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Budin: Casserole, Sausage or Dessert?

The best-known budin is budin Azteca, or Aztec casserole. But neither the dish nor the name is Aztec (in Nahuatl, the Aztec language, the consonants b and d don’t even exist). Oddly, budin is probably English.

The word budin is simply the English “pudding,” though there’s a chance the word might have entered Spanish from French. (One problem with the French idea, though, is that budin doesn’t sound much like the French boudin.)

Originally, like the French boudin, a pudding was a sausage. Some people still call blood sausage blood pudding. But in Elizabethan times, the English gradually started replacing the meat in sausage with fat, bread crumbs and dried fruit, and eventually it turned into the English steamed pudding, which is basically flour, eggs and shredded beef suet cooked in boiling water.

As an offshoot of that sort of pudding came bread pudding (bread and eggs baked together) and summer pudding (bread and fruit mashed together). These two dishes started showing up in Spain about 200 years ago, and they’re the only kind of budin most Spanish dictionaries know of.

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However, at some point Mexican cooks started making bread puddings that weren’t sweet. They were filled, lasagna-fashion, with meat, fish or cheese, and in place of bread they used tortillas, rice or even tapioca.

Budin Azteca is not really such a stranger in this country. It’s probably the ancestor of that old American favorite tamale pie.


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