Posts Tagged ‘enchiladas’

Soraya’s Enchiladas

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

It is a Saturday night, and all of my roommates have left. I have placed my computer on top of the water purifier, so through our Zoom call, Soraya can have a full view of my kitchen. This evening, Soraya is guiding me through her version of enchiladas. In my opinion, nothing beats making enchiladas with one of my closest friends–even if we are 2186 miles apart.

Enchiladas is a dish that has been appropriated and reformed by many cultures. The translation of enchilada is to season with chili. The earliest rendition was Aztec, and it was called “chillapizzali” or chili flute. According to records from Spanish conquistadors, chillapizzali were tortillas dipped in spicy chili sauce and filled with beans, meat, squash, or eggs. When the Spaniards conquered Mexico, they appropriated chillipizzali and added new ingredients–mainly cheese, chicken, and spicy sauces. These alterations have made the enchilada what it is today.

These alterations aren’t just national, they also occur at the household level. I ask Soraya about the recipe we are using, and she tells me that these enchiladas were her mother’s creation. Soraya’s father is from Ecuador and doesn’t like spicy food. To make the enchiladas milder, Soraya’s mother adds a can of cream of mushroom soup.  

“You wouldn’t see this recipe in a normal Mexican household at all. They would be kind of pissed actually that we did this to the traditional enchilada.”

Soraya is from El Paso and was my roommate at NYU Florence. When she walked into my freshman dorm she was carrying a Louis Vuitton duffle and was dressed in high-heeled boots and a form-fitting dress. The first time we bonded was at a small Florentine sandwich shop, where I began to get to know her as an observant, intelligent, and passionate person. There are so many memories I want to add for context–partying in Florence and accidentally leaving her at a club (yikes),  getting drinks at Piazza Della Repubblica, watching her (and Hailey) tape crosses around our dorm room, visiting Notre Dame the day before it burned, learning the salsa and bachata, watching movies projected on our ceiling, and becoming regulars at Cafe Panna in New York City. Soraya is a very important person to me. We have shared amazing experiences, and our friendship has shaped the course of my life. 

While discussing the consequences of getting pierced on Accutane, we begin to make the sauce. I shred boiled chicken and put it in a blender with cream cheese, cream of mushroom soup, milk, queso fresco, and salsa verde. The aim is for a creamy-liquid consistency.

Soraya’s enchilada sauce

My enchilada sauce

When the sauce is done, we pour some into the bottom of the casserole pan. Meanwhile, we heat the tortillas up in the microwave and fill them with sauce. 

“Make it into a mini flauta.” 

“A flute?” 

She nods and laughs. The description of the enchilada as a “flauta” makes me think of the Aztec, and how the origin of enchiladas was the chilipizzali (chili flutes). This makes me realize how food is a culmination of culture and identities. Soraya remarks on this herself in the following: 

“Food is something more than alimentary, it’s our identity. Each recipe, spice, and ingredient that we choose reflects our ethnicity, religion, and social class. Food is something that all humans share, yet it is also something we use to define ourselves.”

When I cooked with other students for this series, they all talked about how cooking keeps them in touch with their identities. Alison told me her lu rou fan is a taste of home, Dorothea loves to bake because of her personality, and Paris uses flavor to satisfy her taste. While these narratives differ slightly, they all use cooking as a way of reflecting who they are. 

Soraya’s understanding of food is similar. She tells me about how her cuisine and heritage intertwine. 

“I feel so Mexican when I crave a tortilla. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I’m like, do you know what would be so good for breakfast? A tortilla! Or I feel really Middle Eastern when all I want is fatayer… I feel super Latin American whenever I see plantains, cause that’s all my grandma would give me, and I’m like ahh delicious!”

Food doesn’t only connect us to our heritage. When I ask Soraya how she feels about cooking, she tells me that for a long time she found it boring. As a child, she enjoyed making cakes, but most of her time was devoted to practicing ballroom dancing and school. It isn’t until recently that she has paid more attention to what she eats, and has taken up some cooking as a result. 

“I am proud to say what I am made of, and we are made of what we eat. I prefer to make it.”

Soraya makes me think that identity is composed of the unchangeable and changeable, and this is clearly reflected by cooking. Heritage is something that determines our cravings, and it isn’t something that we can change about ourselves. However, we still have the power to choose what we make and how we make it.

Filling the enchiladas

For the final touches, we pour the rest of the sauce on top of the flautas and cover them with shredded cheese and queso fresco. Then we spread crema on top and put the pan in the oven. 

When we leave Zoom, I have her send me a picture of her final product.

Soraya’s enchiladas
My enchiladas

While our enchiladas are cooking, I take some time to consider the things I have learned:

1. Heritage. The foods we crave are frequently a reflection of who we are and where we are from.

2. Agency. Cooking for ourselves gives us the power to determine what we are made up of.

3. Technology.  Soraya and I talked for two hours over Zoom, and our final products came out well. Modern technology has the power to keep people connected. 

In the end, I take a bite of the cheesy enchiladas and am delighted, but also a bit concerned: my tortillas have been absorbed by the sauce (later I am told this is normal). Regardless, I am happy that despite the actual distance the virus has created between people, technology has allowed us to remain connected.


Lee, Alexander. “Enchiladas, a Culinary Monument to Colonialism.” History Today,

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By: Erin Zubarik

Hello! My name is Erin Zubarik and I am a junior at New York University majoring in Global Liberal Studies and minoring in Chinese and Italian. Over the last few years I have been lucky enough to study abroad in Florence and Beijing, where I enhanced my language skills and became acquainted with lovely people. This fall I am primarily holed up in my apartment taking online classes, and playing with my hamster Pork Chop. I am very excited to share my cooking and relationships series this fall on Campus Clipper! 

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Mexican Goods at Benny’s Burritos

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

On the corner of Avenue A and 6th Street is a lively gem of a Mexican restaurant named Benny’s Burritos. Don’t be alarmed though—they sell a lot more than just burritos here.

Walking in through the Avenue A entrance, I took note of the tables set up outside, where customers were able to enjoy their food amidst the warm rays of sunlight. Seats were aplenty, both outside and inside the restaurant, even though the place was bustling with business. I made my way inside the restaurant and was seated at a table near the 6th Street entrance, and I was given a menu full of choices.

Main dishes at Benny's

I decided on a burrito and chose a shredded beef filling. I asked my waitress for a bean recommendation since I’m not too familiar with burritos, and she kindly suggested black beans as her personal favorite, so I went with her recommendation. I also ordered an iced tea (though, as my waitress warned, it’s unsweetened, so make sure that’s what you want if you order it).

Burrito with sauces and iced tea

My food came rather quickly, even though there were many other customers in the restaurant, so I was pleasantly surprised. It smelled delicious.

Burrito with shredded beef

The inside of the burrito looked extremely appetizing, and I waited a bit for it to cool down before I took my first bite. The filling was delicious, as the mixture of black beans, shredded beef, and rice was a perfect combination (so I was glad to have heeded my waitress’ recommendation). Adding salsa or sour cream sauce (which comes with the burrito) made the taste pop out even more.

All in all, this very inexpensive burrito was enough to fill me up for the rest of the day. The employees were all very kind and helpful, and the atmosphere was lively—perfect for bringing your friends and family. So if you’re ever craving a burrito—or a taco, or enchiladas, or anything else on their large menu—grab a Campus Clipper coupon for an extra discount and make a visit to Benny’s Burritos!


Nancy Ma, New York University ’15

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