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Fideo is a traditional noodle dish that many believe originated in Mexico. Today, this dish is popular in homes and restaurants throughout Mexico and the southwestern United States (US), and is a staple of Mexican and Tex-Mex dining establishments worldwide. It can be prepared in many ways, with specific flavors and additions unique to different regions. Fideo may serve as a soup, side dish, or main course, depending on how it is prepared and what types of foods are added to the noodle base. In addition to its authentic flavor, many people enjoy this dish because it is easy to make and very affordable, with plenty of options for people of all tastes.
All fideo dishes start with a pasta made from thin noodles. Depending on the region, recipes may call for vermicelli, angel hair pasta, or even spaghetti. In Mexico, this pasta is sold under the name fideo pasta due to the popularity of this dish. Users start by breaking these noodles in half, or even into very short sections.
While most cultures call for noodles to be boiled, fideo is characterized a different cooking method. After they have been broken into small pieces, they are placed into a pan filled with hot oil. The noodles are cooked to a golden brown, but care is taken to avoid burning the surface of the noodle. Once they are crisp, they are transferred to a soup pot or left in the frying pan for further cooking. At this point, the noodles will be boiled or heated in liquid to give them a traditional soft texture.
When served as a main course or side dish, this concoction is often referred to as Mexican spaghetti, or simply, fideo. Chefs add tomato sauce, cheese, and vegetables to the browned noodles, with cilantro and garlic added for extra flavor. Those who prefer this dish spicy may also add pepper, chili powder, or hot sauce. The finished product may serve as a bed for chicken, beef, or other meat, or may be served as a starchy side dish. By browning the noodles early in the cooking process, chefs give the fideo a unique flavor very different from standard spaghetti.
These noodles may also be used as the base for sopa de fideos, or fideo soup. The browned noodles are placed in a soup pot, and chicken or vegetable stock is added as a base. Cooks may also add tomatoes, vegetables, or meat to give the soup the desired flavor and texture. After cooking, the soup is topped with cilantro, lime, or spices and served as a starter dish prior to a meal.