Cooking Like A Mexican

Chimichangas
BY: ALEJANDRA SARACHAGA

I was watching a Ben Stiller movie the other day, a movie that was filmed right here in Cabo, in fact.  It was about a guy who is spending his honeymoon in Palmilla when he falls in love with another woman. Anyways, in a scene he mentioned the word chimichangas as a typical Mexican dish and I goes, say what? I didn’t even know what a chimichanga was so I though there must have been some mistake in the translation. I did some research and, shame on me! Yes there is something called chimichanga, and yes they are Mexican. Kind of. Ahá Ben! I knew that some Americanized bastardized iteration of my country’s cuisine was involved.

There is a lot of controversy about chimichangas’ origin, and I am not going to pick sides, so I will just write the facts and leave it up to you, my precious readers.

The chimichanga is a dish mainly consumed in the northern part of Mexico. Sonora to be exact. There are, as in many other Mexican dishes, different versions of chimichangas, depending on the region. How many times have I explained to you that Mexican food is regional? Jot it down!

In the state of Sonora, chimichanga is a deep fried burrito type of a thing..The size of the flour tortilla varies; they can be as small as regular dessert plate (6” diameter) or as big as a family size pizza, it all depends on the cook. In Sonora they make the big one. They make the huge tortilla and then they spread on it the stew made from shredded beef, and they fold it all up into a rectangle, then it is deep fried as rectangle packages after being filled with a variety of ingredients such as lima beans, rice, cheese and meat. They are served with guacamole or more cheese and sometimes hot sauce. In Sonora it is very common to see that they serve them with mayonnaise and a salsa made of chopped tomato, chile and cilantro, with a sprinkle of lime juice. Another variation is with cabbage, shredded carrot, and cucumber, dipped with sour cream and shredded cheese on top.

Actually if it is not fried, it is a burrito and if fried it is a chimichanga. Well I was not 100% satisfied with this explanation so I dug deeper I found several explanation of origins and the controversy is ongoing.

According to one source; the founder of the restaurant El Charro in Tucson Arizona, Monica Flin, accidentally fumbled a pastry into the deep fat fryer in 1922. She immediately began to utter a Mexican curse word beginning with  chi... (chingada) , but being a good church going, God fearing woman, she quickly stopped herself and instead exclaimed chimichanga! That’s a Spanish word for thingamajig. this word I didn’t know either so I had to go look into a dictionary to learn it is a word used to refer to or address a person or thing whose name one has forgotten, does not know, or does not wish to mention.

Woody Johnson, founder of Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen, claims he invented the chimichanga in 1946 when he put some burritos into a deep fryer as an experiment at his original restaurant Woody’s El Nido. These fried burritos became so popular that by 1952 when Woody’s El Nido became Macayo’s the chimichanga was one of the restaurant’s main menu items. Johnson opened Macayo’s in 1952.

Given the variant chivichanga, mainly employed in Mexico, another derivation would have it that immigrants to the United States brought the dish with them, mainly through Nogales into Arizona. A third, and perhaps most likely possibility, is that the chimichanga, or chivichanga, has long been a part of local cuisine of Arizona and Sonora, with its early range extending southward into Sinaloa. In Sinaloa the chimichangas are small. In any case, it is all but uncontroversial that within the United States, knowledge and appreciation of the dish spread slowly outward from Tucson, with popularity spreading and growing in recent decades. Though the chimichanga is now found as part of the Tex-Mex repertoire, its roots within the U.S. seem to be in Pima County, Arizona.

So, whatever the real origin is, (after all the research still not clear for me), I try them. Remember I didn’t even know what they were, and I liked them, they are good, tasty and filling. (Besides the huge contribution of calories to your diet, but, once in a while they are OK.

Perhaps because of their funny name, or for its simplicity of preparation and how tasty they are, the chimichanga has taken a leading role among the contributions of the Mexican cuisine to the world. It is funny also to us, because changa means female monkey.

So without further ado, I give you my first chimichanga recipe. It was delicious.

Ingredients for 18 chimichangas

1 Chicken breast

1 small can of chipotle chile

2 regular size tomatoes chopped 

1 more tomato ( Keep reading, you will understand this)

1 white onion

1 clove of garlic

½ onion finely sliced

18 medium size flour tortillas

Oil enough to deep fry.

Procedure

Boil the chicken breast with a little bit of oil, just a little bit, a small piece of onion and salt. This way the chicken will have flavor itself. Once cooked, shred it and reserve for later.

In a pan, heat some oil and pour the sliced onion until soft and ad two of the three chopped tomatoes. After two minutes add the shredded chicken breast, stir well. Liquefy the other tomato with the garlic clove and the chipotle chile from the small can. After liquefying strain it and add to the rest of the mixture.

Heat the tortillas a little bit so they won’t break. If they are cold they will, so just put the package inside the microwave for 10 seconds, this will be enough.

Pour about one tablespoon of the chicken dish right in the center of the tortilla and close it making a little package. Secure it with toothpicks. Keep on making packages until you are done with the tortillas.

While doing this, pour oil in a pan enough to cover completely the little packages. It has to be real hot. Fry the chimichangas one at the time and don’t take your eye from them, they golden real fast and you don’t want to burn them. As you go, place the ones already fried on a plate on a paper napkin to absorb the excess of oil.

To serve, you can make some cucumber salad or just lime juice and hot Mexican salsa from a bottle.

Alejandra