Oh Horchata, you are so delicious: refreshing, a little spicy, milky but containing no dairy! Yet outside of the Latino community, we worry that not enough people know about your sweet existence. To right this injustice, we want to be your publicist. And so, Horchata, this Nibble post is all about you.
What it is: Horchata is a beverage popular in Spain, Central America and Mexico. The principal ingredients are water, rice (Mex) or morro seeds (El Salvador), spices, nuts—and sometimes other ingredients like melon, lemon or orange. Although it tastes milky, it contains no diary, and thus is a boon for those who are lactose intolerant. If you have tried almond milk, it is similar, but better. Horchata makes a delicious complement to the spiciness of Mexican food.
Origins: Horchata came to the Americas from Spain, where it still still made using Chufa (also known as tiger nuts), a tuberous root. In Mexico, horchata is made with rice, cinnamon, often vanilla and sometimes other ingredients like melon. Throughout Mexico, you see horchata, along with other flavored waters—called “agua frescas”—in large glass jugs at markets and in restaurants. In El Salvador, they make horchata with morro seeds, along with other ingredients like sesame seeds, cocoa, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. To learn more about morro seeds, go to Linda’s El Salvadorian blog.
Where to find it in Union Square: Buy a delicious glass of horchata at Cantina La Mexicana for $1.75 or El Potro for $2. You can buy powder horchata mixes at La Internacional Market, which is owned by the Cabrera family. Nora Cabrera (in photo at left) tells us, “In Guatamala, the drinks you see most often on the streets and in restaurants are Agua de Jamaica [a cold hibiscus tea] and Horchata. In El Salvador, they often make horchata from scratch, but that takes so long! In Guatemala, most people use a mix. I do!”
Both brands La Internacional carry right now come from El Salvador. We’re partial to “Super Horchata de Morro” because it features a glass of horchata wearing a cape on the packaging. For those outside of Somerville, find horchata at most Mexican and Central American restaurants and markets.
Making it at home: We have tried making it from scratch from this Food Network recipe. Yes, it was tasty but we think buying a mix is just as good and a whole lot easier. You simply stir in several heaping tablespoons of the mix into water and add ice. Or, for a slightly fancier and more delicious version: throw 2 ice cubes in the blender, add four heaping tablespoons of the mix and a cup of milk; blend and pour into a glass. If you like things spicy, add more cinnamon.
A quick horchata dessert: Dazzle your friends with Mexican brownies topped with horchata whipped cream! Make brownies from any mix but add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of almond extract when adding oil, water and eggs. Bake brownies as directed. Whip a cup of whipping cream with 3/4 cup horchata powder mix (or add more if you want a stronger horchata taste). When brownies have cooled, top with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish with toasted almonds if you like. ¡Buen provecho!