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The why´sNixtamal 
is the big deal!

HISTORICAL FACTS YOU DID NOT KNOW ABOUT YOUR TORTILLA NIXTAMAL
by: Juan de Dios / Founder at Tres Amigos Nordic
18-05-2023

“Making nixtamal is one of the most important discoveries of our civilization."

 

In the realm of culinary traditions, few techniques can match the enduring legacy of nixtamalization. Originating in ancient Mesoamerica, this process of treating maize (corn) with an alkaline solution has been fundamental in the creation of staple foods like tortillas, tamales, and pozole for centuries. In 2023, the age-old practice of nixtamalization continues to thrive, captivating food enthusiasts, chefs, and researchers alike with its rich history and remarkable culinary applications.

 

Ancient Origins and Process:

Nixtamalization finds its roots in indigenous Mesoamerican cultures, particularly the Aztecs, Mayans, and Olmecs, dating back over 3,000 years.

The process involves soaking dried maize kernels in an alkaline solution, traditionally made from wood ash or lime water, to create nixtamal. This mixture is then rinsed and cooked, resulting in a dough-like consistency known as masa.

Historical Significance:

The discovery of nixtamalization revolutionized Mesoamerican societies, providing a solution to nutritional deficiencies and enhancing the maize's nutritional value. The alkaline solution alters the corn's structure, allowing essential nutrients such as niacin, amino acids, and calcium to become more bioavailable. This breakthrough helped sustain communities and paved the way for their development.

 

Culinary Applications in 2023:

In recent years, nixtamalization has experienced a renaissance, captivating the taste buds of people around the world. In 2023, chefs, home cooks, and food enthusiasts are increasingly embracing this ancient technique to create a wide array of dishes.

  1. Tortillas: Nixtamalization is at the heart of traditional tortilla production. By transforming corn into masa, the dough used to make tortillas, the process imparts a distinctive flavor, texture, and aroma. In 2023, artisanal tortilla makers are on the rise, showcasing a variety of flavors and incorporating heirloom corn varieties to enhance the dining experience.

  2. Tamales: Tamales, a beloved Mesoamerican delicacy, owe their signature taste and texture to nixtamalization. The nixtamal is ground into a fine dough, spread on a corn husk, and filled with an assortment of savory or sweet ingredients. As the popularity of tamales grows worldwide, chefs experiment with diverse fillings and imaginative presentations while honoring the traditional nixtamalization process.

  3. Pozole: A hearty soup made with hominy (nixtamalized corn), pozole has long been a staple in Mexican cuisine. In 2023, contemporary variations of this dish abound, featuring different meats, vegetables, and seasonings, while remaining true to the use of nixtamalized corn, which contributes to the soup's unique flavor and texture.

 

Health and Sustainability Benefits:

Beyond its culinary allure, nixtamalization offers notable health benefits and promotes sustainability. The process enhances the nutritional value of maize by making important nutrients more accessible. Moreover, it reduces mycotoxins, which are naturally occurring toxins found in corn, enhancing food safety. Nixtamalization also supports sustainable agriculture by preserving heirloom corn varieties and promoting biodiversity.

Research and Innovations:

In 2023, researchers are actively exploring the possibilities of nixtamalization beyond its traditional applications. Studies delve into optimizing the process for nutritional content, enhancing texture, and prolonging shelf life. Innovations such as instant masa flour, ready-to-cook nixtamal products, and automated nixtamalization equipment aim to make the technique more accessible while preserving its authentic essence.

Following the leaders

In today's culinary landscape, numerous renowned chefs from around the world have embraced the use of nixtamal products in their menus, paying homage to the ancient Mesoamerican technique. Here are a few notable international chefs who have incorporated nixtamalization into their culinary creations:

  1. Enrique Olvera (Mexico): Considered a pioneer of modern Mexican cuisine, Chef Enrique Olvera showcases nixtamalization in his flagship restaurant, Pujol, in Mexico City. His inventive approach to traditional dishes, such as his renowned mole madre, highlights the depth of flavor and authenticity that nixtamalization brings to the table.

  2. Daniela Soto-Innes (Mexico/United States): As one of the youngest recipients of the World's Best Female Chef award, Daniela Soto-Innes has been instrumental in introducing nixtamalization to a wider audience. Co-founder of Cosme and Atla in New York City, her innovative use of nixtamal products in dishes like her famous corn husk meringue has garnered international acclaim.

  3. Jorge Vallejo (Mexico): Chef Jorge Vallejo, the culinary mastermind behind Quintonil in Mexico City, expertly incorporates nixtamalization into his menu. His creative dishes, such as heirloom corn tlayuda with bone marrow, showcase the versatility and depth of flavor that can be achieved with nixtamalized corn.

  4. René Redzepi (Denmark): Renowned for his groundbreaking restaurant, Noma, Chef René Redzepi has explored the possibilities of nixtamalization and its applications beyond Mexican cuisine. His experimentation with nixtamalized corn has resulted in innovative dishes that challenge preconceptions, such as his corn miso butter and corn husk kombucha.

  5. Virgilio Martínez (Peru): Chef Virgilio Martínez, founder of Central in Lima, Peru, has incorporated nixtamalization techniques to rediscover and celebrate traditional Peruvian ingredients. His exploration of nixtamalization extends to unique corn varieties like maíz morado (purple corn), which he transforms into a range of delectable dishes that pay homage to Peru's rich culinary heritage.

These chefs, among many others, have successfully incorporated nixtamal products into their menus, allowing diners to experience the depth, flavor, and cultural significance of this ancient technique in a modern context. Their innovative approach to nixtamalization highlights its timeless appeal and its ability to elevate the culinary landscape of today.

The new bread: Nixtamal Tortilla

In modern society, the nixtamal tortilla has the potential to become the new bread, capturing the attention and palates of people around the world. Here are a few reasons why this ancient staple food could hold such promise:

  1. Rich Cultural Heritage: The nixtamal tortilla carries with it a rich cultural heritage, rooted in Mesoamerican traditions that span thousands of years. As people become increasingly interested in diverse culinary experiences and cultural exploration, the nixtamal tortilla offers a unique opportunity to connect with history, traditions, and indigenous cultures.

  2. Nutritional Superiority: Unlike many commercially processed bread options, nixtamal tortillas offer exceptional nutritional value. The nixtamalization process unlocks vital nutrients in maize, such as niacin, amino acids, and calcium, making them more accessible to our bodies. These tortillas are also typically gluten-free, appealing to those with dietary restrictions or preferences.

  3. Culinary Versatility: Nixtamal tortillas are incredibly versatile, serving as a canvas for various flavors, fillings, and culinary creations. They can be enjoyed as a simple snack, a vehicle for tacos or wraps, or even as a base for innovative fusion dishes. The distinct flavor and texture of nixtamal tortillas bring a unique experience to the table, elevating any dish they accompany.

  4. Sustainability and Locality: Embracing nixtamal tortillas supports sustainable and localized food systems. By promoting the use of heirloom corn varieties and traditional farming methods, this trend fosters biodiversity and protects heritage crops. Additionally, sourcing corn locally contributes to reducing carbon emissions associated with long-distance transportation.

  5. Artisanal Craftsmanship: The production of nixtamal tortillas involves skillful craftsmanship and traditional techniques. As consumers increasingly seek out artisanal products made with care and attention to detail, nixtamal tortillas fit the bill perfectly. Artisanal tortillerias are emerging, highlighting the dedication and expertise required to produce high-quality tortillas, creating a renewed appreciation for the craftsmanship behind this ancient staple 

 

The nixtamal tortilla possesses the potential to revolutionize the way we perceive and consume bread in modern society. Its cultural significance, nutritional benefits, culinary versatility, and commitment to sustainability make it an appealing alternative to industrialized bread options. By embracing nixtamal tortillas, we not only honor the rich history of Mesoamerican cultures but also explore new flavors, support local economies, and nourish ourselves with a truly remarkable food staple.

Please make contact with Moctezuma Foods in Denmark for the Nordic Markets suppliers list

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