I frequent the local Mexican supermarket, or as I know is El Rey Supermercado, in Milwaukee, probably about once a week. It is hands down one of my favorite places to go for a couple of reasons. One, is that you get great produce and fresh tortillas about half the cost that you would pay anywhere else, and they have some great food there.
I’m guilty of ordering that tacos that the elderly wait staff do not even bother to give me a menu anymore. They know that I want two tacos al pastor and one carne asada, with a horchata. It is my go to while at El Rey, but I always look at what is being showcased as their daily special. There was one dish that caught my eye one afternoon, and it basically looked like spaghetti. After asking the waitress what it was, she said “fideo, Mexican spaghetti”, and gave me a chuckle. Not sure why she chuckled, but it was probably a look I gave her, the look of “really, Mexican spaghetti?”.
So, after prompting one of my Latino buddies, Romke, I asked if it were true that there is such a thing as Mexican spaghetti. He responded quickly that his grandmother was the queen of making fideo, and that indeed existed. I had to make some as you could easily tell, the locals in El Rey really enjoyed it, and now I know why.
- 1 lb dry vermicelli noodles, broken in half
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup of red onion, diced
- 15 oz can of tomato sauce
- 3 1/2 cups of chicken stock
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 cup of cooked ground beef, optional
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano, crumbled
- 1 bay leave
- 1/2 tsp salt
- pinch of black pepper
- 1/4 cup of queso fresco, finely grated
Begin by getting a large, deep skillet out, and add the oil. You can to make sure you cover the base of the skillet with oil. The trick to this dish is that you want to lightly brown the dry noodles in the oil, being careful not to burn the noodles. So bring the oil to medium heat, then add in the pasta. Mix well, and continue to stir for a few minutes, not allowing it to burn. Once you get a nice golden, amber like color on the pasta, add in everything but the cheese. Stir to mix well, bring to a gentle boil, then cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for roughly 15 minutes, stirring once in between this time.
When you are ready to plate, add the pasta to a plate, or small bowl, and top with the grated queso fresco.
Not only will you be really surprised on how comforting this simple recipe is, but also how unique it is. The texture of the pasta has something about it, something really great about it, due to the browning at the beginning. At first you think you are eating a traditional Italian spaghetti dish, until you get a bit of the cumin flavor, along with the Mexican oregano. A real hit, and one I am glad that I asked my waitress at the supermercado what the heck it was. Enjoy.