In Mexico, tortillas are the staff of life. The round, unleavened flatbreads are served with every meal and star in a wide range of dishes. (They're also the star of our mouthwatering Mexican barbecue menu in the July 2012 issue, featuring grilled tuna, pulled-chicken and mushroom tacos. Pick up your copy on Eastern newsstands June 4th and Western June 11th.)
Tortillas are divided into two camps: corn and flour. Corn tortillas are made from masa harina, which is maize cooked in an alkaline solution. This process is called nixtamalization and it boosts the aroma and flavour of the grain. (It's why tortilla chips have a more pronounced corn-y flavour than cornbread.) Because they are delicate, corn tortillas are usually only four to six inches in diameter.
Used to make enchiladas, tostadas, chips and the beloved taco, corn tortillas can be purchased at Latin American food shops and select natural food stores and supermarkets.
If you live in the Toronto Area, La Tortilleria is the only place in the city that makes fresh corn tortillas. They are a cut above and only $3.50 per kilogram.
When corn tortillas are fried into a U-shape, they become the base for hard-shell tacos, which many North Americans grew up eating on mom's monthly taco night.
Because of the gluten in wheat, flour tortillas are much stronger than corn tortillas and come in a wide range of sizes. They are used in dishes that require a sturdy base such as quesadillas, burritos and sandwich wraps.
If you don't have access to corn tortillas when making soft tacos, use six-inch flour tortillas, which can be found in the Mexican section of most supermarkets.
For delicious recipes with tortillas, see our Easy Mexican Recipes.
And check back June 7th and every other Thursday for my regular In Good Taste blog posts.