Photos by kc kratt
Fideos is the Spanish term for vermicelli, and today it’s used in both Spain and Mexico. In North America, fideos is often referred to as Mexican spaghetti, which prompts the question, how did pasta make its way into the Tex-Mex vernacular? Vermicelli is first documented in the year 1000, in a cookbook credited to Martino da Como called, “De arte Coquinaria per vermicelli e macaroni Sicilianii.” But from the 1500s to the 1800s, Genoa and Naples were the centers of dried durum wheat pasta production, with Sicily and Sardinia running close behind. In this era, with Italy not yet unified, Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia were part of the Spanish Hapsburg Empire. This is where we can find the crossover of fideos into Spanish-speaking culture.
There are also many kinds of vermicelli. In China, vermicelli can be made from rice or mung beans. In Italy, it’s simply a variation on spaghetti, and, in Spain, Mexico, and other Latin American communities, vermicelli (or fideos), utilizes the same wheat and water recipe as Italian pasta.
One of the most notable differences in the preparation of fideos is its similarity to pilaf in that the grain, represented in this dish most often by broken vermicelli noodles, is first toasted in hot oil. This process imparts an overall warm and nutty flavor. Traditionally, once the pasta is lightly browned in oil, tomato, spices, onion, and a little chicken stock are added, and the noodles are cooked until soft. Beef or seafood options exist as well.
Sopa de fideo, a traditional Mexican soup, is more akin to traditional chicken noodle soup than the dish’s tomato-based counterpart, but both preparations, though spiced differently, are wholesome, comforting, and economical.
The Black Sheep has offered fideos to its customers for several years. Its interpretation most often features broken noodles served in a thick cumin-spiced tomato sauce augmented by juicy shrimp or mussels. Sometimes The Black Sheep mixes it up a bit; last summer, executive chef and owner, Steve Gedra, decided to go a little luxe by using decadent uni.
Fideos are a delicious addition to any noodle repertoire.