Chilaquiles, Good Mexican Breakfast Food
Chilaquiles derive their name from the Nahuatl word “chil-a-quilitl,” which simply means “greens in chili broth,” but what comes out in their creation is so much more than this. Chilaquiles are one of the best breakfast foods that I have ever eaten in the world — and this includes China, a country that highly values the morning meal. Mexico really has breakfast right when chilaquiles are on the table, as these day old tortillas soaked in spicy pepper sauce with cheese and eggs on top and beans on the side are the perfect eye opener.
In typical Latin American fashion, Chilaquiles are 90% leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. In fact, the tortillas used to make them CANNOT be fresh, as they will just disintegrate in the sauce. The rest of the ingredients, besides the eggs, are also plucked from the remains of various previously eaten meals.
For those along the US border with Mexico, chilaquiles are not migas — although I have no idea what a miga is, I have read that they are not chilaquiles.
I first observed chilaquiles while staying at the Casa Madero in San Cristobal de las Casas. My family had become friends with the family who owned the hotel, and I could not help but to notice the sloppy tortillas that they would eat each morning out of a pool of bright orange sauce. I had never seen such a food before, and had to inquire as to what it was.
“Chilaquiles,” I was told, as if everyone in the world eats saucy stale tortillas for breakfast.
But watching this family over their breakfast would make my mouth water: I could smell the hot peppers and virtually taste the spiced up eggs. The family would often share with my daughter, who would smear the orange pepper sauce over her face, pant, and say, “pica, pica,” before asking for more. It was not until a few months later that I would pull up to a restaurant’s bar and order a plate of chilaquiles for myself.
They were all I expected them to be.
Like cereal, the half hard, half soggy tortillas sit heavy in the mouth and easily fill the belly. The eggs, beans, and cheese, give the starch some plesant variation, and the spice from the chili sauce lends the assemblage flavor and a good punch. Salty, spicy food in the morning is perfect thing to get me out of bed, and the eggs, beans, and cheese ensure that I am receiving my protein kick for breakfast. Mexicans also report that chilaquiles are the perfect medicine for relieving a hangover.
How to make chilaquiles
Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican food whose recipe or ingredients are not an exact science: you just make them with what you got, and call them what it is when finished. I admire the Latino breakfast in that it is generally made up of reconstituted dinner left overs — whether you’re talking about gallo pinto or Aztec soup, it was all on the table at least once before. To give an exact procedure for making chilaquiles would be almost a sacrilege, so what follows is just a general run down of how to prepare them.
- First you have to get a bunch of old, half hard tortillas and cut them up into wedges or strips.
- Take a handful of ancho chiles, remove the seeds, stems, and other undesierable pieces, and toss them in a pan and simmer.
- Then take the simmered chiles and toss them into a saucepan and pour boiling water over them so they are just covered.
- Let it sit for a while, then put the chiles, a couple garlic cloves, salt, and a cup and a half of the water in a blender.
- Make a puree.
- Then strain and put aside.
- Fry the tortillas until golden in a pan with a lot of corn oil.
- Remove the tortillas and add the salsa and cook it for a few moments.
- Then put the tortillas back into the pan and fry for a few minutes more.
- Make eggs and put them on top of the tortillas and sauce with cheese. Put beans on the side.
This is how you make chilaquiles, one of the best breakfast foods I have eaten in 11+ years of travel. When in Mexico, try them.