One of the most famous ingredients in Mexican food is the tortilla. Everyone has seen it in different dishes and eaten it in different ways, some that don't even exist in authentic Mexican cuisine like in the famous "hard shell tacos", however, we'll leave that topic for later. But in spite of this, few know about the different types of tacos, whether they are made of flour or corn.
On this occasion we are going to focus on the corn tortilla and its origin, since it is the most used in traditional dishes compared to the wheat flour tortilla. What is the reason? It's very simple, corn is one of the pillars of Mexican gastronomy since it is part of the basic food basket and it could be said that it is the bread that feeds the Mexican people.
Apart from the high nutritional properties of this ingredient, corn has the ability to be very versatile, facilitating its use in the creation of dishes. Due to that factor, it can be used in an infinite number of ways, for example as a wrapper in tacos, as a spoon in the form of tortilla chips or even as a plate when in the form of tostada.
The history of corn in Mexico dates back to pre-Hispanic times, in fact for some civilizations such as the Aztec and Maya it was of great religious importance due to the fact that it was considered food of the gods and in their sacred book, the Popol Vuh, they mention the creation of mankind from different materials, one of them being corn itself.
Thanks to these cultures and the careful selection made by its inhabitants for thousands of years this grain has managed to adapt to different climates, soils and pests. As a result, there is a wide variety of corn from which 59 of them are native to Mexico. Thanks to this, we could build a rainbow from all the colors represented with the different types of corn that exist like cream and canary yellow, lilac, purple, greenish or blue-black and even pinto.
Multicolored doughs and many flavors
Making the dough with corn grains has been given a name of Nahuatl origin, "Nixtamal", in this process the grains are cooked in a solution of lime and water, and then grinded to form a soft paste that will be the dough ready to be made into tortillas, antojitos or tamales.
As we have said before, the tortilla is the Mexican's daily bread, and nothing fills up our bellies and hearts more than freshly handmade tortillas, the kind so soft that they almost melt when you bite into them or even going to the tortilleria on the corner and coming back home to eat a warm tortilla with nothing more than a few grains of salt.
It is not surprising that depending on the type of corn used, the flavor, color and texture of the tortilla will change radically, since each grain has different characteristics. To our benefit, this can help us have the perfect taco depending on what we put in it. By colors, the most common ones to find are white, red, black or blue and yellow corn.
Generally we are all familiar with the white corn tortilla before any of the others. This one is generally opaque, floury, not too thin or too thick and with little golden spots that let us know that it is well cooked.
However, the blue corn tortillas are one of the most eye-catching. For example, when you are a child it can either make you want to eat it because it looks like modeling clay or you might be afraid to do it because it looks a little different. Probably when you see that bluish green color of the dough, you might think it has colorants but it's actually a pigment called anthocyanins. This same pigment is found in blueberries and raspberries and it's what gives them their colors. Apart from this property, the blue tortillas, in comparison with the white corn tortillas, have the characteristic of having a slightly stronger flavor with light nutty notes.
There is also a variety of tortillas with more colors that have been created by adding different ingredients such as different chilies and even some herbs like cilantro, likewise you can find the dietetic option with those made with nopal.
Regardless of whether its white, blue, nopal or even flour, the tortillas are the perfect complement to the flavors of Mexican cuisine, or even to simply eat it with a little cheese and salsa in the form of a quesadilla. Quick and easy!