In a recent episode of Foodbeast’s podcast, The Katchup, fellow writer Evan Lancaster posed an intriguing question about the latest trend of seemingly every cuisine being put into burrito form:
“I mean, is this just a California thing? I don’t think we see that anywhere else.”
While we do see this burrito trend everywhere, its roots are definitely embedded in California. In fact, if there is one singular food item that could define all of Californian cuisine, it would definitely be the burrito and everything that Californians have done to it to fortify its stance in today’s cuisine.
Truth be told, the Golden State was one of the first states to introduce burritos to the American people. Nowadays, California has taken that Mexican staple and revolutionized it. It’s no longer just an on-the-go meal found in Mexican restaurants. Everything from sushi to mac and cheese and even Indian food can be found inside of burritos all across California.
This movement began as a testament to the diverse cultures that live in the state. With burritos and Mexican cuisine being one of the core staples of Californian culture, it makes sense that the state’s melting pot of different people began communicating their own cultures through the wrap. The rapid, on-the-go lifestyle of the modern world also gives the burrito a massive market, as it offers convenience and portability for whatever you want to fill it with.
Evidenced by the resourcefulness of today’s diverse culinary minds, restaurants are crafty with the wrap of choice they use to construct their burritos, which allows them to retain cultural elements both inside and outside of the burrito. Sushi burritos, for example, are typically wrapped in rice paper or seaweed, and Panda Express uses a scallion pancake to wrap up their orange chicken burritos. Think of it as a way to retain cultural identity and keep the concept of the burrito truer to whichever culture has been represented in this vessel.
Sure, it wouldn’t be considered traditional for a restaurant to stuff chicken tikka masala into a burrito, or for Panda Express to take orange chicken and turn it into wrap form. But in California, it’s acceptable because of our openness to fusion cuisine. Roy Choi and his Korean BBQ tacos are a prime example of how we’re willing to take food from one cuisine and mash it up with another. With California having the largest minority population of any state in the US, it's hard to find the quantity or diversity of fusion restaurants that California has to offer anywhere else in the country.
That’s what makes the burrito, no matter what you stuff into it, a true Californian classic. From the Mexican roots and vibrant Mexican culture here, to the acceptance of fusion, broad ethnic diversity, and on-the-go lifestyle, the burrito was definitely made for the modern Golden State.
I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate everything that’s Californian than to put it in burrito form.