When I was growing up in Illinois about an eonago we began to have an influx of people from Mexicomove into our small community. I actually grew up in a place of only 250 residents that sat betweentwo small towns. One was Mundelein and the other Diamond Lake. We were in West Shore Park which… was on the WestShore Diamond Lake. The folks from Mexico built a bodega and a restaurant to service the growing community. My mother was quickto become a client of both…The restaurant was named, “El Barrio” and the market, “La Bodega”. Naturally.  Luckily she brought me along for the ride. I was instantly a fan of the Mexican cooking as done then and there. Years flew by. Janet and I moved to Key West. It was there that we experienced the marvel of a Chimichanga. We would hit the beach up the Keys about 40 minutes to the north on Bahia Honda and return famished! There was a small kind of hippiecafé on Truman Avenue near White Street that made a chicken stuffed version of Chimichangas. Those gut-busters might have put ten poundson me that summer.

Recently my friend and celebrity chef/cookbook author Ingrid Hoffman wrote a book titled, “Latin Comfort Foods Made Healthy”. She has a recipe in there for Carnitas Baked Chimichangas that might fit my metabolism better in these … lateryears I’m in. Shelooks great. And having a chef dial downon the fatcan be a smart thing in our increasingly desk chaineddays. She promises to keep the flavors. From the looks of what I’ve tagged to cook soonshe has.

For those who are as of yet uninitiated to the dish a Chimichanga is a deep-friedburrito. You won’tfind it many cookbooks dedicated to Mexican cookery. It is more of borderdish and some puristsgreet it with scornas such. The Mexican vs. Tex-Mex argument has been raging for decades. It is a wrongheaded debate, according to Robb Walsh, who wrote “The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Photos and Recipes”. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a table with Mr. Walsh and it was a feast in more than one sense of the word.

Fresh from hours of swimming in the Florida sunshine and rocking waves of the salty water we tucked into our first encounters with chimichangas with gusto. Food historians often pinpoint it to being a Tucsoncreation. The dish is typically prepared by filling a flour tortilla with a range of ingredients, most commonly rice, cheese, beans, machaca (dried meat), carne adobada (marinated meat), carne seca (dried beef), or shredded chicken. This is then folded it into a rectangular package.  It is then deep-fried.

You can go with your personal favorites. Some choose any and all between salsa, guacamole, sour cream and/or cheese.

The words chimi and changa come from two Mexican Spanish terms:  chamuscado, which means seared, and changa… and that is about as faras we are going to go on that one’s… etymology. Some say that Ms. Monica Flin, the founder of the Tucson, Arizona, restaurant ‘El Charro’, accidentally dropped a burrito into her restaurant’s deep-fat fryer in 1922.  She immediately began to utter a Spanish profanity beginning “chi…”, but quickly stoppedherself and instead exclaimed chimichanga, a Spanish equivalent of thingamajig.”

I’m Norman Van Aken and that’smy Word on Food ©.

© 2018 Norman Van Aken

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