Features, Opinion

Restaurant food no match for home cooking

Homemade tortillas, burritos, tacos, gorditas, chile colorado con carne (red chiles with meat), enchiladas and tamales generate just some of the scents that typically come out of the Mendoza family home.

Blanca and Adriana Mendoza, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, are the main cooks who prepare these traditional Mexican plates. Their hometowns are Rancho Ruices and El Faro, Satevó, Chihuahua, Mexico. The two small, unpaved villages belong to the municipality of Satevó, which is between Chihuahua City and Parral, Chihuahua.

Adriana spreads the tamale dough on corn husks April 26, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Concepcion Mendoza)

With such backgrounds, these housewives put a unique flavor into their Mexican food that differentiates homemade food from restaurant food. Generally, in restaurants the clients don’t exactly know who cooked their plate, while at this home the family members know exactly which proud Mexican hands cooked their food.

Enchiladas, chile colorado con carne, tacos, flautas, gorditas and mole (pronounced “MOH-lay”) accompanied with beans, noodle soups and/or rice are the classic plates usually offered at the Mendoza home. The preparation of these Mexican plates is a delightful experience for household members and sometimes visitors to watch. Tomatoes, onions, chile peppers, garlic, among other ingredients usually complement such plates to give them an authentic and flavorful northern-Mexican taste that no restaurant can replicate.

Some of the most popular Mexican plates are tamales, which vary in type, color and flavor. The Mendoza family’s unique and delicious homemade tamales are typically just red and green. They are cooked only occasionally since the preparation process requires a lot of time and work.

Blanca has mastered the process of making delicious tamales. Besides the tamale dough, the main ingredient for red tamales is red chile with pork.

To prepare the dough, she hand mixes nixtamal with lard or cooking oil, salt, baking powder and a secret ingredient until all is fully merged. Nixtamal is made from ground corn kernels that get soaked in water with lime and calcium hydroxide powder for a few hours to soften them before they are ground. It’s also used for tortillas. Blanca usually buys the pure nixtamal from a Mexican supermarket and then prepares it for her tamales.

For the red chile with pork, she blends the peppers — previously unseeded and boiled — with salt, garlic, oregano and cumin. Meanwhile, the pork precooks before pouring the red chile sauce into it. After that, the chile and pork must boil together for 35-45 minutes.

When the dough and red chile with pork are ready, the tamales can be made. The corn husks for the tamales are first soaked in water and then dried. Adriana spreads the prepared dough on corn husks, while Blanca spreads the chile on top before folding the stuffed husk. After a few tamales are completed, Blanca arranges them vertically in a steam pot for them to cook properly. They usually cook in about an hour.

As a member of the Mendoza family, I have grown up eating and loving the Mexican food that my mother, Blanca, and my sister-in-law, Adriana, cook. From homemade red enchiladas or tamales to green enchiladas or tamales, I can’t choose my preferred flavor. I don’t even have a favorite Mexican plate as each plate they prepare tastes uniquely delicious. I do have a favorite Mexican side, though, which is beans. They can never be missing on the table. Either way, this homemade Mexican food is better than any Mexican restaurant because we know for sure our food is cooked with the secret ingredient in all plates, love.

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