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Tortilla

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The tortilla is a flatbread made from corn or wheat. The word "tortilla" originally comes from the Spanish word torta, which means "round cake". When Spanish explorers discovered an unleavened flatbread made by the Aztecs, they called it tortilla (little torta).

Left: Tortillas being made in Old Town San Diego.

The Spanish word tortilla denotes two different classes of foods, depending on where the term is encountered. The terms Spanish tortilla, tortilla española or tortilla de patatas all refer to a common recipe in Spain, an omelette with stir-fried potatoes and chopped onion, often served in Spanish bars and cafés.

But it is the Mexican meaning of "tortilla" that may be most familiar to North Americans and Europeans. The corn tortilla (tortilla de maíz), made from specially treated (nixtamalized) maize flour, have been a staple food of the Mexican region since pre-Columbian times; these are also now commonly made from wheat flour (tortilla de harina or tortilla de trigo).

Tortillas have been used for many centuries in Mexico, where they are consumed year round. More recently other countries have begun producing them to serve the Mexican market and the growing demand for Mexican food, particularly in North America, Europe and Eastern Asia.

The two versions of the Mexican tortilla have different textures owing to the grains from which they originate: the maize version is somewhat thicker and heartier in texture, while the wheat version is less easily broken, due to its elevated gluten content, and therefore often larger in circumference.

Corn tortillas are commonly eaten throughout the western world as tortilla chips, and are an essential ingredient in many popular Mexican dishes. They are used to prepare tacos, tortilla chips, tostadas, enchiladas, enfrijoladas, entomatadas, tortilla soup, quesadillas, chalupas, flautas, tacos dorados, Sincronizada, gorditas, tortilla soup, sopes, and chilaquiles.

The flour tortilla is probably best known as the tortilla used to make burritos, a dish originating in northern Mexico.

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