While Mexican food has taken the world by storm there is one variety of this delicious cuisine that has become so famous it has managed to have a day of the week (unofficially) named for it, the taco. Let us temp you with 10 incredible tacos to have in Mexico that will get you ready for the next Taco Tuesday!
The taco in Mexico is a thing of simplistic beauty. No deep fried, crispy shells made from something that may or may not contain corn, but delicious ingredients inside a basic but fresh flour tortilla.
So let’s get this intro to the wonderful world of tacos on the road and see if we can find something to temp everybody.
1 – Tacos al Pastor
In Mexico you will find taquerias everywhere, from food carts to markets, from high end streets to local suburban garages. But there is one type that is guaranteed to catch your eye.
Your first thought may be why there are so many Turkish style Döner Kebab shops in Mexico, and that’s a perfectly reasonable question. The Taco al Pastor is actually the Mexican version of the kebab and was brought over by Lebanese immigrants.
Even though the translation of “al pastor” is actually “shepherd style” in Mexico it is nothing but pork.
The other eye catching feature of the cooking al pastor is the chunk of pineapple also roasting above the meat and dripping juice. History of this is very vague but there is no doubt that the juice of the pineapple does nothing but enhance the flavor of the meat as is cooking.
2 – Baja Fish Tacos
You may think of pork or chicken when somebody says “taco” but there are many coastal areas of Mexico where fish, or seafood, is number one when it comes to choosing what to wrap in a tortilla.
It sounds pretty simple, take a piece of fresh white fish and put it in a corn tortilla, throw in a little cabbage, a drizzle of sour cream, salsa and of course a squeeze of lime juice and there you have the quintessential Baja fish taco.
While this idea undoubtedly dates back many hundreds, and possibly thousands of years, it wasn’t until the mid 1900’s that people started claiming credit for the snack we have today.
Incredibly popular with surfers this is also now the taco of choice throughout California. No surprise there I suppose.
3 – Taco de Chupalines
They may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are deciding on a filling for your taco fix but Chupalines are definitely one to try especially around the Oaxaca region.
So what are Chupalines you ask. Grasshoppers, plain and simple. But it’s amazing what a little bit of deep frying and seasoning with lime and chili will do.
They have the crunch of potato crisps and the protein equivalent of the pork or beef options and once you overcome the natural reluctance to eating insects, you may just get hooked.
Some chupalines, onion and a little salsa verde on a fresh tortilla is a texture and flavor party in your mouth.
4 – Tacos de Guisados
If you want to buy tacos from a street vendor in Mexico City then you will most likely end up with a selection of Tacos de Guisados.
These are generally a corn tortilla filled with one of a selection of braised or slow cooked ingredients or stews.
It may be blood sausage, ground beef, chili rollenos, chicken livers, or any of a hundred varieties. This is the working man’s taco. It is often served with rice and boiled eggs which help keep the stew on the tortilla!
This may be the closest you get to having a home cooked meal in Mexico.
5 – Tacos de Fritanga
Oooh! Fried Tacos, now that sounds good. But hold the phone and let’s not jump to any conclusions.
Most of the fillings for these bad boys will require a cast iron stomach or the adventurous spirit of Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods fame.
The ingredients are slow fried in lard in a huge bowl called a comal de acero and may include such delicacies as pig’s brain or stomach and offal.
If the idea of fried tacos appeal but the suggested fillings are not really grabbing you then you can try to find something more mainstream like brisket or chorizo.
Now that sounds good to me.
6 – Tacos de Canasta or Tacos Sudados
Which roughly translate to “basket tacos” or “sweaty tacos” with both descriptions fitting the brief perfectly.
These tacos derive from the lunches of the working men who would open their lunchbox to find soggy tacos that had sweated and been soaked in the juices of whatever filling had been added before work that morning.
Buying it on the street you will find a taco that contains more sauce than meat but filled with potato, chicharron, refried beans or adobo and then steamed.
You will be served a thin and somewhat soggy taco but packed with flavor. These are usually a morning snack and vendors are likely to run out around lunch time.
7 – Tacos de Longaniza
If you see a taco stand with long sausages hanging on display then you have found the place to try a taco de Longaniza.
These sausages are similar to chorizo but spicier and messier. The sausages are roughly chopped and fried in their own fatty juices before being tossed on to a tortilla.
The hottest tip for eating these is not to wear a white shirt!
8 – Tacos de Asador
If your filling is to be cooked using the simple method of throwing it on a hot surface then you are creating a taco de asador.
It is common to see this method used in the food section of Mexican markets where you can select your favorite cut of meat and have it prepared from scratch.
Choices range from carne asada (beef), pollo (chicken) or chorizo but for those of you who want to try something a bit more “traditional” why not find some nice tripita (grilled tripe)?
Add a little guacamole and dinner is served.
9 – Tacos de Quelites
You may be thinking from the options here that Mexico is all about meat. And while they do love the carnivorous options there is still hope for those of you who choose to forgo all that meaty goodness and search out vegetarian fare.
The de quelites has come to your rescue, and you will be very happy with what it brings to the table.
Take a warm tortilla and spoon on some perfectly spiced, slow cooked vegetables like peppers, chilies, spinach and corn. Just like the locals ate over 1000 years ago.
If it was good enough for them then who are you to complain?
10 – Tacos al “Do It Yourself”
Sure every Mexican has their favorite type of taco for that moment when they need something quick, cheap and delicious but sometimes you just want what you want and it doesn’t appear on the list.
In these cases you will find many of the larger taquerias offering a veritable smorgasbord of DIY delights.
Grab a tortilla or two (or six), select your meat option, decide on a selection of accompanying bits of foodie goodness and throw on some of the colorful and mouthwatering range of salsas available.
Tacos in Mexico are cheap, incredibly delicious and easily found. There is no reason why you shouldn’t try everything you see at least once.
I still can’t believe I ate chupalines but if it never happened I would have regretted it. And they were much better than I expected.
Happy Taco Tuesday!