How Did Rice Come To Be Such An Important Ingredient In Mexican Cooking

By Ken Kudra

One of the most widely grown crops in the world, rice is the most important dietary staple in much of the world. It is actually the most commonly eaten grain on earth and is the basis of the traditional diet in eastern and southeastern Asia, much of Africa, the Caribbean and the region known as Latin America, spanning South, Central, and parts of North America. While rice is grown in the US and is indeed a common food here, it is in Mexico that North America can be said to truly have a culinary tradition including rice in an important role. It is second only to corn in its importance to Mexican cooking and there are far too many Mexican rice recipes to list here.

This grain is an immigrant to the Americas, having first been cultivated in Asia and brought to Mexico by Spanish and Portuguese explorers and colonists, who began growing the crop in the new world. Rice quickly became an important ingredient in Mexican cooking, with many a traditional Mexican rice recipe having its origin shortly after its introduction to the continent.

Authentic Mexican Rice Recipes

Arroz con pollo is both a classic Mexican rice dish and a classic Mexican chicken dish. From the Spanish for "rice with chicken," this is the Mexican take on this timeless comfort food and it is an incredibly satisfying one. This is one Mexican rice recipe you may want to try making at home - it is a great change of pace from the familiar American version with canned soup.

Arroz con pollo is an excellent example of how recipes, which originated in Spain became Mexican recipes through adaptation to use locally available ingredients as well as to work in flavors and ingredients, which became popular with the European settlers. In the case of this recipe, tomatoes found their way in to the cooking pot, as did the more assertive Mexican oregano as a substitute for the European variety, which was unavailable in the country.

Spanish Cuisine Adapts To The New World

After the Spanish began to grow rice in Mexico, it quickly became a hit, working its way into dishes, which combined old and new ingredients, with some of the results now known as authentic Mexican rice recipes. One dish, which we think of as Spanish as can be is paella, but a look at the ingredients commonly, used in this dish reveal something very interesting. For example, tomato is a common ingredient; a new world ingredient, which must inevitably have found its way into a pot of rice and seafood long before a cook in Valencia, thought to do the same.

It so happens that the paella eaten in Spain actually has a bit of a Mexican accent to it as well. Tomatoes and bell peppers are both common ingredients in this dish; two ingredients which were brought back to Europe from the Americas! Paella is also an incredibly popular Mexican rice dish in its own right and there are even regional variations on paella throughout the country, particularly in those states, which lie along the coast.

Another well-known traditional Mexican rice recipe is the seasoned rice, which is often served along with bean dishes and almost everything else. This recipe is very similar to what is also called "Spanish rice" but just like paella, Mexico has its own version of this ubiquitous side dish and happens to be the original home of some of its ingredients!

Rice has become almost as important of a dietary staple in Mexico as it is in much of the world. It may not have been in the Mexican culinary repertoire as long as corn or chilies, but it has found a happy place in this one of a kind cuisine and if you enjoy any of these wonderful Mexican rice recipes, you are certainly glad that it made its way over to the Americas. - 29857

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