names interchanged.
                                        ....
                                        Flour quesadillas have good Mexican roots - north Mexico that is. Nothing in the name requires corn ('cheesy thing'). Even if you make them corn, there is still the question of whether the tortilla should be cooked or uncooked before adding the filling. D Kennedy specifies 'uncooked tortillas stuffed .. and folded over to make a turnover'.
                                        --------
                                        I've heard the northern vs southern argument and I think there's some merit to it. However, I have to think that flour is a late development since wheat is not native to the Americas and corn is. Perhaps northerners were more influenced by gringo tastes?

                                        As far as quesadillas, I know that some folks like the turnover style. I grew up with and still make them with two corn tortillas, with cheese in the middle, and fried in a small amount of oil on both sides until the cheese melts and the tortillas are a bit crisp around the edges. By the way, Rick Bayless says that in Mexico you will not find quesadillas made with flour tortillas.
                                        ....
                                        For enchiladas most agree that corn tortillas stand up to being soaked better than flour. But the name just means 'something in chile (sauce)'. Sometimes 'entomatados' or 'enfrijoladas' are used if the sauce is just tomato or beans. And things other than tortillas could be served 'enchilada' (in chile sauce).
                                        --------
                                        You're spot on about enchiladas. Anything can be "enchilada." I have had what most people think of when we say enchiladas made with flour tortillas. Always by Americans. ;-) They're okay I guess although I don't much like them. There is a depth of flavor that only corn tortillas will give to that dish in my opinion.

                                        1. re: xhepera
                                          paulj May 5, 2011 01:43 PM

                                          Wheat was as well known, and liked, in Spain as in England, so you don't have to invoke gringos to account for the use of wheat in Mexico. Spanish missions had to grow wheat for their communion wafers.

                                          I think in general the pre-hispanic Indian culture and foods had stronger impact in central and southern Mexico than in the north. Prehispanic settlement was sparser in the north, and possibly more nomadic. But I'd have to read more to learn where northern settlers came from. Some Germans settled in Mexico during the Spanish years, though many of their descendants left for Texas during the Mexican revolution.

                                          When I stayed with a border family some years ago, our noon meal always had freshly bought corn tortillas, but supper usually included home made flour.

                                          In the US, corn was a more common grain than wheat in colonial days, especially in the South where wheat did not grow well. Even in New England they made 'thirded' bread, using corn, rye and wheat because of the relatively high cost of wheat. Wheat consumption grew in the mid 1800s as railways brought midwestern and western crops back east, and immigrants from eastern Europe brought their hard wheat strains.

                                          1. re: paulj
                                            x
                                            xhepera May 5, 2011 01:55 PM

                                            Makes sense, Paulj. By the way, I was using "gringo" in the sense of non-indigenous foreigners. And not in a disparaging sense either. :) I know it is commonly used to refer to norteamericanos, but, according to a Spanish professor I had, even the Spanish and Portuguese have a history of using it to generally encompass any "auslander" ;-)

                                            1. re: paulj
                                              paulj May 5, 2011 09:24 PM

                                              Wheat bread or tortillas in the north may also have Jewish, or Conversos (converts) roots.

                                              http://www2.nl.gob.mx/?P=nl_comida_tr...

                                              "Nuevo León’s cooking combines three culinary cultures: Catholic Spanish, Jewish Spanish, and Tlaxcalteca indians that arrived from the center of Mexico.

                                              From the Jewish tradition we find dishes based on baby goat and certain types of bread. Dry meat and Bustamante pastry are of Tlaxcalteca tradition. Wheat tortillas are an adaptation of Spanish bread to the customs and techniques of America."

                                              1. re: paulj
                                                x
                                                xhepera May 6, 2011 01:13 PM

                                                Thanks for the link! Fascinating information there. I wasn't aware that machaca originated in Nuevo Leon, for instance.

                                      2. re: Kajikit
                                        JungMann May 5, 2011 01:59 PM

                                        A good corn tortilla is also soft and fluffy, not to mention sweet from corn and lard!

                                        1. re: JungMann
                                          alanbarnes May 6, 2011 05:45 PM

                                          Lard?

                                          1. re: alanbarnes
                                            EWSflash May 7, 2011 01:55 PM

                                            I don't know if I've ever seen a corn tortilla label that had lard or any other kind of fat. Flour, yes, but not corn.

                                            1. re: EWSflash
                                              c oliver May 7, 2011 02:01 PM

                                              I assume he means lard for cooking.

                                            2. re: alanbarnes
                                              JungMann May 7, 2011 11:15 PM

                                              I had homemade corn tortillas at a dinner last year that were absolutely mind blowing. They were soft, a little bit fluffy and really showcased the sweetness of the corn. I asked the cook what her secret was and she said lard. They were such a different breed from the corn tortillas I was used to I just assumed she added it directly to the masa, but maybe it's just how she greased her griddle?

                                              1. re: JungMann
                                                paulj May 7, 2011 11:54 PM

                                                I don't think the griddle needs much greasing. I know a carbon steel griddle does not need much seasoning or greasing to cook flour tortillas. Neither are fried (though there are fried masa items).

                                                From what I've read, freshly ground masa can be used directly for tortillas. Lard (or other fat) is added to the masa when making tamales. She might well have added some lard to her masa, though probably not as generously as with tamales.

                                                Speaking of lard, remember that it is an item borrowed from the Spanish. While I'm sure pre-Hispanic Mexicans had some fats, animal and plant, none of the sources would have been as plentyful as the fat from pigs.

                                                1. re: JungMann
                                                  alanbarnes May 8, 2011 08:29 AM

                                                  If they were fluffy, I'm betting she used masa preparada para tamales, where the ground corn and lard are beaten together until a ball of dough floats. Sounds interesting and tasty, but I don't know of anyplace where it's traditional.

                                              2. re: JungMann
                                                luckyfatima May 7, 2011 04:38 PM

                                                I haven't bought the hard grocery store ones in a long time, so I dunno what the label says, but when I get fresh made ones or try a new tortilla shop I always ask:do you use oil or lard? Pretty much all places use oil. Homemade corn also involves adding oil or butter (or lard) into warm water and adding this to the masa harina. The drop of oil makes them soft.

                                              3. re: Kajikit
                                                EWSflash May 5, 2011 08:11 PM

                                                Oh dang- throw a corn tortilla on a hot griddle for a few seconds and wow, are they good! Plus, most of Mexico uses them, fifty million people can't be wrong, usually. :-)

                                              4. e
                                                escondido123 May 5, 2011 05:50 PM

                                                I also grew up in So Cal and we always made quesadillas with flour tortillas and my sister still does with her kids. I'm a bigger fan of corn ones but either can be great when fresh--luckily both are made daily around here.

                                                1. paulj May 5, 2011 06:59 PM

                                                  One difference between Mexican, as done at home, and common restaurant fare in the USA, is that antojitos take center stage in the USA. Tacos, quesadillas, even enchiladas are 'little whims', snacks or street food, not 'comida' (dinner) dishes. If we were focusing on sopas, caldos, moles, carnes and the like, we wouldn't worry about whether corn or flour tortillas are served on the side.

                                                  I don't think I've ever ordered a quesadilla, and only get tacos from a truck (one each of sesos, lengua and tripas). And my favorite item from a truck is a torta, not one of the tortillas based items. In a sit down taqueria I prefer to order menudo, or posole. A quesadilla is something I make at home as a quick lunch.

                                                  Debating whether flour or corn should be used for a quesadilla is a bit like debating whether white bread or rye should be used for a grilled cheese (or a ruben). :) It's important if you are a fan of that type of sandwich, but not central to American cuisine.

                                                  11 Replies
                                                  1. re: paulj
                                                    EWSflash May 5, 2011 08:23 PM

                                                    I've never ordered a quesadilla in a sit-down restaurant either, but fortunately, there are a few restaurants around REAL near me that take quesadillas way out into the stratosphere. I feel blessed to have them nearby. Seriously.
                                                    BTW- quesadillas do not have ground beef, chorizo, guacamole, or anything else on it. A perfect quesadilla is a fresh flour tortilla, preferably one made in a tortilleria nearby, with no extra layer of flour to screech out your teeth, and either queso blanco or some lovely white cheese, or good cheddar, served with the tortilla soft and the cheese all melty. It's on my Top Ten fave dishes
                                                    But- a nice corn tortilla griddled with the same cheese as above is really damn good too.
                                                    When in doubt, do a Google search for Diana Kennedy. Nobody else has that much experience!

                                                    1. re: EWSflash
                                                      janetofreno May 5, 2011 09:56 PM

                                                      I beg to differ: IMHO a perfect quesadilla is made from some CORN masa, patted out into a small, thick tortilla as you watch, stuffed with cheese or maybe some squash blossoms or both, and griddle fried. Preferably served by a sweet lady sitting on a certain street corner in Mexico City.

                                                      (Sigh. I guess you had to have been there...:-)

                                                      And yes, although flour tortillas are more common in the northern part of Mexico, even there a "taco" is made with a corn tortilla...or at least that's been my experience. In Mexico City I can't remember ever being served flour tortillas with a meal. Actually, usually we weren't served tortillas with our meal at all, but rather some of those delicious bolillos (rolls) that the city is famous for. As pointed out elsewhere, tortillas went into antojitos like tacos or enchiladas.

                                                      btw, we eat a lot of flour tortillas in our house. But that is because my husband has found that a fresh flour tortilla (preferably from the Mexican food market) properly grilled with a touch of butter is the perfect lazy-man's substitute for the home-made chapatis of his youth in India...:-)

                                                      1. re: janetofreno
                                                        paulj May 5, 2011 10:13 PM

                                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatbrea...
                                                        is a long list of flat breads, some soft, some crisp, some made with a dough, others with a batter.

                                                        1. re: janetofreno
                                                          JungMann May 6, 2011 06:52 AM

                                                          Your husband would not be the first to make that substitution. I have encountered quite a number of Desi bachelors in the US who use wheat tortillas as chapati. I sometimes will use corn tortillas to approximate the flavor of makki ki roti to go along with saag in the wintertime.

                                                          And as to the perfect quesadilla, I'm with you. I grew up on plain flour quesadillas, but now that I've had thin corn tortillas filled with Oaxaca cheese and huitlacoche, sealed to retain the juices and essence of the mushrooms, I just cannot turn back!

                                                          1. re: JungMann
                                                            c
                                                            cocktailhour May 6, 2011 10:41 AM

                                                            >Desi bachelors

                                                            let's not be sexist. I know plenty of Desi women who do the same thing! and plenty of Desi men who do the cooking.

                                                            I like my quesadillas the Tex Mex way. Flour tortilla, cheese alone or with a variety (I like one with sweet potato and pork with the cheese) and griddled, with or without fat, so it's firm and a bit crispy outside. eat with salsa, sour cream, guac, etc. to me, a soft tortilla heated in the microwave with cheese is not a quesadilla (that I am familiar with, I am not saying at all that mine is the one true way).

                                                            I have had quesadillas made with fresh corn tortillas (uncooked), and they are delicious, too.

                                                            1. re: JungMann
                                                              s
                                                              soupkitten May 6, 2011 06:08 PM

                                                              i about died when i read kenny shopsin's recipe for his "crepes" which are actually burrito-size flour tortillas soaked in an egg batter before hitting the flattop. once i recovered from the resulting whiplash i had to admit it made some sort of sense, particularly w the rest of his, erm, *distinctive* cooking style.

                                                            2. re: janetofreno
                                                              EWSflash May 6, 2011 02:38 PM

                                                              squash blossoms would be pretty good, and I said above I do like corn tortilla quesadillas as well. But I live in the Sonoran desert which is part of the drier the wheat-growing part of Mexico, so that's what's common here. I think it's more common than corn quesadillas. Mexico City is pretty far south. Even when I was in La Paz I never saw a flour tortilla.

                                                              My quesadilla complaint is that some people's idea of a quesadilla is one that's stuffed full of crap. And you're right (again as I said earlier) if it's a flour tortilla it isn't a taco, even in the north part of Mexico.

                                                              1. re: janetofreno
                                                                alanbarnes May 6, 2011 05:50 PM

                                                                In the Rio Grande Valley and even as far south as Monterrey, tacos are often made with flour tortillas. There's no such thing as a burrito there.

                                                                1. re: janetofreno
                                                                  tracylee May 7, 2011 04:10 PM

                                                                  The other night, I used a garam masala spiced socca for cheese enchiladas after discovering that my corn tortillas had gone stale, but the socca were still fresh. Yummy!

                                                              2. re: paulj
                                                                x
                                                                xhepera May 6, 2011 01:31 PM

                                                                Good points all. But curse you for bringing up tacos de sesos and lengua! :-) The restaurant I mentioned earlier that is now closed was the only place I could find such fare. We have one place that serves menudo, but only in winter, alas! They have pozole year-round, but it's chicken and I prefer pork.

                                                                1. re: xhepera
                                                                  EWSflash May 6, 2011 02:39 PM

                                                                  Chicken posole? Madre de Dio...

                                                              3. EWSflash May 5, 2011 08:24 PM

                                                                I meant
                                                                REAL Mexican takeout restaurants

                                                                1. paulj May 5, 2011 08:33 PM

                                                                  Has anyone encountered Sincronizadas in the USA? or Gringas?

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: paulj
                                                                    JungMann May 6, 2011 06:55 AM

                                                                    I think you're more inclined to see sincronizadas just treated as a quesadilla in most restaurants throughout the country. I currently live in the vicinity of a heavily Mexican community, so take away menus here do offer sincronizadas, but I don't recall seeing them in too many other urban areas.

                                                                    1. re: JungMann
                                                                      b
                                                                      brucesw May 6, 2011 07:25 AM

                                                                      Sincronizadas are very common on taco trucks here, at least in my part of town. I have never ordered one (and can't remember the last time I had a quesadilla). Off hand I don't recall sincronizadas on many taqueria menus, though.

                                                                      Gringas and Piratas are much less common on taco trucks but you do see them, sometimes only one or the other. I will usually go for one or both of them if they're available. I can't recall I've ever seen either on a taqueria menu and the first time I encountered them on a taco truck it took several visits before there was someone on board who spoke enough English to explain them.

                                                                    2. re: paulj
                                                                      Naco May 6, 2011 07:18 AM

                                                                      I see sincronizadas every so often at taquerias here in eastern NC. The place down the road from me has mulitas, which is either asada or pastor, plus Oaxaca cheese and a bit of avocado and tomato, sandwiched between two corn tortillas.

                                                                      1. re: paulj
                                                                        x
                                                                        xhepera May 6, 2011 01:37 PM

                                                                        Sincronizadas! Yes! Here in central Missouri, of all places, there is one restaurant that does it. I'm not familiar with gringas. ..or, I guess I should say I'm not familiar with Gringas. I know many gringas! ;-)

                                                                        1. re: paulj
                                                                          luckyfatima May 7, 2011 08:06 AM

                                                                          Absoultely, in Austin, TX (and elsewhere in TX), sincronizadas are normal Mexican food cart fare. Along with sopes, gorditas, huaraches, quesadillas and on and on. We have carts and trucks and little restaurants with the fare of many Mexican regions, often the name of the cart or resto and the name of the offerings reflecting the town or region where the owners are from.

                                                                          And not at all to you paulj, but just generally about this thread: I was reading this thread and my nostrils were flaring until finally someone mentioned that of course in Northern Mexico-South Texas flour tortillas (as well as corn) are common. And in Texas, where many Tejano families have been here since pre-US statehood days, flour tortillas are perfectly normal. There is some derision of Tex-Mex cuisine as inauthentic bastardized velveeta cheese in a flour tortilla glop, sort of the Mexican chop suey or something, and unfortunately you will find a lot of that sort of thing available, shaming the name of Tex-Mex out there. But with good (and authentic) Tex-Mex, this Tex-Mex flour tortilla plus glop stereotype is so far from the truth, especially in South Texas. There is nothing inauthentic about a flour tortilla, and regionally, flour is preferred with some dishes instead of corn in Northern Mexico and Texas. Handmade, fresh fluffy flour tortillas are heavenly.

                                                                        2. Das Ubergeek May 6, 2011 10:51 AM

                                                                          Flour tortillas are perfectly authentic, but they're more Sonora- and Chihuahua-style. Carne asada—real carne asada, not the chopped crap they serve in places like Tijuana Flats and Acapulco's—in thin, soft, freshly-made flour tortillas with a little lap of crema, maybe some avocado, and salsa. That's heaven.

                                                                          And Rick Bayless needs to do a little more delving around. A quesadilla made with a flour tortilla is called a sincronizada and nearly always has ham (the boiled, sliced kind) in it. Diana Kennedy's quesadilla is more like a Mexico City-style quesadilla, which is uncooked masa stuffed with melty cheese (like quesillo or asadero) and stuffed with ingredients ranging from picadillo to squash blossoms, chicken tinga to huitlacoche.

                                                                          That said, maybe it's been a little while since you've been "home"? Most of the places around here, even the Mexican ones, now make quesadillas with flour tortillas. If you go to a place that's specifically doing chilango (Mexico City)-style antojitos you'll get your corn... but then again quesadillas are a snack most people make at home, so many "authentic" Mexican places don't sell them, or put the on the kids' menu.

                                                                          Also, to the person who said Baja is a haven of flour tortillas—not so. Corn tortillas rule the roost in Baja, though if you go to places run by people from the interior north (Chihuahua, etc.) you may find flour tortillas, and of course the places in the tourist districts will offer a choice.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                            paulj May 6, 2011 11:34 AM

                                                                            For another thread I learned that New Mexico flour tortillas traditionally were thick due to the locally grown soft wheat. I don't know that first hand, though I have bought a brand of 'Santa Fe' tortillas that fit that description. Of course the tortillas used for mission style burritos have to be different, using a high gluten wheat that gives plenty of stretch.

                                                                            Isn't another characteristic of a sincronizada that it is made with two tortillas, as opposed to one folded in half? Something has to be 'syncronized'.

                                                                            Which is stronger in Mexican streetfood - tradition or innovation? Or are the two forces in constant tension?

                                                                            1. re: paulj
                                                                              Das Ubergeek May 6, 2011 01:00 PM

                                                                              Hm, a good question. There are innovative street foods and there are traditional street foods—the question is when something becomes "traditional". Does a "border dog" count as traditional? Or a Tijuana-style torta?

                                                                              And yes, sincronizadas usually have two flour tortillas. Thanks for the clarification :)

                                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                paulj May 6, 2011 01:22 PM

                                                                                http://lomexicano.com/mexicanfoodreci...
                                                                                has a long list of antojitos.

                                                                                Ones with regional and non-spanish names are good candidates for being traditional. Cute Spanish names suggest more recent innovation (volcanos, sincronizadas). Descriptive names could be either.

                                                                          2. c oliver May 7, 2011 04:19 PM

                                                                            What I love about this thread is that the OP and others have learned that both corn and flour are "appropriate." CH educates me every day.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: c oliver
                                                                              luckyfatima May 8, 2011 07:37 AM

                                                                              I would add to this that some dishes are served with tostadas, not tostadas topped with anything, just a plain crispy tostada (deep fried corn tortilla) which one can bite into or break up and put in a stew/soup. And other meals are served with white rolls, or bolillos. And tortillas are not always meant to be stuffed when they are served accompanying a meal. People can roll them up empty and take a bite in between slurps of soup/stew. People can break them up and scoop up food with pieces of them, much like the way Indian roti is eaten. I think our concept of tortillas and the corn vs. white debate, and also the way we experience tortilla consumption at many American Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants (especially as mentioned above, since our typical menus are based on antojitos) is actually very limited in terms of the vast and nuanced ways that Mexican food is prepared and consumed.

                                                                              1. re: luckyfatima
                                                                                alanbarnes May 8, 2011 08:46 AM

                                                                                Los Nuevomexicanos son tan ricas que usar una cuchara de oro para cada bocado (New Mexicans are so rich they use a golden spoon for every bite).

                                                                            2. s
                                                                              Steve May 7, 2011 07:19 PM

                                                                              What I'm still unclear about is how extensively flour tortillas for tacos penetrate form the north. that is to say, what exactly is Northern Mexico? How far south do you have to go to be pretty much assured your taco will be on a corn tortilla. Or maybe the other way around, how far north do you have to go to expect a flour tortilla for a taco? And are we talking about all tortillas, or just the larger ones?

                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Steve
                                                                                alanbarnes May 7, 2011 07:41 PM

                                                                                In my (limited) experience, tacos made with flour tortillas are unheard of except in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon. Even on the border, where flour tortillas are common, tacos made with them are the exception rather than the rule.

                                                                                On the other hand, flour tortillas have apparently spread from the north. I've never spent much time in Michoacan, but am told that they're popular - albeit not traditional - there. And I don't think it's the gringo influence at work; they're just tasty!

                                                                                ETA: flour tortillas used for tacos tend to be small.

                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                  s
                                                                                  Steve May 8, 2011 03:52 AM

                                                                                  Thanks for the explanation. Your experience is clearly deeper than mine.

                                                                                2. re: Steve
                                                                                  paulj May 7, 2011 09:05 PM

                                                                                  Are you worried that you will get a flour tortilla when ordering a taco? I can imagine several ways avoiding any surprises:
                                                                                  - buy your tacos from a street vendor who assembles them right in front of you.
                                                                                  - buy comida corriada (businessman's lunch) - it probably won't include a taco, maybe not even tortillas on the side.
                                                                                  - shop at panaderias for inexpensive breakfast items.

                                                                                  1. re: paulj
                                                                                    s
                                                                                    Steve May 8, 2011 03:51 AM

                                                                                    I am not worried about anything, just curious. So far there is no doubt I prefer corn tortillas, but I live in an area where Mexican food is seriously limited, so my options are slim.

                                                                                    It could simply be that I've never had a great flour tortilla because of limited exposure. I think though I would miss the aroma of roasted corn that comes from a griddled corn tortilla.

                                                                                    1. re: paulj
                                                                                      Das Ubergeek May 8, 2011 05:08 PM

                                                                                      Street vendorsand comida corrida are rarebirds indeed in the US, save in large cities.

                                                                                  2. amyzan May 7, 2011 09:26 PM

                                                                                    I'd like to know where in the Midwest xhepera lives. I think "Mexican" food varies quite a bit in the US. I first learned this when I moved to Dallas straight out of college. I'd never eaten Tex Mex style cuisine, bbq brisket, or street tacos until I moved there. I visited Santa Fe, and the food there was entirely different, though it used many of the same ingredients.

                                                                                    I'm currently living in the KC area, decidedly Midwestern, and you'll find tacos made both with corn and flour tortillas here. Usually, the ones served with flour tortillas are southern California style fish or shrimp tacos with breaded or battered seafood, a cabbage garnish, and a creamy/spicy sauce as well as pico de gallo sometimes. You'll find corn tortillas with almost everything else, excepting quesadillas which are usually made with flour tortillas, unless you ask otherwise.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: amyzan
                                                                                      t
                                                                                      Teraesa22 Jun 30, 2011 07:26 PM

                                                                                      From a catering perspective I can tell u that unless you have fresh corn tortillas (impossible where I am) you have to use flour or the cheap corn tortillas just disintegrate... Either gritty and cold or too hot. There's a small window of time to get them right.

                                                                                    2. b
                                                                                      bertot Apr 14, 2012 09:00 PM

                                                                                      Flour tortillas are also part of the Mexican cuisine, since 16th century. I'm from Mexico city and live here, and have always consumed all type of tortillas.

                                                                                      1. b
                                                                                        bobbiysmael Apr 8, 2014 02:11 PM

                                                                                        Yes, I'm in Omaha, Nebraska coming from SoCal and my Aunt is Mexican from Mexico and she lives in Cali. She always makes her Enchiladas with Corn Tortillas and here in Omaha, Nebraska they make them half ass with Flour Tortillas. The Enchilada Sauce tastes like Ketchup here and they don't put the meat and cheese and onions and olives and all the good Mexican stuff in their Enchiladas like my Aunt and every other Mexican I know in Cali. Not only that, they want to charge you $3.00 for only one Enchilada that is half ass made. WTH. That is just soooo not right.

                                                                                        1. l
                                                                                          laliz Apr 8, 2014 03:36 PM

                                                                                          I live in Southern California (not *shudder* Cali), and I have read this thread with great interest. A few years ago I was in (NW) Pennslyvania and wanted to make enchiladas suizas for my Pennsylvania family. I could not find Corn tortillas anywhere, and I went to several markets. I had not anticipated this because in California, tortillas come in all types and sizes.

                                                                                          I finally sought a manager and he said only flour tortillas available, there is no demand for corn tortillas.

                                                                                          when I see a recipe in a cookbook for enchiladas and it calls for flour tortillas, I disregard not only the recipe, but usually the cookbook. IMVHO the combination of baking flour tortillas w/sauce creates yucko slimey texture as far away from enchiladas as possible.

                                                                                          Personally, I only like crispy corn tortillas for tacos, although I realize soft tacos have become much more the norm. (corn, not flour tortillas). That goes for fish tacos too. I always ask before ordering.

                                                                                          Burritos are an Americanized Mexican food as I understand it, and always floour tortillas. Cal-Mex is based primarily on Sonoran-Mex.

                                                                                          There is an enormous difference between "cal-mex" and "tex-mex" and I think most of the country goes by "tex-mex".

                                                                                          Just my thoughts. I wouldn't know what to call a small flour tortilla w/taco filling.

                                                                                          Nor would I want it. I also don't care for deep fried items such as flautas, chimichangas, etc.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: laliz
                                                                                            DiningDiva Apr 8, 2014 06:40 PM

                                                                                            I was born and raised in SoCal and we do not use the word "Cali" as a shorthand name for the state. You can thank the ex-governator and Guy Fieri for foisting that horrible term on us.

                                                                                            Previous CH thread on Cal Mex vs. Tex Mex -http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5055...

                                                                                            The BEST quesadillas are made from masa...press into a tortilla, fill, fold and fry. Divine.

                                                                                            1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                                              Veggo Apr 8, 2014 06:45 PM

                                                                                              Flour tortillas are more expensive than corn. Some preparations work better with harina, others with maiz.
                                                                                              I make my quesadillas with flour tortillas with interesting fillings and salsas, but they have to be eaten quickly or they become cardboard.

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