Traditional Hispanic food is full of flavor and a variety of textures: crunchy; chewy; gooey; and stringy. The most popular Hispanic foods are derived from rice and vegetables and use a flavor base called sofrito to season their dishes and soups. Sofrito is a mild tomato base that is a staple in traditional Hispanic food cooking methods. Many restaurants carry some form of Hispanic food on their menus, such as rice-filled enchiladas, tacos, nachos or flan.
The word "Hispanic" describes someone who comes from Spain or Spanish-speaking Latin America. The Spanish colonial period took place between 1492 and 1898, when Spaniards migrated from Spain and brought with them traditional Hispanic foods. Hispanic food stems from the traditional cooking methods of ancestors from the countries of Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar; it is from here that Hispanic people draw their heritage and roots as well as their primary methods of cooking and developing recipes.
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The history of Hispanic food dates to when the Hispanic population began to learn how to cook off the land by growing rice, chilies, beans, tomatoes in the rich, moist climate of Spain. The population added meat and dairy into the recipes, providing meat for tacos and cheeses for garnishing. Hispanic food has transitioned over the years and taken on slight variations of the original corn tortilla that is now cooked in oil, as well as spicier forms of rice implemented with cheese and peppers to include foods that are found in many fast-food restaurants, chain restaurants and supermarkets.
Tortillas are served plain, warm or fried and can be used as the base for many Hispanic food dishes. Corn tortillas can be made into tacos or corn chips that can be used as an accompaniment to salsa or bean dip. Flour tortillas are also popular and provide a substitution when necessary for tacos and other Hispanic food dishes.
Rice and beans make up a huge part of traditional Hispanic food recipes. Rice and beans can be used as a side dish that goes well with tacos and enchiladas as well as a filler for burritos, tacos and chimichangas. Meats, such as shredded or crumbled beef, shredded chicken and pork, make up the majority of Hispanic food's main dishes, some of the most popular being parrilladas, tampiquenas and fajitas. Variations of vegetables can found throughout traditional Hispanic food, such as varieties of chiles, potatoes, jicama, yucca, nopales, tomatillos and some types of squash.
Traditional Hispanic food is eaten every day in Hispanic households, with foods such as quesadillas, tacos, nachos, Mexican pizzas, taco salads and burritos being the most popular. The celebration of Hispanic holidays, such as Cinco de Mayo, brings out the full tradition of traditional Hispanic food across many areas around the world. Many traditional Hispanic drinks are also served for this celebration of Hispanic heritage and pride, such as tequila, margaritas and Mexican beer. Some of the most popular Hispanic dishes that are prepared during Cinco de Mayo are carnitas, barbocoa, moles and menudo.
Traditional Hispanic food can be identified by the appearance of the tortillas and the thick, rich enchilada sauces that can be green, brown or red and resemble a thick gravy. Rice and refried beans typically are served inside of the tortillas or on the side, and this dish can be referred to as an enchilada or as a chimichanga if it is deep fried on the outside. Melted cheese over the top of the dish is also a good indication of Hispanic food.
The function of Hispanic food is to fulfill the traditional ways of growing, eating and serving Hispanic food. Hispanic food is high in carbohydrates, making it a filling meal because of the beans and cheese that are served along with it. The combination of the beans and cheese with the spicy seasonings and salsa give the food added flavor and traditional Hispanic flair. Hispanic food can be made into meals for large groups of people and large families quickly, cheaply and easily. Most Hispanic food keeps for a long time and does not spoil if stored in a cool, dry location.