What are nachos?
According to one dictionary, nachos (pronounced ‘NAH-chos’) are ‘spiced tortilla chips, whether or not covered with melted cheese’. In the 1990s, you might get a tiny bowl of tomato salsa with hot chips as standard, but nowadays there is a wider choice of options. The toppings vary from yellow cheese sauce and guacamole, to colourful dishes including minced meat, tomatoes, olives, onions, jalapeno peppers and sour cream.
Nachos can rightly be called a tex-mex dish. In Mexico people do indeed eat chips made from stale tortillas (called totopos), as a side dish with fried beans for example, or as a snack with a few jalapeno peppers and some Mexican cheese on the side (never on top). But the dish, as it is eaten outside Mexico, was created less than a hundred years ago in the border area between the USA and Mexico.
The story goes that in the 1940s, after closing time in the evening, a group of Americans knocked on the door of a restaurant just across the border in Mexico. The restaurant owner, Ignacio (nicknamed Nacho), served his clients totopos with jalapenos and cheese out of pure necessity – the cook had already gone home.
The customers enthusiastically brought the dish across the border, where it caught on and immediately received the tex-mex treatment: for reasons of improved shelf life, the cheese was replaced by a cheese sauce (you can buy jars of the stuff). Now there was no need for an oven to melt the cheese and so the fast-food version of nachos was born. After the dish started to be sold at American sporting events in the 1970s, there was no stopping it.
How to make nachos?
Gather together the ingredients to prepare a portion of nachos. Ideally, the tortilla chips will be homemade from scraps of stale tortillas, which are cut into slices and deep-fried. If you’re going for authenticity, they should be served hot with a few bowls of extras: jalapeños, pico de gallo and grated cheese. For the modern take on nachos, the tortilla chips are placed on a plate, sprinkled with cheese and heated under the grill. Then choose your toppings, these can include cheese, tomato salsa, guacamole, olives, sour cream and almost anything else you fancy.
How to eat
Don’t be tempted to share a large bowl of nachos with your friends. This may seem logical, but in practice it will only make you dissatisfied! There is always someone who wipes out all the guacamole at once, someone who eats much faster than the rest, and before you know it you’re arguing over the last blob of salsa. Order a one-person portion with the toppings you like best and enjoy: it’s all yours!
Nachos taste particularly good with a light (Mexican) beer or a simple glass of lager.