The beauty of food lies in its fluidity and versatility. Take pizza, for example, the quintessential Italian food that has undergone changes according to the food culture in every place it’s been introduced in.
Pizza has been Mexicanized, so to speak, with quintessential Mexican toppings. But did you know that there’s also a true-blue Mexican pizza?
First, a brief history lesson on the connection between Italy and Mexico in relation to pizza. Italy is, of course, considered the birthplace of pizza but its creation wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Mexico. In 1519, Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez brought back tomatoes from Mexico.
But the Europeans were suspicious of tomatoes and, in fact, considered them poisonous. For over 100 years, they didn’t see the potential of tomatoes. But when they did, they realized that tomatoes were the perfect toppings for focaccia and soon pizzas were born.
Tyaluda, the Authentic Mexican Pizza
But Mexicans were ahead of the Italians in the creation of pizza – or more appropriately, the true Mexican pizza. Known as tlayuda, it’s a traditional Oaxacan dish with a huge corn tortilla as a base. The corn tortilla can be baked, cooked on a griddle or fried.
The cooked corn tortilla is then covered with several toppings. First comes the pork lard, known as asiento, and mashed beans followed by cheese like Oaxaca cheese or queso fresco. There may also be shredded pieces of pork, steak or chicken as well as some shredded lettuce. For the final touch, it’s drizzled with fire-roasted chile sauce.
Did we mention that unlike many American pizzas the Oaxacan pizzas are all handmade? Even the equipment used in making them are the traditional type, such as the large stones used for grinding the beans and cooking the corn tortillas.
Modern Pizza, a la Mexico
Pizza as it’s known in the United States is also popular in Mexico although there are also changes to account for the local food culture. There are also restaurants that offer their unique twist on the Mexican pizza.
Take, for example, Taco Bell. The Tex-Mex chain offers Mexican pizza, a filling and flavorful dish made of two tortillas stuffed with shredded beef and refried beans and topped with cheese and tomatoes. You can customize it whichever way you want.
There are also several variations of Mexicanized pizza. The toppings are typical of the Mexican cuisine, such as chiles, avocado and jalapenos paired with mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce.