Machaca: The Flavorful Northern Mexican Beef Jerky
Machaca is nothing more than dried shredded meat. However, it involves a delicate process and specific preparation.
I will tell you all about it so you can enjoy it as it should.
First of all, it should be made with beef tenderloin, which can be thick or thin. Then it’s salted, sun-dried, and mashed, prevalent in the north of Mexico.
The most “traditional” way to make the machaca is to crush it on a mesquite trunk with a wooden hammer from the same tree until the desired thickness is achieved and, again, it is left to dry.
The name “machaca” comes from the action of pounding the meat, literally, with a stone or stick, instead of cutting, grinding, or mincing it.
Usually, the process to obtain this meat is to salt it and let it dry, then take it to the embers to brown and let it soak with a little water to rehydrate it and remove the excess salt, thus softening it a little more.
Machaca meat history
Again, machaca or “machacado” is the name given to a traditional dish from the north of Mexico that consists of beef or venison dried in the sun with salt and then beaten with stones to soften it.
It is an exquisite dish prepared with eggs, onion, tomato, and chili and is preferably eaten with beans on the side and wheat flour tortillas.
It is also served wrapped in wheat flour tortillas like “burritos,” only that these are fried in an iron comal (a type of thin griddle) either in lard or butter.
It is known that before the arrival of the Spaniards, the indigenous people of the north already ate this dish but made it with venison.
Besides, this is a technique of “meat preservation” that doesn’t require refrigeration.
It is known that the indigenous people sometimes took machaca rolls with them as a provision for long trips that would later be eaten without seasoning.
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In the municipality of Cienega de Flores (in 1928), the state of Nuevo Leon saw the birth of this typical northern dish in an old hacienda called “Tia Lencha.”
When engineers and builders of the free highway to Laredo worked in the area, they bought dried meat from the locals.
When they were “fed up” with eating only dried meat with lemon, they asked the lady (Tia Lencha) to prepare the meat differently, which she then began to cook with pork lard, chili, tomato, onion, and adding eggs, resulting in the “machacado.”
This was accompanied by refried beans made in a clay pot, which is how this place became known as “the cradle of the machacado with eggs,” a slogan that remains in an advertisement on the highway.
Some stories say that machaca has been elaborated in our country since the XVIII century because they needed food to be preserved for longer periods of time.
Currently, you can buy machaca in several northern states, such as Sonora and Sinaloa, where you can get the best versions of this delicious food.
Machaca and Machacado Recipe
- 1 kg beef tenderloin
- Ground black pepper
- 100 ml vegetable oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 green bell peppers
- 1 white onion
- 5 tomatoes
- eggs (optional)
The first thing to do is to prepare the meat. Remember that it is essential to let it dry in the sun for a whole day.
Then cut it into long and very thin strands. Spread them with a tray (preferably metal), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place them in direct sunlight.
Remember to turn the meat occasionally, so it dries evenly.
After a day, cut the meat strands into small pieces and shred them with your hands as finely as possible. Set aside.
Finely chop the garlic and onion. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic.
Cut the tomatoes into cubes and the bell peppers into julienne strips and sauté them in the frying pan.
Once it is ready, add the machaca and lower the heat, cover the pan and let the vegetables and meat release their juices.
Add eggs (optional) and scramble all together. This will take between 5 and 7 minutes. If you want to make it spicy, substitute the bell peppers with serrano ones (my favorite).