Definitions

Burrito

Burrito

[buh-ree-toh; Sp. boor-ree-taw]

A burrito or taco de harina is a type of food found in Mexican and Mexican-American cuisine. It consists of a flour tortilla wrapped or folded around a filling. The flour tortilla is usually lightly grilled or steamed, to soften it and make it more pliable. In Mexico, refried beans, spanish rice, or meat are usually the only fillings and the tortilla is smaller in size. In the United States, however, fillings generally include a combination of ingredients such as spanish rice, beans, lettuce, salsa, meat, guacamole, cheese, and sour cream, and the size varies, with some burritos considerably larger than their Mexican counterparts.

The word burrito literally means "little donkey" in Spanish. The name burrito possibly derives from the appearance of a rolled up wheat tortilla, which vaguely resembles the ear of its namesake animal, or from bedrolls and packs that donkeys carried.

History

Mexican popular tradition tells the story of a man named Juan Mendez who used to sell tacos in a street stand, using a donkey as a transport for himself and the food, during the Mexican Revolution period (1910-1921) in the Bella Vista neighborhood in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. To keep the food warm, Juan had the idea of wrapping the food placed in a large home made flour tortilla inside individual napkins. He had a lot of success, and consumers came from other places around the Mexican border looking for the "food of the Burrito," the word they eventually adopted as the name for these large tacos.

Burritos are a traditional food of Ciudad Juárez, a city in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, where people buy them at restaurants and roadside stands. Northern Mexican border towns like Villa Ahumada have an established reputation for serving burritos, but they are quite different from the American variety. Authentic Mexican burritos are usually small and thin, with flour tortillas containing only one or two ingredients: some form of meat, potatoes, beans, asadero cheese, chile rajas or chile relleno. Other types of ingredients may include barbacoa, mole, chopped hot dogs cooked in a tomato and chile sauce, refried beans and cheese, deshebrada and (shredded slow-cooked flank steak). The deshebrada burrito also has a variation in chile colorado (mild to moderately hot) and salsa verde (very hot). The Mexican burrito may be a northern variation of the traditional "Taco de Canasta." They are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Although burritos are one of the most popular examples of Mexican cuisine outside of Mexico, in Mexico itself burritos are not common outside of northern Mexico, although they are beginning to appear in some non-traditional venues.

Wheat flour tortillas used in burritos are now often seen through much of Mexico, but at one time were peculiar to northwestern Mexico, the Southwestern US Mexican American community and Pueblo Indian tribes, possibly due to these areas being less than optimal for growing maize.

Burritos are commonly called tacos de harina (wheat flour tacos) in Central and Southern Mexico and burritas (feminine, with 'a') in northern-style restaurants outside of Northern Mexico proper. A long and thin fried burrito similar to a chimichanga is prepared in the state of Sonora and vicinity and is called a chivichanga.

Varieties

The most commonly served style of the burrito in the United States is not as common in Mexico. Typically, American-style burritos are larger, and stuffed with multiple ingredients in addition to the principal meat or vegetable stuffing, such as pinto or black beans, rice (frequently flavored with cilantro and lime or prepared Spanish-style), guacamole, salsas, cheese, and sour cream.

One very common enhancement is the wet burrito (also called an enchilada-style burrito), which is a burrito smothered in a red chile sauce similar to an enchilada sauce, with shredded cheese added on top so that the cheese melts. This type of burrito is typically placed on a plate and eaten with a knife and fork, rather than being eaten from hand to mouth as with the San Francisco variety of burrito. When served in a Mexican restaurant in the U.S., a melted cheese covered burrito is typically called a burrito suizo (Suizo meaning Swiss, an adjective used in Spanish to indicate dishes topped with cheese or cream).

Some cities have their own variations with one of the most well-known being the San Francisco burrito.

San Francisco burrito

The origins of the San Francisco burrito can be traced back to Mission District taquerias of the 1960s, however some assert that the original San Francisco burritos began in the fields of Central Valley farmworkers. Other researchers trace the ancestry further back to miners of the 19th century. The San Francisco burrito emerged as a culinary movement during the 1970s and 1980s, and more recently spawned the wrap. The typical San Francisco burrito is produced on an assembly line, and is characterized by a large stuffed tortilla, wrapped in aluminum foil which can include variations on Spanish rice, beans, a single main filling, and hot or mild salsa.

The San Francisco-style burrito has become immensely popular throughout the US, popularized by eateries like The Moe's Southwest Grill, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Illegal Pete's, Freebird's, Qdoba, and Barberitos.

Breakfast burrito

Southwestern cuisine, New Mexican cuisine in particular, has popularized the breakfast burrito. An entire American breakfast can be wrapped inside a 15-inch flour tortilla, accompanied by field-fresh, often very hot, green chile. Southwestern breakfast burritos may include scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions, chorizo, guisado, or bacon. Tia Sophia's, a Mexican café in Santa Fe, New Mexico, claims to have invented the original breakfast burrito in 1975, filling a rolled tortilla with bacon and potatoes, served wet with chili and cheese. Fast food giant, McDonald's introduced their version in the late 1980s and by the 1990s, more fast food restaurants caught on to the style, with Taco Bell, Sonic and Carl's Jr. offering breakfast burritos (smaller in size) on their menus.

Others

A burrito bowl is a burrito or fajita served without the tortilla wrap. It is instead placed in a bowl. Its establishment can be traced to the beginning of the low carb fad in the early 2000s. However, it does have carbohydrates, traditionally in a layer of rice at the bottom. It is not to be confused with a taco salad which has a foundation of lettuce, and a tortilla with it. The burrito bowl is found in some form at all the major national Mexican chains including Chipotle, Qdoba, Panchero's, and Moe's. Chipotle refers to it as the "Burrito bol," sans the "w" in their menu (bol is the Spanish word for bowl). Qdoba informs customers to: "ask for it naked. Moe's menu states: "be a streaker! Lose the tortilla!." Panchero's menu states to order "just the insides.

A Chimichanga is a tex-mex dish that started when a Burrito was accidentally knocked into hot oil. However, today the two dishes often use different recipes.

For author Linda Furiya, burritos evoke "pacifying" comfort food qualities that "soothe the soul." Furiya offers a unique recipe for the "Spirit-Lifting Burrito," containing Monterey Jack cheese, scrambled eggs, sautéed spinach, sesame seeds, black beans, rice, mung bean sprouts, sriracha sauce, cilantro and lime juice.

Research

Taco Bell research chef Anne Albertine experimented with grilling burritos to enhance portability. This grilling technique allowed large burritos to remain sealed without spilling their contents. This is a well known cooking technique used by some San Francisco taquerias and Northern Mexico burrito stands. Traditionally, grilled burritos are cooked on a comal (griddle).

Lean burritos which are high in protein and low in saturated fat have been touted for their health benefits. Black bean burritos are also a good source of dietary fiber and phytochemicals.

International burritos

See also

References

Further reading and resources

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