With recipes that date back hundreds of years and traditions that bring everyone together, Mexican food is much more than something to eat — it’s an experience.
One of the many aspects of Mexican food that has been essential for so many years is chicken. Chicken has played a massive role in both Mexico’s food and culture for centuries. Today, it is still one of the most popularly consumed forms of protein across the country and can be added into any dish perfectly.
A Brief History of Mexican Cuisine
Mexican cuisine started before Mexico. Here is a brief history of these extraordinary dishes.
Mexican food has a long, rich history that is still apparent today. The history of Mexican food can be traced back over two thousand years, where it finds its roots in Mesoamerican cuisine. Both the Mayans and Aztecs had strong influences on the methods of cooking and the dishes that are still seen throughout Mexico. The Aztecs were one of the first people to not only create the tortilla but to use it as a wrap for other foods so many centuries ago.
In its earliest days, what is now considered Mexican food was centered around locally grown produce. The main staples of Mesoamerican cuisine were maize, beans, squash, and chiles. Even today, many of these foods are still essential in a variety of Mexican dishes. Many people also say that the true feeling of a Mexican dish comes from the addition of a chile in some way, shape, or form to the meal.
The reason that these foods were so popular in the early days of Mexico was that they were not only easily grown in the area, but they were also easily prepared and preserved too. Maize, beans, and chiles could all be used immediately or dried and saved for the future. Plus, the combination of both maize and beans helped to provide protein that was much needed as the native land had a lack of large natural meat sources aside from turkey or duck.
There are a variety of different influences in the Mexican cuisine that we know and love today, especially from the different native groups that were located in modern-day Mexico. After Spaniards came to Mesoamerica in the early 1500s, a great deal of new food and cooking techniques were introduced to the natives. Spaniards themselves also had a multitude of influences in their own cooking from the Mediterranean area, allowing them to show these skills to the people that were living in the Americas at the time. With new ingredients and new techniques to use, the creation of some of the earliest popular Mexican dishes began to occur.
Some of the most significant foods introduced to the natives were meats from domesticated animals, like chicken and cows. Meat (protein) from animals was especially hard to come by in early Mesoamerica, making domesticated animals like chicken, sheep, goats, and cows extremely helpful when they were introduced.
With the introduction of a protein source that people could count on, the food of the time began to see many innovations. Cows became popular quite quickly as people learned that they could create even more products from dairy, like cheese, butter, and yogurt. Chickens also grew in popularity after their potential was realized with both their eggs and meat.
With the introduction of new meats, new ingredients, and other new food products like olive oil, as well as cooking methods from the Spaniards, a new style of food slowly began to arise throughout the area.
Mexican Food Today
While modern-day Mexican cuisine might not be exactly the same as when it first began a few hundred years ago, its roots and traditions are still very much present today. For example, tortillas were created thousands of years ago by the Aztecs and are still arguably one of the most essential aspects of Mexican dishes today. The Mexican food we see today was made by a rich blend of cultures, leading to the creation of dishes based on reliable food sources and intuitive methods of cooking. From tacos to tamales, Mexican food means a lot more to people than just something to eat. It’s a part of their culture too.
Chicken Grows in Popularity
After the introduction of different domesticated animals to the region, natives had new reliable sources of protein to cook with, which made a massive difference when it came to their meals. One protein that seemed to grow in popularity extremely quickly was chicken. With a multitude of uses for both eggs and meat, chickens became an essential part of Mexican culture and cuisine quickly.
Today, poultry accounts for around 60% of the meat consumed in Mexico, a majority of which is chicken. Mexico is also the top consumer of eggs and other egg products in the world, making chicken still just as essential to their cooking needs. Chicken is a staple in a variety of popular Mexican dishes and has continued to play a large role in Mexican cuisine since its introduction.
Mexican Street Food
Mexican street food is an amazing part of Mexican culture that emphasizes both taste and tradition. Referred to in Spanish as “antojitos,” Mexican street food translates in English to “little cravings,” which is exactly what they are. Street food is prepared quickly and made in small stalls at local markets where visitors can grab a quick bite to eat. It’s most commonly found in public spaces like squares or plazas and is usually available for most of the day.
Because the majority of food in Mexico is made and eaten at home, getting some antojitos every once in a while is always special. Mexican street food is the most popular kind of Mexican food that you can find outside of Mexico and around the world. The most well-known type of Mexican street food is the taco, which has been adopted by almost every culture around the world in some way.
Staple Mexican Street Foods With Chicken
Because both street food and chicken play such a role in the cuisine of Mexico, it makes sense that you often see them together. Here are some of the most popular street foods that are frequently made with chicken:
Tacos are easily the most widely known kind of Mexican street food across the world. A taco, in its most basic terms, is a corn or flour tortilla that has some sort of filling. It’s believed that tacos originated many years ago when wives would take their husbands’ meals wrapped in tortillas out in the fields to give them. Authentic Mexican street food fillings for tacos often differ depending on the region you’re in. From rice to beans to meat to vegetables, tacos can have a wide variety of fillings that all taste amazing.
One filling that is extremely popular both in and out of Mexico is chicken. Along with your protein, in this case, chicken, there may also be additional toppings on your taco like cilantro and onion or some form of salsa. Tacos can take on any form and any filling, making them an extremely flexible food for regions that may not be able to have the same food sources as others.
Quesadillas are another popular Mexican street food that is widely known both in and around Mexico. Quesadillas are a simple dish consisting of tortillas filled with cheese and spices that are folded in half and then cooked. They are prepared on a hot griddle known as a “comal,” which is also the tool that is used to cook tortillas. Many people add protein to their quesadillas, such as chicken, to add flavor and make them heartier. Depending on where you go in Mexico, a vendor may add salsa, guacamole, or onion to your quesadilla too. These simple yet delicious creations have become a staple almost anywhere.
A tostada is quite simply a toasted corn tortilla with any sort of ingredients on top of it. In a majority of cases, those ingredients are usually chicken (or another source of protein) as well as salsa and sometimes vegetables. Chicken tostadas are a simple, delicious dish similar to tacos, where the tortilla being the base is really the only rule. A chicken tostada can be just simply chicken and a toasted tortilla, or it can also include salsa, diced cilantro and onions, and avocado. It all depends on who is making it and what ingredients they have available.
Burritos are a well-known type of food that originated in Northern Mexico. An authentic Mexican burrito is quite different from that of an American one and usually only contains a few different fillings. The fillings for burritos are most commonly some type of meat, like chicken or beef, along with rice, vegetables, and beans. The fillings are then wrapped in the tortilla, sometimes lightly cooked, and then served for enjoyment. Both the Aztecs and Mayans demonstrated wrapping their food in tortillas centuries ago, which has helped to create more dishes today that do so in a variety of forms.
Traditional Mexican gorditas are also much different than their American counterparts. An authentic Mexican gordita is made from a masa pastry that is stuffed with different fillings like chicken, cheese, and vegetables. The pastry is then either fried or baked, depending on the region of Mexico you’re in. This creates a crispy and crunchy thick pastry with a delicious, cooked filling to dip in your choice of sauces.
In America, gorditas are often shown more so as a pita, which isn’t like the original version. A gordita is basically a thick tortilla. When it’s made, it’s created with a decent amount of thickness so that it can fill up with steam when cooked on the comal. This way, when you take the tortilla off the heat, it will have grown in size and you can make a slit to stuff your fillings in.
Chicken and Mexican Food: Ways to Prepare It
Because of chicken’s popularity throughout Mexico, Mexicans have found a variety of ways to prepare and cook chicken that are all delicious. Here are some of the most common ways that chicken is prepared in Mexico:
Pulled (Shredded) Chicken
One of the most popular methods to prepare chicken in Mexico is by pulling it. Shredded chicken (sometimes called pulled chicken, depending on how it is done) makes for an amazing filling for any food, whether it’s tacos or burritos. Shredding chicken can be as easy as using two
forks and pulling the chicken apart while it is cooking. There are also tools you can buy to help you shred chicken faster, like food processors.
Marinades are quite common in Mexican culture as they are often added into a sauce, stew, or whatever is cooking at the moment. Marinating chicken is a great way to get all of the flavors worked in throughout the meat without having to do anything to the chicken itself. The best part about using a marinade is that it can be simple — just a little bit of oil and spices can do the job perfectly.
Grilling chicken is a classic method of preparation that is used all over the world, including in Mexico. Grilling meats and vegetables offers a smokey flavor that is just too difficult to replicate with anything else. When it comes to a variety of Mexican dishes, grilling chicken can always help create a delicious one.[/one_half]
Authentic Mexican Food at Backyard Taco
We take pride in the food we make. We create authentic Mexican dishes that make people feel at home. Keep on reading our blog to learn more about our food. We’ll see you soon!
Dr. Tyler loves tacos! He is one of the owners of Backyard Taco, and can sometimes be found moonlighting there at night or on the weekends.
Dr. Tyler Robison is an alum of Mesa’s Mountain View High School. He graduted from Brigham Young University before being accepted to the “Top Ten-nationally ranked” University of Louisville in Kentucky, where he earned his Doctorate in Dental Medicine and a Master’s Degree in Oral Biology. He graduated with honors in the top ten percent of his class. Dr. Robison continued at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco, where he received a second master’s degree in dental science and his orthodontic certification.
Dr. Tyler enjoys serving in his community. He is a provider for the Smile Back Foundation, which offers scholarships for free dental treatment to underprivileged East Valley students. He is also a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve and served during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2008.
Dr. Tyler Robison’s favorite pastimes include spending time with his family on the lake, at the beach, or on the slopes. He is an avid and crazy snowboarder! He has three incredible sons and one sweet daughter: Caden, Jace, Crew, and Bliss.