In Bizarre Foods Tucson, part of the Delicious Destinations series featuring Andrew Zimmern, the host and his crew visited numerous restaurants in the city, showcasing a variety of unique and delicious dishes. Here is a convenient list of all the addresses and dishes highlighted in this exciting exploration of Tucson’s food scene.
ANDREW ZIMMERN TUCSON DISH – Carne Seca
WHAT IS IT?
Carne seca, a traditional Southwestern dish, is made by combining sun-dried beef with peppers, spices, and onions. Thinly sliced Angus beef is marinated with lemon juice, garlic, and salt, then refrigerated for 12-24 hours. The beef is then sun-dried in stainless steel cages on El Charro’s rooftop. Once dried, it is softened in the oven, shredded by a mechanized shredder, and browned with oil and garlic. The shredded meat is mixed with roasted green chilis, grilled onions, and fresh tomatoes to create a flavorful dish with a slightly crunchy texture.
El Charro is the oldest family-owned Mexican restaurant in the US. In 1922, Carlota’s great aunt Monica converted part of their home into a restaurant, where Carlota grew up.
DISH – Chimichanga
WHAT IS IT?
Chimichanga is a modern Mexican-American classic, consisting of a deep-fried burrito made with extra-thin flour tortillas for a crispy texture. It can be served plain or covered in red enchilada sauce, along with fried beans and rice.
The Sonoran hot dog is a Mexican-style hot dog wrapped in bacon and served on a steamed bun. The hot dog is topped with various toppings including raw onions, chopped tomatoes, mustard, jalapeno sauce, and mayonnaise. The steamed bun, with a hint of sweetness, is made in the chef’s own bakery in Mexico and is well suited for the toppings. The chef also serves a grilled yellow chili pepper on the side, adding a spicy element to the dish.
The Sonoran hot dog traces its roots to the capital of Sonoran Mexico in the late 1950s. Today, hundreds of vendors in Tucson sell thousands of these hot dogs each day.
ANDREW ZIMMERN TUCSON DISH – Huevos Rancheros
WHAT IS IT?
Huevos Rancheros is a classic Mexican dish made of crispy tortilla, refried beans, and fried eggs topped with a tomato chili sauce. The sauce is made with roasted Anaheim chilis, ripe tomatoes, jalapenos, and serrano peppers. The chef removes the skin and seeds of the chilis for a milder flavor. Mexican oregano, cilantro, and shredded cheese are added to the sauce. Homemade beef and pork chorizo provides extra spice.
Huevos rancheros, or “eggs ranch style,” originated as a mid-day meal for ranchers and farmhands in Sonoran cattle country.
DELICIOUS DESTINATIONS TUCSON DISH – Green Corn Tamales
WHAT IS IT?
Green corn tamales are a popular choice, filled with roasted green chilis and cheese. The masa, made with white corn flour, is mixed with canola oil and water for sweetness. After chilling, the masa is hand-wrapped in corn husks with a blend of Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese, and roasted green chilis. Steamed and blast chilled, the tamales are then ready for shipment to the restaurant. The wrapping process is done entirely by hand, as machines cannot properly wrap a tamale in a real corn husk.
Green corn tamales were named after the fresh green husks that were originally used to wrap them during the fall corn harvest. Green chilies, which are also harvested during this time, were a natural choice for the seasonal tamales’ filling.
Raspados are a popular treat that combines shaved ice with fresh fruit and an array of sweet and spicy toppings. While raspados can include various fruits, the most popular flavor is the mango yada, which blends the sweetness of fresh mangoes with the sour, spicy, and savory flavors of tamarind and chilis. The chef creates the mango syrup using only mango, water, and sugar. The fine snow of shaved ice is piled high and flavored with chamoy, while tamarind candies and dried ground chilis provide a sweet and sour finish to the mango yada.
Originating in Japan a millennium ago, shaved ice has evolved globally alongside advancements in ice production and storage. While many North American versions rely on artificial syrups, Tucson’s preference leans towards natural fruit toppings with a Mexican flair.
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