Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Hispanic-flavored dishes' and other ethnic-inspired, um, treats

Cinco de Mayo has come and gone, but its effect on that peculiar cuisine known as "ethnic-inspired" continues. For a limited time only, at least.

This morning I ventured into an International House of Pancakes to try one of a few Cinco de Mayo-related items promoted in a recent news release as "Hispanic-flavored dishes." I didn't think that flavor had been popular since the Spanish conquistadors stumbled upon the Caribs, but what do I know? The flavor in question didn't involve humans, fortunately, but chilaquiles.

From the news release:

With ethnic-inspired entrees predicted to be the top breakfast food trend of the year, IHOP, one of America's favorite restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is turning up the heat with Hispanic-flavored dishes headlining its new Double Cheese Scrambles limited time offer.

Inspired by the traditional Mexican dish chilaquiles, IHOP's new Tortilla Scrambles feature fluffy scrambled eggs with crispy yet soft tortilla chips, enchilada sauce with melted jack and cheddar cheeses topped with sour cream and chopped green onions.

Ay, the ethnic-inspired entree. There is the perennial variety of ethnic-inspired cuisine, i.e. Taco Bell. Then there is the limited-time-only variety, which can spell trouble.

In some cases, like the unfortunate pairing of chicken and waffles with the Martin Luther King holiday earlier this year in the UC Irvine cafeteria, the motive for the culinary offense involves misguided good intentions. More often, it's a commercial stab at generating customer traffic and, at times, cross-cultural appeal. Hence items like, say, the Jalapeno Cheddar McChicken sandwich at McDonald's, a calorie bomb I haven't dared try.

I did try the chilaquiles-inspired IHOP dish, and to be fair, while I've had far better chilaquiles, the chilaquiles-related part wasn't awful. The chips could have been slightly crispier, the portion larger (as opposed to just a topping for scrambled eggs), the sauce spicier, but for a dish billed as "Hispanic-flavored," it could have been worse. Certainly the cooks there (and just about everywhere else in town) know a thing or two about chilaquiles.

The odd thing was that it came with pancakes.

Ever have an "ethnic-inspired" culinary experience you can't quite forget? Please share.