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The Levantine Answer To Chilaquiles


by Dulcy Bowers



Food and travel are two passions that intertwine to create a truly enriching experience. Exploring different cuisines around the world allows us to delve into the culture and traditions of a particular region while tantalizing our taste buds with new flavors and aromas. One such culinary journey that food enthusiasts embark upon is the exploration of Levantine cuisine.


The Levant, a region in the Eastern Mediterranean, is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. It encompasses countries like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and parts of Turkey and Israel. Levantine cuisine is renowned for its vibrant flavors, fresh ingredients, and diverse cooking techniques. From mouthwatering mezzes to succulent kebabs, the Levant offers a delectable array of dishes that showcase the region’s rich culinary heritage.


When it comes to food travel, one popular dish that has gained worldwide recognition is chilaquiles. Originally hailing from Mexico, this traditional breakfast dish has captured the hearts and palates of many. Chilaquiles typically consist of fried tortilla chips smothered in a flavorful sauce, topped with cheese, and served with various accompaniments.


Now, imagine the fusion of Levantine and Mexican flavors, resulting in a truly unique and mouthwatering culinary creation. The Levantine twist on chilaquiles brings together the best of both worlds, combining the traditional Mexican dish with the vibrant flavors and ingredients of the Levantine region.


In this article, we will take a dive into the world of the Levantine answer to chilaquiles. We will explore the history of Levantine cuisine, delve into the traditional preparation methods, and uncover the cultural significance and traditions associated with this delightful dish. So, grab a seat at the table and get ready to embark on a tantalizing food journey!


History of Levantine Cuisine

The cuisine of the Levant has a rich and diverse history that spans centuries. Influenced by various cultures, including the ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans, Levantine cuisine has evolved into a unique and flavorful culinary tradition.


One of the defining characteristics of Levantine cuisine is its use of fresh and locally sourced ingredients. The region’s mild climate and fertile lands provide an abundance of fruits, vegetables, grains, and herbs, which form the foundation of many Levantine dishes.


The Levant’s strategic location, acting as a crossroad between Europe, Asia, and Africa, also contributed to the region’s culinary diversity. Trade routes brought exotic spices, ingredients, and cooking techniques, resulting in a fusion of flavors that are now synonymous with Levantine cuisine.


The influence of Arab cuisine is particularly strong in the Levant. Arabic flavors such as sumac, za’atar, tahini, and pomegranate molasses are integral to many Levantine dishes. Olive oil, a staple ingredient in the region, is used generously and adds a distinct depth of flavor to the cuisine.


Additionally, Levantine cuisine is known for its emphasis on communal dining and sharing. Mezze, a selection of small dishes served as appetizers, is a popular way of enjoying a meal in the Levant. Various dips, salads, grilled meats, and freshly baked bread are often shared among diners, fostering a sense of togetherness and celebration.


Over the centuries, Levantine cuisine has adapted and evolved, incorporating influences from neighboring cultures while retaining its unique identity. Each country within the Levant has its own culinary specialties and regional variations, showcasing the rich diversity and complexity of this vibrant cuisine.


Today, Levantine cuisine not only delights locals but has also gained recognition across the globe. Mediterranean restaurants around the world offer a taste of the Levant, allowing food enthusiasts to indulge in the flavors and traditions of this beloved culinary tradition.


Overview of Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish that is as beloved for breakfast as it is for brunch or dinner. It is a delightful combination of flavors and textures, consisting of fried tortilla chips drenched in a tangy and aromatic sauce, topped with a variety of delicious toppings.


The base of chilaquiles is made from corn tortillas, which are cut into triangles and fried until crispy. These tortilla chips are then smothered in a flavorful sauce, often made with tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, and various spices. The sauce can vary in heat level, from mild to spicy, depending on personal preference.


Once the tortilla chips are coated in the sauce, toppings are added to enhance the dish’s taste and texture. Common toppings include freshly grated cheese, sour cream, chopped onions, cilantro, avocado slices, and sometimes even shredded chicken or fried eggs. The combination of these ingredients creates a satisfying and hearty meal.


Chilaquiles can be served as a standalone dish or accompanied by refried beans and Mexican rice. It is often enjoyed with a side of salsa or a squeeze of lime juice to enhance the flavors further. This versatile dish can also be customized according to individual preferences, allowing for endless variations and creative explorations.


What sets chilaquiles apart is its ability to transform leftover tortillas into a flavorful and satisfying meal. Traditionally, it was a way for Mexican households to repurpose stale or excess tortillas, giving them a delicious second life. Today, chilaquiles have become a staple in Mexican cuisine, enjoyed for its comforting flavors and nutritious ingredients.


With its vibrant colors, bold flavors, and legendary status as a Mexican comfort food, chilaquiles have garnered international acclaim and are a must-try for anyone seeking an authentic taste of Mexico’s culinary heritage.


The Levantine Twist on Chilaquiles

When it comes to culinary creativity, the Levant has never shied away from experimenting with flavors and reinventing traditional dishes. The Levantine twist on chilaquiles takes this concept to a whole new level, infusing the vibrant flavors and ingredients of the region into this beloved Mexican dish.


In the Levantine version of chilaquiles, the base of crispy tortilla chips remains the same. However, the sauce used to coat the chips takes a departure from the traditional Mexican flavors. Levantine chilaquiles often feature a sauce made from ingredients like roasted red peppers, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and a variety of aromatic spices like cumin, coriander, and paprika.


The Levantine twist adds a layer of complexity and a touch of Mediterranean flair to the dish. The flavors of the roasted red peppers and spices create a rich and savory sauce that beautifully complements the crispy tortilla chips. It offers a delightful fusion of smoky, tangy, and earthy flavors.


When it comes to toppings, the Levantine version of chilaquiles showcases the culinary treasures of the Levant. Instead of traditional Mexican toppings like cheese and sour cream, the Levantine twist often incorporates ingredients such as crumbled feta cheese, chopped fresh herbs like mint or parsley, diced cucumbers, and a drizzle of tangy lemon-infused olive oil.


This combination of ingredients adds a refreshing and vibrant element to the dish, elevating it to a whole new level of culinary indulgence. The feta cheese provides a creamy saltiness, while the herbs and cucumbers bring a crisp freshness to each bite. The lemon-infused olive oil adds a hint of acidity that balances the flavors perfectly.


With each bite of the Levantine twist on chilaquiles, you are transported on a culinary journey through the sunny shores and bustling markets of the Levant. The fusion of Mexican and Levantine flavors creates a harmonious symphony of taste that is truly unforgettable.


Whether enjoyed as a comforting breakfast dish or a satisfying dinner, the Levantine twist on chilaquiles offers a unique and delicious experience that celebrates the fusion of culinary traditions. It is a testament to the creativity and innovation inherent in the culinary world, showcasing how a simple dish can be transformed into something extraordinary with the right combination of flavors and ingredients.


Ingredients used in the Levantine Version

The Levantine twist on chilaquiles brings together a medley of ingredients that perfectly marry the flavors of Mexico and the Levant. While the base of crispy tortilla chips remains the same, the sauce and toppings used in the Levantine version create a unique flavor profile that is both vibrant and tantalizing.


Here are some key ingredients used in the Levantine version of chilaquiles:

  1. Roasted Red Peppers: These smoky and sweet peppers add depth and complexity to the sauce. They are roasted to perfection, adding a burst of flavor that complements the crispy tortilla chips.
  2. Tomatoes: Fresh, ripe tomatoes are a staple ingredient in the Levantine version of chilaquiles. They provide a tangy and slightly sweet base for the sauce.
  3. Garlic: Garlic adds a savory kick and enhances the overall flavors of the dish. It infuses the sauce with its aromatic essence, creating a mouthwatering aroma.
  4. Olive Oil: As a key ingredient in Levantine cuisine, olive oil is used generously to bring a rich and velvety texture to the sauce. It adds a luxurious mouthfeel and enhances the flavors of the other ingredients.
  5. Aromatic Spices: The Levantine twist on chilaquiles incorporates a variety of spices like cumin, coriander, and paprika. These aromatic spices add a warm and earthy note to the dish, enhancing the overall flavor profile.
  6. Feta Cheese: Instead of traditional Mexican cheese, crumbled feta cheese is sprinkled on top of the Levantine chilaquiles. It offers a creamy and tangy element that pairs perfectly with the other ingredients.
  7. Fresh Herbs: Chopped fresh herbs like mint or parsley are commonly used to add a burst of freshness and fragrance to the dish. Their bright flavors enliven the Levantine chilaquiles and elevate the overall taste experience.
  8. Cucumbers: Diced cucumbers provide a crisp and refreshing element to the Levantine chilaquiles. They add a cool and crunchy texture that balances the richness of the sauce and cheese.
  9. Lemon-Infused Olive Oil: A drizzle of tangy lemon-infused olive oil is a final touch that adds a burst of acidity and brightness to the dish. It ties all the flavors together and brings a delightful tang to each bite.

These ingredients come together harmoniously in the Levantine version of chilaquiles, creating a mouthwatering fusion of flavors that celebrates the culinary traditions of both Mexico and the Levant. With every bite, you’ll experience a symphony of tastes that transport you to a world of delicious fusion cuisine.


Preparation of the Levantine Chilaquiles

The preparation of the Levantine version of chilaquiles follows a similar process to the traditional Mexican dish but incorporates the unique flavors and ingredients of the Levant. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to prepare this delightful fusion dish:

  1. Fry the Tortilla Chips: Begin by frying corn tortillas or store-bought tortilla chips until they turn golden brown and crispy. Set them aside to drain excess oil on a paper towel.
  2. Prepare the Sauce: In a blender or food processor, combine roasted red peppers, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and a blend of aromatic spices like cumin, coriander, and paprika. Blend until you achieve a smooth and flavorful sauce.
  3. Cook the Sauce: Heat a skillet or saucepan and add the sauce mixture. Bring it to a gentle simmer and let it cook for a few minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together and the sauce to thicken slightly.
  4. Add the Tortilla Chips: Once the sauce is ready, add the fried tortilla chips to the skillet or saucepan. Gently toss them with the sauce to ensure they are fully coated.
  5. Plate and Add Toppings: Transfer the Levantine chilaquiles to a serving dish. Sprinkle crumbled feta cheese, chopped fresh herbs like mint or parsley, and diced cucumbers on top. Finish with a drizzle of tangy lemon-infused olive oil.
  6. Optional: Add Protein: For those who prefer a heartier meal, you can add shredded chicken or fried eggs to the Levantine chilaquiles as an additional topping.
  7. Serve and Enjoy: The Levantine chilaquiles are now ready to be savored! Serve them as a standalone dish or alongside sides like refried beans and Mexican rice. Don’t forget to offer salsa or lime wedges for an extra pop of flavor.

The preparation of Levantine chilaquiles is a beautiful fusion of culinary techniques and flavors that result in a truly delightful and unique dish. Each step showcases the art of combining Mexican and Levantine elements to create a flavorful and satisfying meal that will leave your taste buds wanting more.


Serving and Presentation

When it comes to serving and presenting the Levantine version of chilaquiles, there are various approaches you can take to create an enticing and visually appealing dish. Here are some tips to elevate the presentation:

  • Plating: Start by choosing a suitable plate or serving dish that complements the vibrant colors of the dish. A shallow bowl or a rectangular plate works well for chilaquiles, allowing you to showcase the ingredients and toppings.
  • Arrange the Tortilla Chips: Arrange the crispy tortilla chips in a single layer at the bottom of the plate, creating a bed for the rest of the ingredients. Make sure they are evenly spread out for a visually appealing presentation.
  • Pour the Sauce: Drizzle the Levantine sauce over the tortilla chips, making sure to cover them completely. You can pour the sauce generously or create artistic patterns for an added visual effect.
  • Add Toppings: Sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese, chopped fresh herbs, and diced cucumbers over the chilaquiles. Distribute them evenly, or create a visually pleasing arrangement by placing them strategically on top.
  • Drizzle the Lemon-Infused Olive Oil: Finish off the presentation by drizzling a little bit of tangy lemon-infused olive oil over the dish. This will not only enhance the flavors but also add a glossy and visually appealing touch.
  • Garnish: To add a final touch, consider garnishing the dish with a few reserved herb leaves, a sprinkle of paprika, or a slice of lemon. These small details can elevate the presentation and make the dish appear even more appetizing.

Remember to pay attention to color contrast and balance when serving and presenting the Levantine chilaquiles. Incorporating vibrant greens, the rich red hues of the sauce, and the creamy white of the feta cheese can create a visually striking dish.


When serving, ensure that the toppings are evenly distributed, allowing each bite to showcase a harmonious combination of flavors and textures. The final presentation should entice the senses and invite diners to indulge in this fusion delight.


Whether you’re serving the Levantine chilaquiles for breakfast, brunch, or dinner, a beautifully presented dish can enhance the overall dining experience and make it feel truly special. So, unleash your creativity and present the Levantine chilaquiles with flair and style!


Variations of the Levantine Chilaquiles

The Levantine twist on chilaquiles offers endless possibilities for creative variations, allowing you to experiment with flavors and ingredients to suit your preferences. Here are a few ideas for unique twists on this fusion dish:

  1. Seafood Chilaquiles: Add a touch of the Mediterranean by incorporating seafood into the Levantine chilaquiles. Sauté shrimp or scallops in a garlic and lemon-infused olive oil, and then toss them with the tortilla chips and sauce. Top with crumbled feta cheese and fresh herbs for a delightful seafood twist.
  2. Middle Eastern Spiced Chilaquiles: Infuse the Levantine chilaquiles with the aromatic spices of the Middle East. Incorporate spices like cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom into the sauce to create a warm and fragrant flavor profile. Consider adding additional Middle Eastern ingredients such as toasted pine nuts or sliced almonds for added texture.
  3. Vegan Chilaquiles: For those following a vegan diet, the Levantine version of chilaquiles can easily be adapted. Use plant-based cheese alternatives like tofu feta or vegan feta and substitute the toppings with ingredients like diced tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, and avocado. You can also replace the traditional tortilla chips with baked pita chips or roasted sweet potato slices.
  4. Levantine Brunch Skillet: Instead of serving the Levantine chilaquiles as individual portions, create a brunch skillet. Layer the tortilla chips, sauce, and toppings in a large skillet or casserole dish and bake in the oven until heated through. This communal-style presentation makes for a visually appealing and shareable brunch option.
  5. Spicy Harissa Chilaquiles: Kick up the heat by incorporating spicy harissa paste into the sauce. The combination of the smoky chipotle flavors in the sauce and the fiery kick of harissa will add a bold and intense flavor profile to the Levantine chilaquiles.

Feel free to get creative and experiment with toppings, sauces, and additional ingredients in the Levantine version of chilaquiles. The fusion of Mexican and Levantine flavors opens up a world of possibilities, allowing you to tailor the dish to your personal taste preferences and culinary visions.


Remember, the beauty of cooking is that you can adapt and make it your own. So, don’t hesitate to explore and create your own variations of the Levantine chilaquiles, adding your unique touch to this delicious fusion dish!


Cultural Significance and Traditions Associated with the Dish

The Levantine twist on chilaquiles not only brings together the flavors of Mexico and the Levant but also carries cultural significance and traditions associated with both regions.


Mexico is known for its vibrant culinary heritage, and chilaquiles have become a beloved dish that is deeply ingrained in Mexican culture. It is a dish often enjoyed as a comforting breakfast or brunch, perfect for gatherings with family and friends. In Mexican households, chilaquiles are often prepared using leftover tortillas, promoting a sense of resourcefulness and sustainability.


Similarly, Levantine cuisine is deeply rooted in cultural traditions. The act of communal dining and sharing is a significant aspect of Levantine culture, and the mezze-style of enjoying a meal reflects this communal spirit. The Levantine chilaquiles can be enjoyed as part of a larger spread of mezze dishes, creating a festive and inclusive atmosphere.


The fusion of these cultural traditions in the Levantine version of chilaquiles creates a unique dining experience. It brings people together around the table, encouraging conversation, laughter, and the enjoyment of good food.


Moreover, the use of local and fresh ingredients in both Mexican and Levantine cuisines reflects a deep connection to the land and a respect for seasonal produce. This connection to nature and the importance of quality ingredients are cultural values that are tied to the preparation of chilaquiles.


The Levantine twist on chilaquiles also signifies the beauty of culinary cross-pollination and the power of food to transcend borders. It represents the fusion of different cultures and demonstrates the way food can bridge gaps and foster cultural exchange.


Ultimately, the cultural significance and traditions associated with the Levantine twist on chilaquiles lie in the joy, togetherness, and celebration that the dish brings to the dining table. It is a testament to the shared values of Mexican and Levantine cultures, as well as an expression of creativity and innovation in the culinary world.


So, whether you’re savoring the Levantine chilaquiles as a breakfast treat, partaking in a communal feast of mezze, or simply celebrating the fusion of cultural flavors, this delightful dish carries with it a deep cultural significance and the ability to bring people from different backgrounds together through the joy of food.



The Levantine twist on chilaquiles is a culinary journey that combines the vibrant flavors of Mexico with the aromatic ingredients of the Levant. It showcases the creativity and innovation in the world of fusion cuisine, resulting in a delightful and unforgettable dish.


Through the exploration of Levantine cuisine and the traditional Mexican dish of chilaquiles, we have discovered a captivating blend of flavors, colors, and cultural significance. The fusion of ingredients like roasted red peppers, aromatic spices, feta cheese, and fresh herbs creates a unique culinary experience that tantalizes the taste buds and transports us to the sunny shores of the Mediterranean.


This delightful fusion dish not only celebrates the culinary traditions of two distinct regions but also represents the power of food to unite people and cultures. It reminds us of the universal language of food, which has the ability to bridge gaps, foster connections, and promote understanding.


So, whether you’re embarking on a food travel adventure or seeking to explore new flavors in your own kitchen, the Levantine twist on chilaquiles offers a wonderful opportunity to experience the harmonious fusion of culinary traditions. It allows us to appreciate the diverse cultural heritage embedded in each bite, while indulging in a truly delectable meal.


As we take our final bite of the Levantine chilaquiles, let us savor the flavors, embrace the cultural significance, and celebrate the beauty of culinary fusion. Cheers to the power of food to bring us together and ignite our senses on a remarkable food journey around the world!