Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex?

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Glenn1234
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2011/10/16 14:50:07 (permalink)

Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex?

 
I was doing some more research for the upcoming trip Janet and I will be taking to the Los Angeles area.  I saw several reviews describing "Cal-Mex" food.  
 
My question is: 
How does "Cal-Mex" differ from "Tex-Mex"?
 
From looking at the descriptions and some menus, it looks like they are much the same except a couple subtle differences.   Though Tex-Mex can have it, Cal-Mex seems to be much more likely to have guacamole and/or cilantro in its food, and Cal-Mex also has fish tacos, especially in the San Diego area.   
 
Is this observation of Cal-Mex correct, and what other differences make Cal-Mex different from Tex-Mex?
 
Thanks!
 
Janet and Glenn
 
 
post edited by Glenn1234 - 2011/10/16 15:46:06
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    tiki
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/16 15:14:06 (permalink)
    well-for one thing--California is the the home of the burrito--HUGE!--no sauce poured over it,handheld--most rellenos are stuffed with cheese--fish tacos---brought north from Baja by surfers--are common and you have to ask for flour tortillas and tacos pastor are big faves---Texas uses Texas Red Chilli as a sauce on lots of thing---rellenos-tamales-etc. -and burritos are almost always on a plate with sauce--either chile of more  lately-Mexican cheese sauce. Oh and California put lots of lettuce and tomato all over the menu.   Personally--i love the carnititas and beans and tacos here in Oklahoma--mostly TexMex style---except for the fish--here fish means catfish and though i love it---there's nothing like fresh saltwater fish tacos!--but i like the burritos in California--i REALLY miss my breakfast burrittos on the way to work in California! Look for a popular truck along the road in Cal and definatly get burritos
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    mar52
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/16 15:15:22 (permalink)
    Interesting.  I've never heard of Cal-Mex food.
     
    Then, again, I've never quite understood the Tex-Mex, either.  Same food, spread out more on the plate with some garnishes not usually seen.
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    mar52
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/16 15:19:37 (permalink)
    Thanks, Tiki.
     
    Here a lot of places give you a choice with the burritos...  seco o mojado.  (Dry or wet)
     
    When I was in Texas one of the appetizers in several of the places we visited was "Queso" which was a cheese dip served with tortilla chips.  I've not seen that here in California.
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    mar52
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/16 15:23:15 (permalink)
    I've also heard that tortilla chips were invented in Los Angeles.  They are one of those things that you kind of think always existed.
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    Glenn1234
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/16 15:58:43 (permalink)
     
    Thanks Tiki and  mar52 -
     
    It seems the differences are not very clear cut.  The local places around here are considered Tex-Mex, and burritos are served either with or without sauce.... probably more without, when you consdier all the lunch take-out that serve them dry.   
    I think it depends more on the type of meal.  At lunch, people tend to get them dry and eat them by hand, and often 'to go".   At dinner, you see them plated with sauce more frequently.
     
    Glenn
     
      
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    Foodbme
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 01:20:38 (permalink)
    The difference between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex is AZ-Mex. It sits right between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex! Otherwise, they're all pretty much the same. They all have their roots in the Sonoran style foods of that northernmost region of Mexico! The only discernable difference is you'll find greater use of seafood in CA. 
    post edited by Foodbme - 2011/10/17 01:22:01
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    BackRhodes
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 02:18:08 (permalink)
    I've also never heard of Cal-Mex, and I'm a native...
     
    So Glenn, will you give us a report on what differences YOU see / taste...???
     
    It wasn't until recent years that I saw tacos pescado in Northern Calif, whereas they've been in Southern calif for a long time...
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    Glenn1234
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 17:26:36 (permalink)
    BackRhodes
    I've also never heard of Cal-Mex, and I'm a native...
    So Glenn, will you give us a report on what differences YOU see / taste...???

     
    Until I started researching some RoadFood places and reading some reviews of SoCal restaurants, I hadn't heard of Cal-Mex  food, either.  It might be a term created and used by a small group of people.    
    We're looking forward to trying it out. 
     
    Janet and Glenn
     
     
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    wanderingjew
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 18:39:21 (permalink)
    BackRhodes

    I've also never heard of Cal-Mex, and I'm a native...
     


    There are also NY natives who never heard of Garbage Plates or Beef on Weck. Considering you've never heard of The Sterns or were aware that they actually wrote books that doesn't surprise me.
     
    I could really twist this and say that there's "nothing special" about Mexican food in LA since it's also common in Texas (and New Mexico, and Arizona, and Colorado, and.....) but that is not the case.

    I remember the sterns describing the difference in one of the old books- and also provided  a description of New Mex, Arizona Mex and even Mississippi Mex.
     
    I believe that Tex Mex revolves primarily around Fajitas, Nachos (yes they were invented there) as well as Chili Con Carne. Cal Mex is lighter, involved avocado, tomatoes as well as seafood and although I've seen Burritos elsewhere I've never seen them quite as large as the ones served in California. Of course there are dishes primarily linked to New Mex (Green Chili, Carne Adovada, Blue Corn Enhiladas) Colorado Mex (Green Chili but a thicker chunkier version than the New Mex Version, Mexican Hamburgers) and Arizona Mex (Chimichangas, Green Corn Tamales) 
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    Glenn1234
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 20:21:35 (permalink)
    Wanderingjew -
     
    Thanks for the summary....It was very helpful. 
     
    I do have to disagree on one point.   It's just trivia, but Nachos were not invented in Texas.  They were, in fact, invented over the line in Mexico by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya.  The originals were simply fried tortilla, melted cheddar, and pickiled jalapenos. 
     
     
    Glenn
     
     
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    wanderingjew
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 20:28:17 (permalink)
    Glenn1234

    Wanderingjew -

    Thanks for the summary....It was very helpful. 

    I do have to disagree on one point.   It's just trivia, but Nachos were not invented in Texas.  They were, in fact, invented over the line in Mexico by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya.  The originals were simply fried tortilla, melted cheddar, and pickiled jalapenos. 


    Glenn



     
    Exactly

    But like Fish Tacos which were invented "just over the line" in Baja, and "embraced" by San Diego. The same could be said for Nachos in Texas. Come to think of it I could use a good plate of Nachos right now. But since I'm not "on the road  and out of town", I'm "at home" and therefore  have to settle for "healthy stuff"
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    Foodbme
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 21:37:43 (permalink)
    I contacted Jane Butel, a renowned expert on all things Mexican food related to get clarification on this subject. She's authored several cookbooks on Mexican Cuisine, including "Chili Madness". She conducts a Southwestern cooking school in Correles, NM and travels the world discussing Southwestern Cuisine. I asked her to clarify the difference between Cal-Mex & Tex-Mex.
    Here's what Jane has to say:
    "Yes I can!! 
    That is one of the most frequent questions when I tour--Tex-Mex basically was developed on the Texas-Mexican border by German and British settlers using Mexican influence and their loads and loads of beef they had no market for as they had come to Texas for free land. (The Alamo made the early Texas settlers realize that they did not want to go thru that again, hence advertised free land in Texas in newspapers in Europe, precipitating the migration.) Once there, they came to realize there was no market for the beef until the railroads came--hence tons and tons of beef to eat!   
    On the other hand, the Cal Mex was influenced by the earlier Spanish mission settlers who had more of a Spanish influence and liked lighter food, heavier with vegetables, olives, etc. developing a cuisine heavy on tomatoes, etc.  For example their red chile sauce has a concentration of tomato and is not hot.
    On the other hand, the early priests, monks, etc who came to New Mexico based their cuisine on the chiles and corn that the natives had developed.  It is a much older cuisine and simpler. The Spanish added pork, sugar and wheat--plus spices and a broader culinary know-how, such as using hornos for baking.
    Hope this helps--any help you can give me for subscribers to Butel's Bytes would be greatly appreciated.  They can sign up on the home page and it is a free newsletter-- we do not share names that gives readers recipes, tips, hints deals etc."
    Jane Butel 
    Thank You Jane!
    Jane's Web Site is http://www.janebutelcooking.com/Public/Home/index.cfm
    For the Butel's Bytes newsletter:
    http://www.janebutelcooking.com/Public/E-Newsletter/index.cfm

    So my interpretation of what Jane said is that Tex-Mex is more Beef oriented and Cal-Mex is lighter and more veggie oriented. NM-Mex is more Chile & Corn oriented.
    AZ-Mex is Disoriented!!!
    post edited by Foodbme - 2011/10/17 22:03:10
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    mar52
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 21:44:55 (permalink)
    How is Jane???  (I told you she likes to sell)
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    Foodbme
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 21:54:38 (permalink)
    mar52

    How is Jane???  (I told you she likes to sell)

    She must be OK. She responded to my email within hours. When I replied to thank her, I mentioned your name to her and told her about Roadfood and gave her our "handles". I'm waiting to see if she replies.
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    JRPfeff
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 22:13:45 (permalink)
    Nice research job Jim. I subscribed to Jane's newsletter.
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    mar52
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 22:28:49 (permalink)
    I'd better edit my post.  LOL
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    mar52
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 22:32:11 (permalink)
    I think the last time I saw Jane was when she and her husband, Gordon stayed at my house.  That was about 15 years ago.  I heard a few years ago that Gordon was sick.  I'm hoping that they're both okay.
     
    Your information from Jane makes sense. 
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    Glenn1234
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/17 23:17:57 (permalink)
     
    Thanks for all the info.  Good stuff. 
     
    Glenn
     
     
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    CCJPO
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    Re:Differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex? 2011/10/18 20:18:38 (permalink)
    I have no clue what the difference is. About the only thing I find different is that in California it is easier to find more traditional styles of mexican and/or hispanic food. Not every hispanic cuisine relies on burritos, nachos, tacos, etc. It seems that I can find a lighter, more distinctly flavored food in So Cal, then can be found in the rest of God's Country, which of course would be the great southwest. But what do I know, I spent  most of my mis-spent youth in Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago, and didn't even know what a taco was until I was in my early teens, oh so many years ago.
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