Most people who love fast food know the basics of Tex-Mex cuisine, so it can be baffling to encounter a friend who doesn’t know anything about it. It’s a fascinating type of food beloved of students and families, especially those who hail from the Texas region where Texas have lived even way before Texas became a republic. The food is obviously of Mexican heritage, but with a Texas twist that continuously evolves.
It’s easier to describe Tex-Mex simply by introducing your unknowing buddy to the excellent Surcheros Fresh Grill menu, where they can then try out and customize the burritos, tacos, nachos, and quesadillas. But to make sure your friend has a proper introduction to Tex-Mex, make sure they try out the following basic options:
Real Texas Chili Con Carne
This iconic Texas dish is at the top of the list, simply because it’s the first thing that comes to mind whenever “Tex-Mex” is mentioned. Nowadays, plenty of different places offer their own unique takes, and sometimes their recipes may involve many different ingredients.
But the original dish came from the simple chili con carne, and this literally means just “chili with meat”. It’s a fantastic combination that your buddy (and you as well) should try first, before they get into the more complicated options. Sometimes, simple is best.
The Spanish word for “cheese”, queso is undoubtedly one of the basic facets of Tex-Mex. It’s so popular that it’s considered the de facto dip in the whole state of Texas. There’s nothing that beats having that gooey yellow cheese with chilis mixed in, not when you have the whole family and friends in front of the TV watching football.
Sure, plenty of different queso recipes abound these days, and you can customize it to fit your particular preferences. Maybe add some ground beef along with lots of different seasonings. Then sit back and relax, preferably with a beer.
When there’s dip, there’s usually some Nachos around. Just get the chips fresh, put in your favorite toppings, and make sure you have the terrific cheese dip.
The original version was simply a dish with triangles of fried tortilla chips. They’re covered in cheese, and then topped with the pickled jalapeños. The basic simplicity of this original version is hard to describe, but there has to be a good reason why this option is just so ubiquitous. But you can then branch out and try the overloaded versions—in Texas, more and bigger are often “better”. At the very least, it won’t be boring.
Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas
We specify the Tex-Mex version here, since this version is a bit different from the Mexican equivalent. You can see the difference if you have the 2 versions sit side by side. Somehow, the Tex-Mex version seems saucier and cheesier.
Again, it looks “more”. Adding the “Tex” in Tex-Mex usually means putting in a bit more oomph in the new version. The taste is also more bombastic, and that’s just par for the course in Texas.
This option is like French fries in a burger joint. It doesn’t seem like a real Tex-Mex meal if there’s no refried beans on the side. It just feels off.
You can make your own version at home using canned beans, but you may be sacrificing flavor for the sake convenience. If you’re introducing a buddy to the genuine pleasure of refried beans, go the distance and cook the beans from scratch.
Start with the basic pinto beans, which is generally regarded as the most popular option. Usually, you then end up with a dish that’s a nice combination of earthy and creamy, with a little bit of sweetness.
It’s hard to imagine anyone who hasn’t tried tacos before. That’s just not right. In all likelihood, even those who confess to being new to Tex-Mex should have at least tried tacos before. But in Tex-Mex, there may be some types of tacos that your buddy may not have encountered yet.
Let’s start with the concept of breakfast tacos. Tex-Mex newbies might think that this is just any taco that you eat in the morning, but that’s not actually the case. With this version, there’s a tendency to pick ingredients that you usually have in the morning with your breakfast and coffee.
That means putting in some scrambled eggs in there. Chorizo is also another popular option, along with beans, cheese, and potatoes.
You can also have your friend try out the puffy tacos, especially if you’re anywhere near San Antonio. Instead of having the crunchy hard-fried taco shells with the famous U-shape, you have fresh masa pressed into discs. They’re fried quickly, resulting in airy shells that delicately shatters with each bite. Put in the preferred meats along with the salsa, cheese, and lettuce.
There you have it, the essential list of the basic Tex-Mex dishes. Join your friend as they discover the joys of Tex-Mex—after all, who says no to these iconic favorites?