What the Chimichanga?

By Lola

A while back I wrote I nearly “had a chimichanga” when I read Mexico had been named “Second Fattest Nation in the World.” If you remember, I had never had tasted a chimichanga nor ever intended to. I was thinking about that comment today (yes, I ruminate on gigantic fried foods on a semi-regular basis) and got to wondering about the origin of this aforementioned staple of north-of-the-border Mexican restaurants.

Because, truth is, I have never found a chimichanga on a Mexican restaurante menu. A genuine south-of-the-border one, I mean.

So, exactly what is a chimichanga? It’s kinda like a giant burrito (red bandera right here: you might have heard any number of mexicanos say they ride burritos, not eat them), filled with ground beef and smothered in Cheddar cheese. Mm-mm bueno! Its origins? Tucson, Arizona. Close to Mexico, once was part of Mexico, full of Mexicans, but definitely catering to Northern tastes. Some restaurants are actually fighting over who came up with this gourmet delight, but according to What’s Cooking America? the “strongest claim comes from El Charro Café.” By the way, the recipe is also on that webpage, should you wish to deep-fry your own.

Those of you who have enjoyed a sabroso plate of deep fried carnitas know that deep-frying can be good. Really good. Someone once told me you could deep-fry a remote control and it would taste good. I suppose if you smother it in Cheddar cheese and throw some guacamole on it, it could pass for something on a Mex-Am menu.

Mind you, I am not dissing Mexican-American restaurants. There is mucho on their menu that I have—and will—savor again. It just kind of bugs me that many of my gabacho friends (and I say this con cariño) expect to see the same items in Mexico, and are actually disappointed with the food when they get there. Cheddar is not a Mexican cheese. Ground beef is usually in albóndigas (meatballs). Or hamburguesas. Tacos tend to be served on small, soft corn tortillas, three to a plate, not on “taco shells” that could survive a nuclear holocaust.

Next time you visit the República, don’t be deterred if you don’t see a chimichanga on the menu. I betcha there’s plenty on there that would make your taste buds muy felices. :)

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