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March 28, 2011

“Our fathers were the Spaniards but our grandfathers were the Arabs”

– a Mexican phrase

I grew up eating Fideo. I also grew up eating Albondigas. There is nothing traditional about the way either one of these dishes was made. Traditional was the fact that we ate it. In both dishes my mother chose to make it her way. I can’t imagine where I inherited this trait (when it comes to cooking of course). In Albondigas she took what is usually a meat ball soup, and remade it into a bit of a goulash. The meat remained, but it was ground. Potatoes, green beans and corn also completed the medley, but were mixed into a tomato based meat mixture as opposed to floating in a tomato broth. Warm flour tortillas would be served alongside this dish. I can taste it right now. It’s so good.

Again with Fideo, which is commonly served as part of a soup (Sopa de Fideo), she opted to not serve it as a soup. Again, choosing to revamp the dish and do it her way, it was served as a pasta dish with ground meat. I’m now beginning to realize that one of my parents must have not liked soup. Perhaps my mother was adapting these recipes to accommodate my father’s liking? Or perhaps she was exercising her culinary freedom. After all, it was the seventies. My parents had just left their respective small towns of South Texas and moved to the peace and love capital of the state: Austin. It is quite possible she was adapting the  traditional recipes she grew up eating into something more modern (for that time). Rebelling in the kitchen.

Craving this dish of Fideo, I recently asked my mother for the recipe. I knew if I made it I wanted to follow the recipe exactly and stay true to the memory of flavors. She gave me her recipe. But because I am curious I began searching for recipes similar to the one she would make. I consistently turned up recipes for Sopa de Fideo. This is a common way to eat Fideo. Problem was, we didn’t eat it this way. The more I thought about her recipe, the more I realized her cooking method of fideo was similar to that of paella. My mother toasted her fideo in oil until it browned. Then she added broth to it and left it to simmer. Turns out this method of toasting a grain, or pasta, in a bit of oil is rooted in Arabic traditions.

I am intrigued about the richness of Culinary Anthropology. As I dug further into the history of Fideo and  Mexican food, I uncovered more information about the well-known, but not often discussed, Mexican-Arab connection.

The Spaniards brought more than conquest when they arrived in Mexico. They brought with them a North African influence. Amongst other things, this was reflected in their ship pantry. Stocked with herbs (cilantro), spices, pigs, cattle and grains (wheat, pasta, rice), these items, combined with the indigenous food (corn, cactus, chocolate, squash) of Mexico, create the very fabric of the incredible diversity of Mexican cuisine.

You can see it just as well in many of our faces. Our food is just as varied, as we are as Mexican people. It’s about so much more than beans and rice.


Here is more informative reading about the History of Mexican food and dishes:

Arab Influences in the Culinary Art of Mexico

by Habeeb Salloum

A fascinating article on the blog of historian Rachel Laudan called: Fideos and Fideu: More on the Mexican-Islamic connection.

Adam Balic also discusses the ancient history of Fideo and the tradition of toasting the pasta on his blog

The Art and Mystery of Food .

Mom’s Fideo

1 Yellow box Fideo*

2 tbsp minced onion (about a quarter)

1 tsp. cumin

1 clove garlic

1/2 c. canned tomato sauce

3 c. water (with Knorr’s Chicken bouillon cube added to it)

Half pound ground meat

heaping Tbsp. Mexican Oregano

*I couldn’t find Fideo in the ‘yellow box’, so I bought a package and used about half of it.


In a large skillet, cook the ground meat in a bit of oil. Add the Mexican Oregano and continue to cook until browned.

Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

In the same skillet, cook the onions and garlic in the meat drippings. Cook until golden. Add the Fideo to the pan, and cook until light brown and toasted.

Add salt, pepper and cumin.

Add the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid, lower the heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until the Fideo is al dente.

Add the ground beef back to the Fideo mixture. Stir to combine.

We would eat it with a dollop of mayonnaise. I suspect this is because my Mom didn’t know what Aioli was or how to make it.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2011 10

    Nice blog. I’m signed up! And if you want more on the Mexico-Medieval Arabic connection you might try this.

  2. Kirby permalink
    April 4, 2013 10

    Thanks for the links! I used this for a paper I’m writing on fideo.

  3. Nene permalink
    October 30, 2014 10

    Love this….

  4. Vanessa Caldwell permalink
    February 11, 2018 10

    My grandma made it similar. Not soupy at all but more like a pasta dish and not with ground meat but thin steak strips. It was amazing


  1. Top 21 Fideo with Ground Beef - Best Round Up Recipe Collections

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