A baby shower, bridal shower, birthday, anniversary or even a casual occasion. What do all these things have in common? In Monterrey, at least, they all call for a “carne asada.”
The northern region of Mexico, including Nuevo León, is especially well-known for its love of meat. In fact, Monterrey holds the world record for the largest carne asada; over 45,o00 people attended Aug. 18, 2013 to break the previous record.
Carne asada could be compared to a typical U.S. barbecue: they are usually a crowded occasion that includes large portions of meat grilled over a coal or wood fire.
The meat itself is the prized center of the carne asada. Steak is grilled to perfection over a fire. (I’ve heard mesquite wood is the best choice, as it gives a good smoky flavor to the meat.) The meat itself is usually eaten without any sauce, as its flavor can usually speak for itself without any additions. However, some salsa for dipping purposes isn’t unheard of.
Carne asadas are usually accompanied by quesadillas, also made on the grill. These are usually flavored with fresh cut limes and onions from the grill, along with salsa for added flavor. Fresh-made guacamole is also served.
Another key ingredient of the carne asada is a cold beer to compliment the meat and sides.
While carne asadas are typically planned for special occasions, really anything in Monterrey life can be considered a special occasion. Promotion at work? Carne asada. Got an A on your final? Carne asada. Managed to brush your teeth in the morning? Carne asada. Anything that allows families and friends to get together is worth good food and good beer.
It is so embedded into Monterrey culture that there even exist memes that lightly tease the prevalence of carne asadas.
Combining both the importance of meat to Nuevo León and the cultural significance of family, carne asadas are an important part of the Monterrey culture.