What are fajitas?
The dish, fajitas (pronounced “fa-hee-tas”) is a well-known dish in Mexican restaurants where sizzling pieces of marinated meat are served together on a skillet with colourful bell peppers and caramelised onion. The dish is served with a basket of soft, warm tortillas along with a number of other tasty side dishes, for example, sour cream, guacamole and salsa. Part of the charm of fajitas is that you have to assemble your own fajita using the provided ingredients.
Fajita means small belt or small corset and refers to the location of the piece of beef that authentic fajitas are made from. Fajitas are made using strips of skirt steak, also known as inside skirt or midriff by Canadian butchers. It is a cut that requires only a short time in the pan to become wonderfully tender.
The fajita phenomenon was investigated extensively by a local professor when the dish became a trend in the US state of Texas during the 1980s. His findings? Fajitas as a dish had been eaten in Texas for the first time half a century earlier. Ranchers of Mexican descent were often paid with the unwanted parts of slaughtered animals, including the diaphragm (faja) of cattle. This meat was flattened and marinated in lime juice before being barbequed over the campfire.
Fajitas haven’t been on the menu for that long. In the 1970s, the dish made the leap from the campfire to the restaurant where it was served on a skillet. Within ten years, the dish became immensely popular in Canada and it can now be found in Mexican restaurants all over the world.
Did you know?
In Canada, skirt steak is seldom used in fajitas. Instead, other beef strips, chicken, pork and even fish is used.
How to prepare fajitas
The meat (in modern fajitas, also fish or shrimp) is marinated in a mixture of lime juice, oil, ground cumin, chopped chilli peppers and crushed garlic and is then briefly fried in a hot grill pan. The meat is allowed to rest under aluminium foil while strips of bell pepper and onion are quickly fried in the same pan. The meat is then cut into strips and scooped with vegetables into warm, preferably fresh tortillas. The dish is rounded off to taste with salsa, guacamole and/or pico de gallo.
How to eat
When the dish is ordered in a restaurant or prepared at home everyone can fill their own tortillas with the ingredients that they like. As a takeaway order, the tortilla is usually filled and rolled for you.
Difference between fajitas and tacos
Fajitas are basically any stripped grilled meat, served with stripped grillled peppers and onions, and soft flour or corn tortillas. Shredded lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, refried beans, and diced tomatoes are typical accompiments. Tacos are smaller, folded tortillas – either soft or fried crispy – and filled with ingredients such as ground or diced meat or seafood, salsa, veggies, cheese, and sour cream.