Taco: The Mexican… fast food?

Image by Robyn Wright from Pixabay

Who doesn’t know what a taco is? Even if you don’t like Mexican food —which would be an infrequent case, and you might need a little “gastronomic therapy”—, a taco will certainly not be unfamiliar to you.

Known throughout the world, tacos are considered the quintessential Mexican fast food. As such, they have come to occupy the same place in popular culture as hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, pizzas, chicken wings and fried rice.

Much more than fast food

Tacos have become a celebrated fast food thanks to the U.S. versions offered in chain restaurants or shopping malls. Of course, these versions, simpler and more standardized than the originals, can be delicious and satisfy a wide variety of tastes. However, according to purists and connoisseurs of Mexican food, they do not do justice to the authentic typical dishes.

In fact, tacos are dishes that can be very elaborate, to the point of being worthy of a gourmet restaurant. Of course, there are also more accessible recipes, which can be prepared at home to enjoy fresh ingredients and give them a personal touch.

The fillings that tacos can have are extraordinarily varied—beef, pork, chicken, turkey; fish and seafood; different kinds of bean; avocado, tomato, chili, and many other vegetables. There are even delicious tacos stuffed with rice-based filling, as you can see and read about at https://mahatmarice.com/recipes/rice-and-beans-tacos-dorados/.

You can also season your tacos inside and outside with sauces and dressings that are beyond ordinary ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard. Indeed, there are various guacamoles, pico de gallo dressing —onion, tomato and green herbs finely chopped and mixed with a little oil and vinegar—, spicy chili sauces, and so many others.


Tortilla: base ingredient of all tacos


Whichever version you prefer, all kinds of taco have something in common —tortilla (from Spanish tortilla, “small cake”; from torta, meaning “cake” in standard Spanish, but in Mexico “sandwich”). A tortilla is a sort of very thin unleavened bread, between 4 and 12 inches in diameter, cooked on a griddle, made whether of corn (corn starch or ground corn) or wheat flour. Most typical tacos are made with corn tortillas. Those made of wheat flour have other names. Certainly, the nomenclature of Mexican cuisine can seem very complex and do have some names difficult to pronounce for speakers of other languages.

Maybe that’s why tacos have become so popular—because, besides being delicious, their name is very easy to say and remember…? We’re just kidding. Their good taste is the reason.

Grilled, steamed, baked, fried….


Tacos, depending on the recipe, can be toasted on a griddle—these are generally known as tacos de suadero (suadero is a certain beef cut)—, which are usually served with a double tortilla; or they can be steamed —known as tacos de canasta (Sp. canasta, “basket”); or they can be baked with an oil glaze, or even fried. The latter two, especially the fried ones, are known as tacos dorados —“golden tacos”—, and are perhaps the versions that have become most popular.

There are also tacos ahogados—“drowned”, i.e. soaked in sauce. Perhaps, the best-known taco ahogado is enchilada—“accompanied with chili sauce”.

Cheese tacos are called quesadillas, although, paradoxically, there are versions of quesadillas without cheese. Everything is possible in the taco dimension.


Make your own taco placero


Under the general name of taco placero —”taco from the plaza” (Sp. plaza, “square, market ground”) —are known those tacos sold on Mexican streets with ingredients that do not need cooking or much preparation. There are hundreds of varieties, and the limit is only set by your “culinary imagination”.

How about making your own homemade taco placero? You can prepare it with ingredients that you can buy in any supermarket. Just follow these steps:

  1. Take a large corn or wheat tortilla—the kind sold ready to eat—, and put it in a microwavable plate.
  2. Imagine a smaller circle inscribed in the tortilla and, trying not to exceed the edges of that circle, put in some mashed avocado. Spread a thin layer with the help of the convex surface of a spoon.
  3. On top of that layer, put a little bit of crushed chicharrones (“pork rinds or cracklings”), and, if you like, some cooked beans—canned beans will do.
  4. On top of all that, put the salsa of your choice.
  5. Remember not to exceed the limits of the imaginary circle.
  6. Now close the tortilla like this: fold the bottom edge over the mixture, then fold one of the side edges, and finally fold the other side edge. The filling may overflow a little out of the unfolded side. If this happens, don’t worry—just wipe off the overflow.
  7. If the taco is not tightly closed, hold the folded edges with one o more
  8. Carefully place the taco into a microwave oven and heat for thirty seconds to one minute.

Now you’ve got your homemade taco placero. So, bon appétit! —or rather, buen apetito!


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