Enchiladas are a favorite entrée of Mexican cuisine. Most consist of a tortilla stuffed with meat and other food items, which is rolled up, covered with a spicy sauce, and baked. However, this dish can be filled and covered with a seemingly endless variety of ingredients.
No one knows exactly who was the first person to wrap a tortilla, fill it, and eat it, but the practice originated with the ancient Aztecs. The tasty dish did not come to be known as enchiladas until the mid to late 19th century. The term means “in chile,” which refers to the tortilla being dipped into red chile sauce before being filled and eaten.
The first step in making enchiladas is preparing the tortilla. It can be fried and dipped into a chile sauce before being filled, rolled and baked, or it can be dipped before it is fried. Some chefs even fill and roll a tortilla before dipping it into the sauce, and then fry or bake the whole thing.
The filling is often what makes enchiladas so interesting, and the wide variety of potential ingredients is what makes the dish so versatile. They may be filled with meats such as beef, chicken, pork, or fish, and the meat can be cooked in any number of ways, including fried, grilled, sautéed, or baked. The meat might be shredded, ground, or cut into bite-sized chunks.
Of course, the primary filling in enchiladas does not have to be meat. For those who do not eat meat, the tortillas can be filled with a variety of vegetables, tomatoes, or cheeses. Especially tasty are those filled with anything and everything, including meats, vegetables, and cheeses.
In Mexico, enchiladas are often enjoyed on city streets. They are bought wrapped in foil as a form of fast food, much like Americans might enjoy a hot dog bought from a street vendor. However, many visitors to Mexico, and those who visit Mexican restaurants around the world, prefer theirs served on a plate, covered with red or green sauce and sprinkled with cheese. Still others go out on a limb and cover their enchiladas with white cheese sauce or mole sauce. Regardless of their unclear roots and variable serving styles, they remain one of the most popular Mexican dishes served around the world today.