What are enchiladas?
Mexican enchiladas (Spanish spelling enchiladas, pronounced: “en-chee-LAH-daz”) are originally a very tasty way of using leftovers. Corn tortillas from the day before are briefly fried in a pan with oil, dipped in chilli sauce, rolled around some stuffing, often meat or fish, and baked in the oven. Enchilar means “flavoured with chilli” and you can expect a little spice in this dish.
The habit of adding a lot of tomato sauce, sour cream and cheese seems to be a Tex-Mex innovation. You also mainly see the use of wheat flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas outside of Mexico. Whether you opt for the authentic Mexican or international Tex-Mex version, enchiladas are the comfort food par excellence.
The habit of using tortillas as a wrap has probably been around for centuries. Tortillas were basic food for the Maya and the Aztecs and Spanish explorers who came to Mexico in the sixteenth century saw quite a few enchiladas passing by. There are indications that the first enchiladas were filled with fish.
Enchiladas are also found in the very first Mexican cookbook we know of, El Cocinero Mexicano, (“The Mexican Cook”), from 1831. The nineteenth-century fillings were a bit simpler than we are used to. Olive and onion, for example, or picadillos: pork with onion. Cheese was sometimes sprinkled over them.
Did you know?
In Canada, besides the rolled enchilada, they have devised a second way to serve enchiladas: piled up. Layers of tortilla and filling alternate until you have an impressive pile that is reminiscent of an Italian lasagna. The stack is baked in the oven and then served in slices with sour cream.
How to make enchiladas
If you opt for modern but authentic Mexican enchiladas, the chef will first prepare a chilli sauce – for the chilli element after which the dish is named. The sauce consists of dried red chilli peppers, usually several types, such as ancho, guajillo or jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onion and sour cream. Corn tortillas are fried in oil and then dipped in the sauce so that both sides are covered. A filling of your choice is rolled in this: chicken, for example, minced meat or a vegetarian filling. Sometimes cheese goes in, but most of the time it goes on top. The enchiladas are usually baked in the oven until everything is hot, though this step is optional.
Enchiladas are delicious with a bowl of tomato salsa and sprigs of coriander as extra toppings.
How to eat
Soft tortillas are usually eaten with a knife and fork.