May 13, 2021 — US-based Wixon Inc. sheds light on growing demand for comfort food with a Mexican twist. According to the company, Mexican flavors and dishes are “incredibly popular with American consumers,” and this geographic reach is expanding.
Talk to FoodIngredientsFirst, Ryan Kukuruzovic, CEO of the Wisconsin-based company, shares his thoughts on the growing appeal of ingredients and dishes originating in Mexico.
“One of the many beautiful aspects of Mexican culture is ‘comida confort’ or ‘comfort food’. This traditional regional cuisine is very similar to comfort foods in the United States and around the world that locals typically reserve for family Sunday meals or for a special occasion.
The latest flavor development in the Wixon Innovates program focuses on Mexican comfort food. According to Becca Henrickson, Company Marketing Manager, “There is still room for innovation with the exploration of flavors and regional preparations.”
“Our Culinary and Application Innovation team has spent the past three months studying the culinary influences at play in various regional Mexican specialties. This has led to the development of a range of what we collectively call the flavors of Mexican comfort food.
Spotlight on Birria
The ingredients that make up the classics of native comfort are part of the daily diet, including one such concept called Birria.
Birria salted stew meat is traditionally served in a guisada or casserole dish. In the Mexican state of Jalisco, where Birria is from, the slowly cooked hot and spicy meat stew, usually of goat but sometimes of beef or mutton, is served at celebrations or on special occasions like Christmas and Easter.
Birria migrated around Mexico from Jalisco to other regions, and now the comforting casserole dish can be found in many iterations. One of the favorites is serving Birria as a taco garnish in the country’s ubiquitous street food scene.
Preparations for the dish vary as a stew or as a garnish for tacos, but it’s often served with corn tortillas, onions, cilantro, and lime. The meat is marinated in an adobo made with vinegar, dried peppers, herbs and spices before being cooked in a broth.
“The Birria trend we’re seeing sweeping across the US is an interpretation of Tijuana-style Birria de res, made from beef,” notes Henrickson. “It’s a mixture of marinated adobo beef, cooked and chopped into pieces and placed in a tortilla that has been dipped in beef fat and reheated on a hotplate. Next, Birria de res tacos are served with beef broth for dinner to dip or sip.
“Birria de res à la Tijuana is a fairly recent culinary development,” adds Kukuruzovic. “Although it has been around since the 1950s, it didn’t become popular in Tijuana until the early 2000s. And its introduction to the Los Angeles market was in 2013.”
Fast forward as interest in Birria simmered across the United States – peaking earlier this year with Yelp identifying it as their top food trend to try in 2021, with reviews for the site mentioning Birria up 235% .
“In our exploration of the flavors of Mexican Comfort Foods, we captured the hot-spicy, deliciously savory and meaty flavors of this dish in a Birria-like seasoning,” says Kukuruzovic. “The Birria flavor that has gained so much attention in tacos today lends itself to other applications.”
Starting from a culinary perspective, Wixon then reinvented the essence of Birria as a flavor and used it in a range of snacks, sauces and marinades. Kukuruzovic says there are so many possibilities to expand its application.
“Mexico has a long history and a long tradition of delicious street food, and Birria certainly encompasses Mexico’s many comfort foods,” he adds.
A secular tradition During the Spanish Conquest in 1519, an important cultural transaction occurred with the Spaniards introducing new animal species and spices to the indigenous Mexican people, which spawned new foods and traditions, changing the course of cooking.
Among the newly introduced animals, goats caused major havoc on indigenous cultures and lands, as they ate everything from field crops to indigenous peoples’ seedbeds. At that time, fences did not exist and the increase in the goat population was an indirect cause of the famine, from which many indigenous Mexicans suffered.
During this time of famine, locals began to use goats for meat. It was then that the first ‘birriero’, also known as the maker of Birria, was born.
Goat meat is exceptionally ‘gamey’, which is especially true for older goats, notes Kukuruzovic.
“To counter the distinctly strong taste and smell of the meat, the native Mexicans began to add different fragrant herbs and spices, creating the indicative aroma and aroma of Birria as we know and enjoy it today. ‘hui. Additionally, cooking seasoned goat meat in ovens or underground ovens has helped tenderize and soften the meat, giving it an increased palatability.
The tradition of the “Birriero” families continues today, each with its own unique recipe and style, which gives Birria its distinct flavor.
Food for the soul
Meanwhile, comfort foods have become more in the spotlight amid the COVID-19 pandemic. By definition, a comfort food or meal provides consolation or a feeling of well-being.
“Typically, [comfort food is] any food high in sugar or carbohydrates associated with childhood or cooking at home, ”Kukuruzovic continues. “In other words, it is a food or dish that nourishes the soul – providing a sense of calm and security associated with the old where life seemed ‘lighter and brighter’ – simple, secure and easy.”
And, with our last year of uncertainty navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no wonder people are delving deep into a variety of ethnic comfort staples, he argues.
“In times of stress, fear and anguish, as so many times in history, the comfort associated with our youth becomes an anchor of security. So comfort foods give us the collective opportunity to return to those meals mom prepared, or to days when we get together as a family for a weekend barbecue at a campsite or in a loved one’s backyard.
Kukuruzovic believes the appetite for comfort food is certainly not limited to the pandemic, but is “naturally observable.”
“Our appetite for comfort foods and the ‘heaven’ foods of our childhood can simply be evoked by a stressful day at the workplace, an argument with a friend or, recently, a pandemic,” he says.
“It is important to honor our feelings and revisit those early developmental periods of the past as the most immediate form of self-care and nurturing for our preservation, well-being and life balance.”
Many ingredients are essential to the plethora of dishes that create the characteristic flavor dynamic we know as Mexican cuisine.
“For example, Wixon’s recent innovation around Mexican cuisine identifies building blocks – key ingredients that, in their absence, we would not identify cuisine as we know it today,” says Kukuruzovic. .
According to Wixon, traditional Mexican dishes have been given a facelift in recent times.
“A lot of times we see the different ways that chefs refine staple dishes, but in recent years we’ve seen more and more fusion cuisine. Ultimately, it’s a way to create comfort for an otherwise unfamiliar kitchen through the amalgamation of the familiar, like classics in American cuisine, ”comments Kukuruzovic.
Birria tacos have exploded onto the social media scene over the past year with many Tiktok users sharing their experiences around the world.
“It’s these types of social movements that create space for and allow unknown cuisines to assimilate and manifest in American cuisine in ways that are unique and, in most cases, extraordinarily delicious,” concludes Kukuruzovic.
By Elizabeth Green
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