The #1 question people ask Mr. Burrito is “What makes a great burrito?”.
The answer is actually quite simple, but in order to explain it properly we need to look back at the origins of the humble-yet-delicious burrito.
A burrito is generally known as one of the most popular forms of Mexican food, however it is rarely eaten in most parts of Mexico. While burritos are a traditional dish in some parts of northern Mexico (the Chihuahua region in particular), the style of burrito most people recognize is only recently available in other parts of Mexico and only to appeal to tourists.
The traditional Mexican burrito is quite small, and contains few ingredients – beans and cheese, or meat and rice, for example – with shredded meats being a popular filling. This type of burrito was first mentioned in 1895, where it was described as ‘a rolled tortilla with meat or other fillings inside’.
The popular North American burrito found at most restaurants today is what we would call a ‘Mission Burrito’, which was created in San Francisco in the early 1960’s. This style of burrito, with the addition of ingredients like sour cream, cheese, beans, rice, and vegetables, became hugely popular, and in fact spawned a bit of a culinary revolution among the many taquerias on Mission Street (hence the term Mission Burrito). It was during this period where the addition of a foil wrapping became popular, which helped to steam the tortilla after wrapping to create a better hold on the copious fillings.
Throughout the following decades, word of this delicious, filling, and inexpensive meal travelled far and wide. Burritos appeared on menus all over North America, with many popular ‘fast food’ chain restaurants popping up and expanding in the 90’s and early 2000’s. The idea of a portable, on the go meal, filled with fresh and flavorful ingredients proved to be a viable alternative to traditional sandwiches and became popular with people from all walks of life.
Many chefs were inspired by the burrito to create alternatives to the traditional fillings (though a traditional mission burrito seems to remain the most popular). Some variations like the breakfast burrito and wet burrito were very successful. Other ideas like the sushi burrito or ‘10 pound burrito’ remain more of a niche item. However its made, a burrito can be customized to your exact preference, ensuring its lasting popularity. This is reflected in the ‘salad bar’ style seen at many burrito restaurants.
So, what is the secret to a great burrito? It’s not about the exact fillings, as we can see there is and always has been a great variety of options. The key is to get the right ratio of protein, sauce, crunch, and combine it with a leak-free wrapping. It takes a bit of practice, and a bit of love, to get right, but there are four steps you can use as your guide:
First, ensure your tortilla is steamed enough to be really soft and pliable.
Second, pile your fillings, making sure to have half soft (meat, beans, cheese) and half crunchy (onions, lettuce).
Third, add enough sauce to cover the fillings but not so much that any leaks when folding. This could be guacamole, sour cream, salsa, etc..
Finally, wrap it tight with no leaks. Having half your burrito fillings fall into your lap won’t make for an enjoyable meal.
That’s all from Mr. Burrito for now, but i’ll be back soon to show you how to perfectly wrap that burrito and find delicious ingredients to try.
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