Wet Burritos: The Tex Mex Love Story

Few innovation have the ability to translate the warmth of a good love and hug like the Texas version of the North Mexican iconic dish, says Chef Vikas Seth (Culinary Director, Sanchez)

By Madhulika Dash; Photograph courtesy Sanchez

Let’s face it; when it comes to Mexican food, few have had the kind of fan following as burritos (and tacos). Such has been the fascination of this made-for-at-work workers treat that it has not just managed to transcend physical boundaries but also laid the foundation of a unique modern day culture called the Tex Mex – or as Chef Vikas Seth, one of the finest Mexican specialist in this part of the Indian Ocean, “the cuisine that showcases traditional Mexican culture adopting American sensibilities.” And one such version that does so with class is the Wet Burrito – or Smothered Burrito – which back in 1964 turned the iconic Northern Mexican lunch from a finger food to a sharable meal that can be had sitting on the table.

Fascinatingly, the advent of this new style of serving burrito – the epitome of comfort food – not only resulted in the creation of breakfast burrito and kickstarted the business of factory-made frozen burrito, for the mom and pop shop that still made theirs, artisanal style, it opened a window of infinite possibility. Burrito, which came to America around the 1900 thanks to the soldiers taking a fancy to the meat, rice, fried beans stuffed pillow-soft wraps and had instantly ruled the F&B market of easy, comfort eat, says Chef Seth, “was now ready to take on a new avatar of a version that would rule all. Fascinatingly, as the trend of frozen burritos picked up so did the charm of the wet burrito, which was often served made fresh in-house for sit-down meals and began including a variety of different burrito formats including the baked and fried (chimichanga) version along with sauces inspired from different cuisine, including the cheese one that had become a hallmark of American fast food culture.”

In doing so the Wet Burrito, which is said to have originated everywhere from Texas to New Mexico to Grand Rapids, MI that is said to have a colony of shops selling the fare, continues Chef Seth, “rose up to become the new poster-boy of Tex Mex cuisine, a culture showcase of how food travels, and one of the most popular versions of the one famous miners’ comfort food.”

But taste aside, what was about Wet Burritos smothered in sauce that made it so popular? Versatility, says the Mexican specialist, “even in its elevated form, the dish towed the tradition of a burrito, which first caught the interest of diners thanks to the array of filling the wrap to could hide in its folds, which ranged from the traditional rice, meat and beans to the over the top meat fest of San Diego burrito. And then could elevate the taste factor further with the use of the right sauce or sauces. The bonus of course was the fact that when doused with sauce, it kept the otherwise quick to dry up tortilla sheet moist.”

This little but significant detail of the Grand Rapids’ version while on one hand allowed Tex Mex shops to doll out burritos with an array of fillings and sizes; for diners, it set in a trend of sharing the roll which was traditionally portioned for individuals. And yet, funnily, adds Chef Seth, “the presentation of the Wet Burrito often was confused it with the enchiladas – but that was till one took the first bite and knew otherwise given that one of the defining factor of burritos was the filling itself and the way it is wrapped. Of course, another was in Tex Mex burrito tortillas were made of flour rather than masa harina.”

A few years ago, while revamping Sanchez menu, including the Texas favourite was a given – there is something absolutely balmy about this version of burrito, Chef Seth confesses – there was a hurdle: how to make the Wet Burrito in a way that it held the essence and yet appealed to the warming up palates of Bengaluru.

The first thing that he changed was the tortilla. Instead of using only flour or masa harina exclusively, says Chef Seth, “we decided to do a combo on the half and half style, this allowed us to create a burrito that could hold its own even when slathered with sauces. While the base filling was kept traditional with Mexican rice, sour cream and pico de gallo, the innovation was done in additional stuffing, which had options from beer battered fish to ancho prawns, chipotle chicken to negro pork among others, and a choice of sauces between ancho sauce, queso, ranchero or the puckering guajillo.”

However, it is the clever pairing of crunchy tortilla chips, grilled corn and a house salad served with a dash of lime that gives this Tex-Mex love story, that delicious feel.