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Punjabi-Mexican Culture is Thriving in California

Have you heard of the Punjabi burrito? Or the roti quesadilla? Throughout the US, fusion food has been happening since its inception, and Punjabi-Mexican cuisine is no different. But the story of how the two came to be is as unique as the hybrid dishes that have become the touchstones of its vibrant narrative.

Photo Credit: Eater

Due to the longstanding legacy of Punjabi-Mexican restaurants, sites like Eater and even The Washington Post have documented the great journey of these migrants as they trekked to a new land and founded businesses and established families. The short version goes something like this: during the great migration between the late 1800’s and 1917, when men from Punjab, in northwest India, moved to California for work, they could not bring wives with them. As they arrived on the west coast many migrated from the Imperial Valley northward, toward places like Yuba City. They worked on farms, battled the challenges placed on them by stiff US immigration (miscegenation) laws, and over time, married Mexican women. This launched a blend of communities that has become a significant part of California’s history.

In 2015, KQED, ran a segment featuring a group of dancers from within the Punjabi-Mexican community organized to perform a mix of Bhangra and Mexican folklórico as a way of sharing their pride in both sides of their heritage. However, maintaining a balance between the dual identities has not been without its fair share of struggle.

As we move forward into a new era, it’s easy to see how innovation is driving young restauranteurs to keep looking for ways to evolve the conversation around fusion food alive while giving the traditional cooking a nod. Places like GupShup, Avatar, and Curry Up Now, are looking to establish themselves within the long thread of the story. Nothing could be a truer testament to the resiliency of the dynamic ethnic landscape within the United States.


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