They’re flavorful, they’re spicy, they’re versatile, they’re full of everything you love about Mexican food and they fit perfectly in your hand. Mostly, though, tacos are just damn delicious. What more could you ask for out of a food? Plus, any food that has 27 definitions according to the Real Academia Espanola (THE official institution in regulating the Spanish language) has got to be good. I mean, 27 definitions, really?
Tacos have a long, tasty history in Mexico. In fact, the taco pre-dates Europeans in Mexico and there is evidence that the Aztecs traditionally ate tacos filled with little fish. The food made such an impression on early Spanish conquistadors that Bernal Diaz del Castillo documented the first taco feast enjoyed by Europeans. While they would later plunder, steal and kill the creators of the taco, the food made a big impression on the conquistadors. How could it not? They’re the perfectly convenient, versatile and hand-held delicious food.
Traditionally, Mexican tacos consist of a maize (corn) tortilla filled with practically any meat (fish, shellfish, chicken, beef, pork), vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, onions and tomatoes are commonly found) and cheese. They are sometimes garnished with salsa or guacamole and/or cilantro. The greatest thing about tacos? You can eat them with your hands and you can fill them with almost anything. You can also find taco stands all over Mexico that will sell you these perfectly wrapped meals for next to nothing.
Here are some descriptions of popular tacos you might find down in Mexico (No, you won’t find the same things on the menu as you would at your local Taco Bell). Be advised that not all of these fillings will seem either appealing or tasty to you, so unless you want a tongue taco, know what you are ordering when you’re south of the border.
Tacos de Asador: These “grill” tacos are traditionally what you imagine when you think of a taco. They can be composed of a variety of different grilled or spit-fired meats including carne asada (beef), tripita (tripe), chorizo, carnitas (pork) or pollo (chicken). They are served on two overlapping tortillas and are usually garnished with salsa, guacamole, onions and cilantro.
Tacos de Cabeza: Translated literally as “head” tacos, these are tacos served up with meat from the muscles of the head (usually beef), including sesos (brain), cachete (cheeks), trompa (lips) or ojo (eye). Typically served in mix and match pairs, this is a great choice for the adventurous eater, but may not end up on your list of things to try.
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Tacos de Cazo: These tacos are typically fried in lard and filled with beef, carintas, or tripe.
Tacos al Pastor: These tacos originate in Puebla, Mexico and are filled with pork which has been marinated in a variety of spices and then slowly cooked on a vertical rotisserie called a trompo. When cooked, the meat is sliced off the spit (think Greek gyros or Turkish kebabs). Sometimes called Tacos de Trompo, they are widely found throughout Mexico and the United States. The tender meat melts in your mouth and is perfectly spiced, making this one of my personal favorites.
Tacos dorados: These fried tacos are also sometimes called flautas or tacquitos and are made by filling tortillas with pre-cooked shredded chicken, beef or lamb, rolling them into cylinders and deep frying them until crisp. Although not the healthiest of tacos, they are crispy and always oh so delicious.
Tacos de pescado: This delightful little creation which originated in Baja, Mexico is my personal favorite taco. They are filled with either grilled or fried fish, cabbage or lettuce, pico de gallo and topped with a citrus sour cream sauce or coleslaw dressing. Squeeze a little lime on these tacos and wash them down with a Corona (or two) and you’ll be in heaven.
Hungry yet? Because I sure am.
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