Cooking Like A Mexican

Traditional Mexican cheese soup

When you think of some of Mexico's most iconic dishes—tacos, enchiladas, frijoles—chances are, there's cheese involved. Get your mind out of the bowl of gooey Tex-Mex queso dip. When I say cheese, I’m talking about the many varieties of fresh white Mexican cheeses. They tend to taste more like milk than butter or cream, and range in texture from soft to firm; you can even grill some of them. Crumbled, grated, sliced or melted, the cheeses in Mexican dishes give salty, tangy flavors and offset some of the heat from chiles and spices.

cheesesoup.JPGFor this recipe, however, cheese is the star of the dish. This cheese soup was born in the old ranches of south California, Mexico, where ranchers had to make the most of what they had available, even cheese that had gone hard. Back in the day, food was scarce on ranches, since they were far away from each other and sometimes cattle ranches didn’t grow vegetables or plantations didn’t have livestock, you get the idea. They were also far from the towns. This special cheese was created after ranchers realized it could be made into a delicious, hearty, nutritious soup.

Before the Europeans came to Mexico, the pre-Hispanic diet did not include dairy products since there were no cows, and cheeses were not known until the Spanish arrived in Mexico. The Spaniards taught the natives how to make cheese from milk. Of course, the techniques were adapted to the Mexican palette, which is what gave birth to the vast selection of Mexican cheeses.

Mexican cheeses are not quite as standardized since some, like panela cheese, are made from pasteurized milk and others, like Chihuahua cheese, are made from unprocessed milk. Mexican cheeses have had a hard time as far as international commercialization goes because of the lack of pasteurization in the milk. Those who have not been blessed with a Mexican stomach find them quite hard to digest.

Chihuahua cheese is named after the Mexican state that is home to the large Mennonite population who created it. It is also called queso menonita. The original version is semi hard with very small holes. This version is sold covered in cloth and paraffin wax. The taste varies from a cheddar-like sharpness to mild, and is a pale yellow rather than white. Today, this cheese is made all over Mexico and is popular as a commercially produced cheese.



7 ounces of Chihuahua cheese

1 large potato, peeled

½ onion finely chopped

½ poblano pepper

3 tomatoes

1 garlic clove

Salt and pepper

A pinch of oregano

2 spoonfuls of olive oil

Tortillas and limes



Cut potatoes and cheese into bite size pieces and set aside.

Boil the tomatoes, peel and puree with a pinch of salt and pepper, set aside.

Slice the poblano peppers thinly.

In a pot, cook onion and garlic until soft, then add a pinch of oregano. Remove garlic once it has scented the onions. Add poblano pepper.

Add the potatoes to the pot, cook for two minutes and add in the tomato puree, along with a cup of water. Bring to a boil.

Cook until potatoes are soft.

Add cheese cubes.

Make sure the cheese softens and the potatoes are cooked. Check for saltiness since the cheese can become quite salty.

Once cheese is soft and the salt is right, remove from heat and cover with a lid. It is important that the cheese softens but does not melt.

Serve with some tortillas on the side and add a couple of drops of lime juice to taste.