A Taco is a traditional Mexican dish composed of a corn or wheat tortilla folded around a filling of meat. A taco is generally eaten without utensils and is often accompanied by such condiments as salsa and guacamole, and occasionally sour cream. The taco predates the arrival of Europeans in Mexico. There is evidence that indigenous people living in the area traditionally ate tacos filled with small fish. Today, it’s arguably the most popular Mexican food (along with the burrito) and is enjoyed at meal times every day throughout the country.
What I didn’t learn until I began discovering the street foods of Mexico, is that there are many different types of Taco. I certainly haven’t tried all of them, but here are a few of then main styles that I noticed:
Tacos Al pastor (“shepherd style”) are made of thin pork steaks seasoned with adobo seasoning, then skewered and overlapped on one another on a vertical rotisserie cooked and flame-broiled as it spins. I ate many of these in the Playa del Carmen area, although I don’t know if they were authentic, or merely made for the tourist trade.
Tacos de Asador (“grill” tacos) may be composed of any of the following: carne asada tacos; tacos de tripita, or chorizo asado. Each type is served on two overlapped small tortillas and sometimes garnished with guacamole, salsa, onions, and cilantro. Also prepared on the grill is a sandwiched taco called mulita (“little mule”) made with meat served between two tortillas and garnished with Oaxaca style cheese. These are the kinds of tacos I enjoyed with WAY TOO MUCH guacamole, but then again it is my favourite condiment!
Tacos de Cabeza (“head tacos”), in which there is a flat punctured metal plate from which steam emerges to cook the head of the cow. These include: Cabeza, a serving of the muscles of the head, including the brain and tongue. Tortillas for these tacos are warmed on the same steaming plate for a different consistency. These tacos are typically served in pairs, and also include salsa, onion and cilantro, with occasional use of guacamole.
Tacos de camarones (“shrimp tacos”) originated in Baja California. Grilled or fried shrimp are used, usually with the same accompaniments as fish tacos: lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo, avocado and a sour cream or citrus/mayonnaise sauce, all placed on top of a corn or flour tortilla. These were another kind of taco I enjoyed a lot in the Riviera Maya.
Tacos sudados (“sweaty tacos”) are made by filling soft tortillas with a spicy meat mixture, then placing them in a basket covered with cloth. The covering keeps the tacos warm and traps steam (“sweat”) which softens them.
Foreign Tacos are also a big thing outside of Mexico. In the United states, there are fish tacos (popular in the Philippines, too), and in Korea there are bulgogi tacos, which themselves are available in other countries as well. It seems that Mexican food is extremely popular the world over – and evidently every nation’s cuisine tries their own spin on the famous taco!