The nacho chip has become a staple of Mexican-American or Tex-Mex food. It is usually a triangular section of corn tortilla deep fried in hot oil until it becomes very crisp.
According to legend, the nacho was created in 1943 by chef Ignacio 'Nacho' Anaya. A group of day tourists entered the Victory Club Restaurant at closing time, where 'Nacho' performed his craft. He was forced to create something tasty from what was still available in the restaurant, just some tortillas, cheese, and jalapenos. He cut the tortillas into triangular pieces, fried them in hot oil and covered them with the cheddar cheese and jalapenos. The nacho had been born.
It wasn't success at first bite. The dish remained in relative obscurity, having gained a following in Texas but continuing unknown outside of the region. It wasn't until the 1970s when Howard Cosell was given a plate of the tasty triangles during the taping of a Dallas Cowboys football game that fame came calling. He was impressed by the snack and commented about it during the game and afterward, bringing the dish to the attention of a national audience.
The nacho chip has undergone a radical transformation. No longer content to be a vehicle for just cheese and jalapenos, the crispy triangles find themselves garnished with taco meat, refried beans, olives, diced onions, salsa, and a host of edible additives. They can be as spartan or as plush as the creator chooses, limited only to what will fit on the chip itself.
The tortilla chips themselves have become an incredible success story, being one of the most popular snack foods in many areas of the world. The chips have been treated with spices and flavorings to create a cornucopia of different tastes, all transported to the palate on the humble tortilla chip. One of the first and still most popular flavors is nacho. The taste is reminiscent of the dish created all those decades ago, with the tang of jalapeno and the smoothness of cheese. It is only fitting that 'Nacho' Anaya's name live on as an homage to his creativity.
The word nacho found its first usage in English circa 1949.