What is Nixtamal?
Nixtamal is an Aztec word to describe corn that has been partially cooked and soaked with calcium hydroxide, otherwise referred to as cal or lime. Calcium hydroxide is simply the dust that results from scraping a limestone rock. The Aztec would grind corn against the limestone found in the riverbeds, and hence discovered the benefit of the interaction of this natural element with corn. The process of nixtamalization was first developed in Mesoamerica where maize was originally cultivated. There is no precise date for when the technology was developed, but the earliest evidence of nixtamalization is found in Guatamala's southern coast, with equipment dating from 1200-1500BCE.
Nixtamal can be ground into masa (a corn dough) for making tortillas or similar patted disk (finely ground) or tamales (coursely ground), or can be kept in its whole form to make pozole, otherwise known as hominy.
A Nixtamal Story
It all began with a heartfelt, stomach-led desire, and a simple (yet brilliant) idea.
Fernando Ruiz, who grew up eating tacos in the local open markets of Puerto Veracruz, Mexico, and enjoying top-of-the-line authentic foods and high-quality service in New York City, wanted to change the predominate word on the street (or internet blogs) that say 'there is no good Mexican food to be found in NYC.' "What? How is that possible?" Ruiz asked of his beloved city--the city that has the best of everything and has since seen, over the past ten years, an exponential growth in Mexican cuisine.
After a heavy brainstorm with his cousin in Mexico, Ruiz deduced that the lack of good Mexican food boiled down to one simple thing ... TORTILLAS.
Being a natural entrepreneur, Ruiz determined that it was time that NYC had an authentic tortilleria. And not just any tortilleria, but one that made real corn tortillas-not the tasteless and brittle harina (or processed corn flour) tortillas that are found in the markets and used by many restaurants. As he explains, "it's like the difference between making instant mashed potatoes (just add water to a cup of dry flakes) and making mashed potatoes from real potatoes. The comparison in taste and quality-well, there really is no comparison". So, Ruiz proposed the idea to his girlfriend, Shauna, who excitedly agreed.
And so the journey began.
The Nixtamal family now includes, Fernando & Shauna, Francisco Manitas - aka Tio Pancho (from Veracruz), Cecilia (from MichoacĂˇn), Acension (from Mexico City), Lucia (from Puebla), Santiago (from Puebla), Jose (from Mexico City) and Marilyn (from Guerrero).
Tortilleria Nixtamal also welcomes a new baby, Taqueria Nixtamalito, located in Downtown Manhattan between the Municipal building and the Brooklyn Bridge. We will soon be extending the tortilla production into the City sponsored renovation of La Marquetta in East Harlem.