Your guide to the food and culture of the tropics


A Tropical Take on the World’s Best Snack Food — Nachos

Legend tells of a maître d’ in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico named Ignacio who, under the pressure of serving the wives of US soldiers stationed nearby with little available in the kitchen, used his creativity to cut tortillas into triangles, fry them, and add shredded cheese and pickled jalapeños. He served them “Nacho’s especiales.”

Thank you, Ignacio. I love him and here’s why.

His inventive combination of the most basic ingredients has brought so much joy to my stomach and taste buds – and maybe a little regret to my wallet. My enjoyment of nachos is deep and profound; my Facebook friends and acquaintances can attest that in December of last year, I enthusiastically announced an engagement to nachos to resounding excitement and support. By the end of the day, however, the relationship came to a depressing end as I had become hungry and could not resist temptation. I’m so weak, if I see nachos on a restaurant menu, 93.74% of the time I will get them and then ignore my dining partners whilst eating.

Considering that many of us have enjoyed barbecue nachos or pizza nachos and have deviated from old Ignacio’s traditional improvised recipe, we must reassess what constitutes the nacho dish. I believe it is simply the combination of chips, meats, vegetables and various dairy products which opens up the door for culinary possibilities! Considering our focus on the tropical, let’s see what we can come up with.

By Tomascastelazo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tomascastelazo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Peruvian Nachos

What fascinates me about Peruvian cuisine is that it’s influenced by the indigenous Inca population and also the immigrants from Europe, Asia, and West Africa. Lacking access to their traditional ingredients, these immigrants modified their recipes using Peruvian staples like potatoes, corn, quinoa, and beans. Eventually, the Spanish would import rice, wheat, beef, chicken, and pork.

We are going to slightly alter a recipe for Lomo Saltado to more appropriately fit the nacho motif. It’s one of the most popular dishes on the coast and is usually served with French fries and rice.


Peruvian Nachos
  • 12 oz steak, diced
  • Salt, pepper, and garlic, to taste
  • ⅛ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ medium tomato, sliced
  • 3 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 oz beer
  • 3 pinches chopped parsley
  • Flour tortillas
  1. First, you’ll want to brown the meat by itself.
  2. Next you’ll add the onions and cook it all together until the onions have become soft.
  3. Afterwards, add the tomato, vinegar, and soy sauce and finally the beer. You will simmer until the vegetables are cooked through and don’t forget to garnish with the parsley.
Just to be different, serve this on fried flour tortillas cut into triangles and top with shredded Monterey Jack cheese. It’s soft enough that it should melt fairly quickly, which happens to be my favorite part!

(By FotoosVanRobin from Netherlands - Green Curry Paste. The ingredients, CC BY-SA 2.0,

(By FotoosVanRobin from Netherlands – Green Curry Paste. The ingredients, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Thai Nachos

Thai food is built on the complex interplay of at least three (and up to five) fundamental flavors – sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy – in each dish. There is also a profound preference for fresh herbs and spices, rather than dried ones. Palm sugar is used to sweeten dishes and lime and tamarind add sour notes. There are five main chilies in Thai cuisine from the tiny, very spicy “garden-mouse-dropping chili” to a mild, large pale green chili that is used more like any other vegetable. Other common flavors often present in Thai food come from garlic, cilantro, lemon grass, lime leaves, shrimp paste, and fish sauce. Fish and crustaceans play a vital role in a traditional Thai diet, but it is not uncommon to use pork, chicken, duck, and beef.

Thai Nachos
  • ¼ onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 bird chilies, chopped
  • ½ green chili, chopped
  • Handful of holy basil
  • 1 egg
  • 4 prawns, shelled and chopped
  • A meat of your choosing, diced
  • 2 stalks of Chinese broccoli, sliced at an angle
  • A dash of soy sauce, oyster sauce, and fish sauce
  • White pepper to taste
  1. First you have to sauté the garlic and chilies and follow with the prawns and meat, ideally in a wok.
  2. Push that mixture to the side once it has cooked and add a little oil and fry the egg, but you have to let the egg settle a bit before you scramble it.
  3. Next add your seasonings and sauces and follow with the Chinese broccoli and sliced onion.
  4. Fry it briefly so the broccoli is cooked but still crisp.
  5. Finally throw in the holy basil and cook for another 30 seconds, and it’s done.
Serve on fried wonton chips! You could purchase them in stores, however I prefer to make them fresh. Get your hands on some wonton wrappers, cut them into fun shapes and then fry them in a pot of 350 degree oil for just a couple minutes. They are incredibly light and crisp and mild in flavor.

Instead of cheese, make a Thai green curry to drizzle on top to add something sweet, savory, and aromatic.

Green Curry Sauce
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • ⅓ cup chicken stock
  • ¼ cup basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoons green curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  1. Put all of these wonderful ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
  2. Boil this mixture down until it has the consistency of gravy.
  3. The curry will thicken as it cools and once it has reached this consistency, go ahead and drizzle it on those nachos.

By Rohith Thulasidas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Rohith Thulasidas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Indian Nachos

One thing I have fallen for in the enormous wonderland of Indian cuisine is curry (I know, it’s in Thailand too.) There are many varieties of curries based on spice selection, cultural tradition, religious practice, and even family preference. The main spices found in most curry powders of India are cilantro, cumin, and turmeric while a large array of additional spices may be included dependent upon region and the foods included. Curry may contain fish, beef, pork, chicken, or shellfish, alone or in combination with vegetables. And yeah, curry can also be entirely vegetarian.

Let’s go with this vegetarian option, and transform Paneer Butter Masala into something nacho worthy. Paneer is a fresh, non-melting cheese that requires no aging or culturing.

Paneer Butter Masala
  • 1 cup paneer
  • 2 tablespoons cashews, ground to a smooth paste
  • 2 cups of diced tomatoes, puréed
  • 2 green chilies, slit
  • 1 inch ginger, crushed
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dry methi leaves
  • 1 teaspoon tandoori Masala
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ cups water
  1. First, you will heat the butter in a saucepan and add the bay leaf. In about 10 seconds, the oil should become fragrant.
  2. Next, add the garlic/ginger paste and sauté until the raw aroma is gone.
  3. Add the tomato purée and after 2 minutes, stir in the red chili powder.
  4. When the oil and tomato purée starts to separate, add the cashew paste and stir well.
  5. As the oil separates again, add water and simmer until the curry thickens.
  6. Next, add the paneer and cook until it becomes soft, but not too long as it will become dense.
  7. Finally, add the dry methi and Masala and stir.
  8. And for the sake of an Indian themed nacho, serve this on fried naan, cut into triangles!

Written by

Travis believes that life should be full of flavor and indiscriminately spends his time eating all the tasty food he can find without apology. He is a proud graduate of Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, California and finds peace in the kitchen.