It’s hard not to love the food from one of North America’s Mexican fast food stops — but just because it tastes good doesn’t mean that it’s authentic. In fact, there are some surprising, major differences between Mexican fast food and actual food in Mexico that might just catch you off guard.
Chef Luis Valenzuela, one of the hosts from The Latin Kitchen (Thursdays, 9:30 p.m. ET on Gusto), pointed out some of the most striking differences between authentic Mexican cuisine and North America’s take on it. Prepare to never look at Mexican fast food the same way, ever again. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
“There are burritos in the northern part of Mexico,” said Valenzuela. “When people come down from the highlands, they eat burritos [on their trip], but they’re thinner and longer, whereas in fast food chains, there are these massive, supersized burritos.”
Typically, North Americans want to stuff their burritos with guac, meat, beans, rice, veggies, salsa, sour cream and extra guac — all the good stuff — while in Mexico, people generally only fill their tortillas with a couple of fresh, simple ingredients.
Chimichangas — those mouthwatering, deep-fried burritos that we know and love — don’t exist at all in Mexico.
“It’s more of an evolution of a Mexican dish; it’s more Tex-Mex,” Valenzuela stated.
Even so, they’re still insanely appetizing.
Although you can find nachos in some parts of Mexico, Valenzuela explained that it’s only been a recent development because of tourism.
“We have nachos, but we call them totopos. There’s no sour cream or shredded cheese, but you can put farmers cheese on top of it.”
In other words, the toppings people choose to put on their tortilla chips in Mexico (if any at all) are fresh and unprocessed.
“Salsa is just a term to describe a sauce,” he said. “In north America, it has become a symbol of onions, tomato and jalapenos, but salsa in itself is just a sauce.”
Valenzuela noted that “Churros in Mexico are a little thicker than the ones we have here.”
And considering how perfect churros already are, buying ones that are just a touch bigger would be a real treat.
Different ways of eating
“When you go to a food court, you see people eating, looking at their phones, without even talking to each other,” Valenzuela said. “In Mexico, passersbyers talk about politics or about soccer when people eat street food. Here, they’re sort of disengaged.”
You might be the odd one out and actually enjoy bonding with a stranger over burritos, but for the most part, North American fast food is wolfed down quietly.
Quality over quantity
“We live in a society where everyone wants to make a profit… I think in big corporations or big restaurant chains, they try to cut corners in terms of the quality of the food,” he told us.
Since many of the ingredients are locally sourced in Mexico, you can expect everything to taste extremely fresh. Can’t make the trip down south to try the food for yourself? You can always try your own hand at making an authentic Mexican recipe — just make sure to use fresh ingredients.