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Where Did the Taco Come From?
May 15, 2012 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Where Did the Taco Come From?
posted by Brandon Blatcher (186 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bells.
posted by jonmc at 7:37 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heaven.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:37 PM on May 15, 2012 [22 favorites]


Jeffrey M. Pilcher, professor of history at the University of Minnesota, has traveled around the world eating tacos.

Man, some people really have the best jobs....
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:38 PM on May 15, 2012 [51 favorites]


Actually, I remember a conversation with an LA raised coworker where he admitted that until he came to New York, he didn't know what pizza was. Then he told me that I didn't know what Mexican food was. With the advent of decent Mexican run taco trucks in Queens, I must admit, he was right.
posted by jonmc at 7:39 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not to hijack the thread but anyone else notice Queens is taking over the NYC food world? Best Chinese food? Queens. Best Greek food? Queens. And now, apparently, best tacos.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:40 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's the most ethnically diverse borough, so we have restaurants catering to every group. It's not as fashionable as Manahattan or Brooklyn so the prices are lower.
posted by jonmc at 7:42 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The future of tacos?

The Tacocopter
posted by Blasdelb at 7:45 PM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wait, if I majored in history I could've been a taco historian? Son of a BITCH!
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:49 PM on May 15, 2012 [38 favorites]


TACOS!
posted by livinglearning at 7:50 PM on May 15, 2012


Ok, Freud would wonder about this post being right after the cigar post.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:50 PM on May 15, 2012 [38 favorites]


I could've been a taco historian?

Doctor of Tacology, sir.
posted by jonmc at 7:51 PM on May 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


Best Chinese food? Queens.

That's not taking over, that's always been took over. If you mean Flushing, Queens. It's just taken a while for the ghosts to brave the total predominance of Mandarin.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:52 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


sometimes a taco hovering above a cigar is just a taco hovering above a cigar
posted by nathancaswell at 7:52 PM on May 15, 2012 [15 favorites]


My theory is that it dates from the 18th century and the silver mines in Mexico, because in those mines the word “taco” referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore. These were pieces of paper that they would wrap around gunpowder and insert into the holes they carved in the rock face.

I did not think it was possible for this food to get awesomer.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:54 PM on May 15, 2012 [20 favorites]


Interesting, but there are basic factual errors in this that make me wonder about the rest. For instance:
So mole poblano, which is a turkey in this chili pepper sauce—very spicy
Mole poblano is the name of the sauce, one of a class of thick, complex mexican sauces called moles. Poblano is the particular type, meaning "from Puebla". It's often served with turkey (or chicken), but that's not what the name means. And, it's not really spicy at all, although it's very rich.

And to call it a "chili pepper sauce" is at best misleading. Mole poblano has over 100 ingredients, most of which are not chili peppers. Calling it chocolate based would be more correct, although that's pretty reductionist too.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:57 PM on May 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


Anything that can reduced to chocolate is okay in my book.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:59 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Joakim Ziegler: " Mole poblano is the name of the sauce, one of a class of thick, complex mexican sauces called moles. Poblano is the particular type, meaning "from Puebla". It's often served with turkey (or chicken), but that's not what the name means. And, it's not really spicy at all, although it's very rich."

That is awfully odd, and its not like its a stupid journalist misquote or anything, it looks like these were typed responses.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:00 PM on May 15, 2012


Doctor of Tacology, sir.

I think you mean Taconomy, which is the scientific study and observation of tacos. Tacology, on the other hand, is just fortune-telling based on interpreting the messages on Taco Bell sauce packets.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:02 PM on May 15, 2012 [54 favorites]


These were pieces of paper that they would wrap around gunpowder and insert into the holes they carved in the rock face.


Yes because tacos are little pieces of paper wrapped around meat that causes your colon to explode.
posted by spicynuts at 8:07 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yes because tacos are little pieces of paper wrapped around meat that causes your colon to explode.
posted by spicynuts at 10:07 PM on May 15


Eponysterical!
posted by jquinby at 8:09 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


The mole error is weird but he's right about taquerias and taco trucks. I do think it's kind of weird that a taco professor isn't from Texas or California, but maybe Minnesotans have some objectivity about tacos that those of us who have always known the goodness of them cannot achieve.
posted by immlass at 8:10 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I love about tacos is that really good ones are all about technique in execution. The dish is really simple: tortilla, meat, a little sauce. Not much to it. But the details... A really great hand formed tortilla, grilled just so.. Some great crisped up carnitas, rich with deep orange rind flavour and then fried to a slightly greasy snacky goodness. And then a little fresh bright salsa. When it's great it's really, really great.
posted by Nelson at 8:13 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Where did the taco come from?

It didn't come from anywhere. The taco has always been there. We've just slowly become evolved enough to be worthy of perceiving it.
posted by Mizu at 8:14 PM on May 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


How is Taco formed?
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:14 PM on May 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey! There have been Mexicans in Minnesota since 1886! I grew up eating great Mexican food!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:15 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Spicy" doesn't necessarily mean "hot" or "peppery" - doesn't mole poblano usually have cinnamon and cumin, along with the chocolate and peppers? His point was that turkey in mole included both Old World and New World foods. Those spices came from (or through) Europe, but peppers, chocolate, turkey and corn are all New World foods.
posted by gingerest at 8:17 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


My ancestors called it maize.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:18 PM on May 15, 2012


On the subject of Mexican food, let's consider the tamale for a moment, shall we? Specifically, let's consider this little ditty by Robert Johnson!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:18 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey! There have been Mexicans in Minnesota since 1886! I grew up eating great Mexican food!posted by Bunny Ultramod

So.... in Minnesota, are fish tacos made with lutefisk?
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:18 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


this post is the best post
posted by elizardbits at 8:18 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tacology, on the other hand, is just fortune-telling based on interpreting the messages on Taco Bell sauce packets.

What's your sign? I bet you're a Chalupa. Chalupas are VERY rational and dismissive of the divine.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:21 PM on May 15, 2012 [18 favorites]


So.... in Minnesota, are fish tacos made with lutefisk?

No, but ... put your idea on a stick and sell it at the state fair and you'll make a million.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:21 PM on May 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


tacos are a foundation for faith
posted by idiopath at 8:21 PM on May 15, 2012


Tacos come from delicious.
posted by djseafood at 8:24 PM on May 15, 2012


Legend has it that the taco was stolen from the gods and given to mankind by a celestial chihuahua named Gidget. For her transgression the gods deported Gidget back to Earth where she was cruelly forced to pimp many abominations of the divine foodstuff she loved so much.
posted by nowhere man at 8:25 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Put your idea on a stick and sell it at the state fair" is my new favorite phrase.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:26 PM on May 15, 2012 [36 favorites]


My ancestors called it maize.

My ancestors called it "Thanks! We got here late in the season, and this will have to do. Sorry about the pox."
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:26 PM on May 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Extra beef extenders please!
posted by Brocktoon at 8:27 PM on May 15, 2012


Tacos come from El Huequito on Ayuntamiento in Mexico City, if you know what's good for you.
posted by Fnarf at 8:29 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The question SHOULD be "Where Did Whatever Is IN That Taco Come From?"
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:30 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where Did the Taco Come From?

La Isla Gordita
posted by Sys Rq at 8:36 PM on May 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Tacos are a way of life here. Mmm, now I want some carne asada with some lime, cabbage, and salsa. Or ground beef fried in the shell ( what we call grandma tacos, because all the nanas made those when we were growing up on the southside.) Ok, brb, going to the corner taco cart.
posted by azpenguin at 8:37 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The question is not "Where did the taco come from?" Rather, the question should be, where is the taco going.

The answer is: It's going in my belly just as soon as I can get it there.

Which, living in Japan, could take a very, very long time. Mexican food is not so big here. If you don't mind, could someone please ship a taco truck and the attendant cooks and people that make it work to Chiba Prefecture? Pretty please.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:39 PM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


My dad and I used to have this recurring conversation about how tacos are the ur-food every time we were eating tacos. A starchy flattish thing wrapped around a protein thing.

Sandwiches
Hot dogs
Hamburgers
Gyros
Peking duck in pancakes
Sushi
Naan and various Indian yumminess
Ethiopian cuisine
... and onward. Every culture has a taco. The taco is the distillation of yumminess.

Also, this thread and article are both missing mention of BREAKFAST TACOS, which are pretty much the best thing ever. Come to Austin and have some breakfast tacos, y'all. I like mine with cactus.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:42 PM on May 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh, yeah, the best part of moving to Austin was the breakfast tacos. Though the Don Juan at Juan in a Million was like meeting Jesus himself, breakfast taco-wise.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:47 PM on May 15, 2012


I live about a ten minute walk from Tania's Dos Mundos in Tucson. I work about a five minute walk from there.

It's a wonder I can still walk, actually.

It never ceases to amaze me that I can walk in there and buy a gallon of their amazing salsa. A gallon. This incredible substance, always scarce, always doled out in tablespoonfuls, precious, astonishing... and I can walk in and buy a gallon.

I know how wealthy people feel.

And now I need a birria taco. Or calabacitas... mmm...
posted by MrVisible at 8:49 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ghidorah, my brother lives in Tokyo too (Tokorozawa pride~) and we grew up in Texas. Whenever he comes back to the states it's pretty much: hamburgers, french fries, tacos, tamales, tacos, hamburgers, tacos, beef ribs, tacos.

It's just weird to me because Japanese food has all the available components for an awesome taco, but it just seems like nobody can assemble them in the correct way. I mean, sure, you'd have to go for a slightly different tortilla, and somehow impress upon everyone that no, tomato sauce is not the key to deliciousness, but I really think it could be done! (I'm thinking pork w/ pineapple, little handmade flour tortillas, cilantro & onion salsa...) A bunch of expats need to get organized.
posted by Mizu at 8:57 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Hey! There have been Mexicans in Minnesota since 1886! I grew up eating great Mexican food!"

I'm a native New Mexican but my father was from Wisconsin and his extended family live in Wisconsin and Minnesota. (And I'm 1/4 Norwegian-American.) And, well, I have a very, very great deal of difficulty believing that there's "great" Mexican food in Minnesota. And Mexican-Americans there since the nineteenth century doesn't help — it certainly doesn't guarantee anything in Texas, where Tex-Mex is crap and too many Hispanics don't even pronounce their names properly.

Texas has only managed to have decent Mexican food again recently due to the new wave of immigrants in the last twenty years that have brought authentic Mexican food to Texas and partly displace the horrid and bland Tex-Mex.

I've never eaten more bland food than I did in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Though, to be fair, I was hospitably offered food about thirty times a day, because apparently there's this tradition of meals between meals. And I do love cheese (though it was bland cheese). But I had more than one person express a kind of horrified wonder that I regularly ate "Mexican" food.

Tacos are largely absent from New Mexican food and when they're available at a New Mexican restaurant, they always feel to me to be a kind of anglo encroachment. But New Mexican cuisine has a distinct character and history from all other American "Mexican" food in pretty much exactly the same way and for the same reasons as Puerto Rican cuisine is distinct and not an anglo appropriation of Hispanic culture. Unlike the rest of the Southwest, this area has been extensively colonized since the sixteenth century and New Mexico formed the northernmost Spanish colony. Hispanics were not pushed out by the anglos only to return later, they've always been here and they've always been the majority (more or less). This long history meant that a distinct variety of Mexican cuisine formed here in the same way distinct forms evolved throughout Latin America. It's not an American reinterpretation of a 19th/20th century Mexican cuisine brought to the US by immigrants; it's the product of hundreds of years of evolution in situ, just as is the case in other regions of Latin America. Of course, in the last hundred years there's been considerable anglo influence on it, but it is more unchanged than changed relative to how the cuisines brought by immigrants elsewhere in the Southwest have been appropriated and altered by anglo Americans. This is why New Mexican food is properly referred to as New Mexican food, to make clear both that it is distinct from anglicized Mexican foods found elsewhere in the US and that it is quite distinct from other authentic regional varieties of Mexican food.

And it doesn't really have a relationship to street food and such. Or for that matter, laborers such as miners or industrial workers. It's a rural cuisine, mostly, and there's no emphasis placed upon ease of preparation or convenience and mobility.

All that said, I enjoy tacos and Taco Bell because both seem to me to be like fast-food pizza. It's not really ethnic, it's a particular kind of American food that ultimately derived from ethnic food but has a virtue that has little to do with that original context.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:03 PM on May 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Huh. I had always thought that mole poblano used poblano peppers. It's got that kind of smokiness to them that it made gustatory sense (even though I know there's an assload of other ingredients). Never thought of it as city mole.
posted by klangklangston at 9:04 PM on May 15, 2012


So.... in Minnesota, are fish tacos made with lutefisk?

That's sums up what I always wonder about whenever I hear about ethnic cooking so far from the region of origin: what substitutions were made to adapt to the available local ingredients when the original is in short supply? For example, peppers. Some species of pepper need intense sun and a long growing period, something that's easy to find closer to the equator and maybe not so much in northern latitudes. Nowadays with people of Mexican ancestry distributed across the USA (a ready market) and refrigerated trucking (quick distribution), I'd imagine one can have the same chili pepper experience today in Minnesota as I can in California. But in 1886? Where did the Mexican cooks of Minnesota get their fresh poblanos y jalapenos in the late 1800s? Sure, you can transport them dried or pickled but the flavor is very different than fresh and some recipes demand fresh over preserved. Nopal is probably a better example as it is usually cooked fresh: how does a big cactus survive a northern winter given the resources of the time?

Many decades ago in Mexican restaurant in a southern US state, I was served a chile rellano made with a bell pepper instead of a poblano and ketchup instead of salsa. It was not a happy taste. On the other hand, every time I'm at an Indian restaurant, I wonder what vegetables would be in my curry if I were eating the same dish in Mumbai and by extension, what unknown deliciousness am I missing.
posted by jamaro at 9:04 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


And Mexican-Americans there since the nineteenth century doesn't help — it certainly doesn't guarantee anything in Texas, where Tex-Mex is crap and too many Hispanics don't even pronounce their names properly.

Texas has only managed to have decent Mexican food again recently due to the new wave of immigrants in the last twenty years that have brought authentic Mexican food to Texas and partly displace the horrid and bland Tex-Mex.


Ivan, I really like and respect you as a MeFite, but hush your mouth.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:09 PM on May 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm going let you finish Dr. Taco, but tacos predate the Spanish. Cortés wrote about them in the 16th century. They might not have been called "tacos" in Nahuatl, but they were tacos.

Also, Dr. Taco should look at the influence of the Sonora/SoCal/Arizona tacos dorados (aka rolled tacos, taquitos, flautas (in Texas)) on the OC and LA taquerias that Bell borrowed the fried tortilla shell from.

Foodwise, what I loved about living in Austin was the breakfast taco* and migas. Migas were unique to Austin. Couldn't even find them in San Antonio. People in Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas looked at me like I was loco asking about migas. I did find a guy working the omelet bar at a hotel in Mexico City that made me migas. Turns out he was from Reynosa and the concept of "scraps" wasn't completely foreign to him.

Where I live now, I get giant breakfast burritos. Or machaca or chilaquiles with some fresh tortillas on the side to make tacos. Then later at lunch get some carne asada street tacos. And if I'm lucky there's the guy with the churros cart for desert. It is amazing I don't weigh 1,000 pounds.

*i do sometimes jones for the brisket and egg breakfast taco from Rudy's.
posted by birdherder at 9:12 PM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Many decades ago in Mexican restaurant in a southern US state, I was served a chile rellano made with a bell pepper instead of a poblano and ketchup instead of salsa."

Chile relleno.

But, yeah. Heh. Chile rellenos are a good way to be horrified if you're outside of certain areas. Like, you know, if you're in Texas. A lot of people, though, think that bell peppers are spicy like other chiles. I guess that it must be the case that somehow, for them, they are. I guess.

The funny thing about that, though, is that when Tex-Mex isn't bland, it uses jalapenos, which have more heat than any other character. They're just...hot. Not unusually hot. But they don't have very good flavor (unlike, say, the habanero which, though quite hot, is also unusually flavorful). I've always thought this tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Tex-Mex and the Texan understanding of Mexican food. It's either bland or an ostentatious exercise in machismo.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:17 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Where Did the Taco Come From?

Oddly enough, I asked this very question the other day. It was early in the morning, and I woke up, completely hung over. The others were still asleep. I went into the kitchen, which was a complete mess, and I saw The Taco. God, I was hungry. The Taco sat there and beckoned to me, and I went through the quick mental checklist I use in situations like this. "Am I really hungry?", "Where am I?" "Why are there panties on the refrigerator?" And eventually I got to "where did the taco come from?"

I wasn't that hungry anyway. I went back to bed.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:18 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


birdherder, that's funny, about migas in Austin. When I was growing up in Houston, "migas" was only at home, and it was just stale corn tortillas fried crispy in a little oil and then scrambled with eggs. Austin was the first place I saw it on the menu anywhere, and it had a bunch of other stuff in it and was usually made with chips instead of tortillas.

I think I might feel about tacos/Mexican food/Tex-Mex the way some people feel about religion.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:19 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Every culture has a taco."

* Every culture also has chicken and rice. Arroz con pollo in Mexico, plov in Ukraine, chicken biryani in India, chow fan in China (and its street food descendant chaufa in Peru)(and which Google is telling me has spread to other cultures, like Dominica), etc.

* Minnesota may have had a Mexicano population for a while, but I remind people it's also the market for which "extra mild" salsa was concocted -- 'cause they don't want it too spicy, Marge.

Seattle's getting better, but both for heritage reasons and for local tastes, I call it "Minneapolis-by-the-Sea" for a reason.

* Spiciness of mole poblano... It all depends on who's making it. I've had it very mild, I've had at paint remover heat.
posted by aurelian at 9:20 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I saw this FPP, I thought it was a link to this article about Gustavo Arellano's Taco USA. Honestly, I think he's more informed than the guy in this FPP, but that may just be how they were edited.

Huh. I had always thought that mole poblano used poblano peppers. It's got that kind of smokiness to them that it made gustatory sense (even though I know there's an assload of other ingredients). Never thought of it as city mole.

You haven't eaten mole poblano until you've eaten it in Puebla. "OMG good" is just scratching the surface of how much goodness can fit onto one plate.

Again, it’s the second generation, the children of these Lebanese migrants, who change the recipe a little bit and start using pork instead of lamb. And they start adding a little pineapple. Tacos al pastor, which really doesn’t catch on until the 1960s, then becomes a standard Mexican dish that’s everywhere.

This is the kind of culinary mixing and matching and blending that produces kick-ass food. I had tacos al pastor the other day, and I swear they are heaven on the plate. (But I'd also tend to wonder about the influence of North African cooking in Spain in producing the dish, rather than just the Lebanese immigrating to Mexico. These overlaps are complicated and intersecting, not unidirectional.)
posted by Forktine at 9:21 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Ivan, I really like and respect you as a MeFite, but hush your mouth."

Heh. I lived in Austin for eight years. It didn't change my opinion. And, more to the point, you have Trudy's which, ironically, calls itself Tex-Mex but is actually pleasantly very New Mexican inflected. (Green chile! And chile is spelled properly!)

The only good Mexican I had there, other than Trudy's (which was not that good by NM standards, but by Tex-Mex standards it was fantastic), was at places run by and for immigrants that served honest-to-god northern Mexican food that's nothing like Tex-Mex.

When I moved to Dallas in 1982, someone eagerly took me to the "best Mexican food restaurant in town" because I was New Mexican. And, lo, I discovered where the recipe for Patio Mexican tv dinners came from, apparently.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:25 PM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


"It's not really ethnic, it's a particular kind of American food that ultimately derived from ethnic food but has a virtue that has little to do with that original context."

Yes. This. Bravo.

Chop Suey by Andrew Coe is a nice history of Chinese food's travels and travails through Amurrican culture.
posted by aurelian at 9:25 PM on May 15, 2012


Salsa a la Salsa in downtown Minneapolis is quite tasty. I used to love Tacos Morelos in Richfield, but I think they changed ownership. There's a ton of really good taco places on East Lake street too.

Speaking as somebody who lived, and now lives again, in Los Angeles, I'd put that food up against what I eat here. Although you'd be hard-pressed in Minnesota to get a brain taco.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:28 PM on May 15, 2012


Migas sound a lot like chilaquiles, is it the same? A quick query of my inlaws (1st gen Californian, previous gen from Zacatecas) turned up a blank on migas.
posted by jamaro at 9:29 PM on May 15, 2012


And, lo, I discovered where the recipe for Patio Mexican tv dinners came from, apparently.

Ugh, are you sure they didn't come from El Patio on Guadalupe, where it's 1954 forever? *shudder* I went once as a lark and I believe they served saltines with the salsa.

I grew up in Houston, with a Hispanic dad and grandma and my non-Hispanic but quick-study mom who are all amazing cooks. So I'm spoiled with homemade chiles rellenos and carne guisada and menudo and cochinita pibil. But there are also plenty of good places to go out to eat there, if you know where to look -- I've had lots of blow-your-mind interior Mexican and Tex-Mex in Houston.

I'll almost agree with you on Austin, but there are some tiny hidden gems -- I will admit to going to Tacos Selene just for the absolutely ridiculous green sauce (try it on lengua!). Such amazing flavor, and such heat! Also, Austin's earned carte blanche forever for the breakfast taco. Seriously. I can't believe you can't get breakfast tacos everywhere, all the time.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:32 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


“Here’s what I know,” Mr. Arellano said. “If it’s in a tortilla, it’s Mexican food. If it’s made by a Mexican, it’s Mexican food.”

You know, I've followed Arellano's work ever since I lived in Orange County and enjoyed reading him in the OC Weekly. But if that's your criterion, then almost all restaurant food in America is Mexican food. Tony Bourdain once had a great segment in one of his shows about how so many of his kitchen staff have been Mexicanos, and he knows they've always had his back, so he feels obliged to have theirs - even if that means sending la migra running around in circles from time to time.
posted by aurelian at 9:33 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


The chinese chow fan (or 炒饭) means fried rice. The dish is normally prefixed by whatever it happens to come fried with. It doesn't default to chicken.
posted by flippant at 9:37 PM on May 15, 2012


Migas sound a lot like chilaquiles, is it the same?

Well, my first reaction was not just no, but fuck no. Because the versions of each I've had are totally unmistakable from each other (one salsa-y, the other egg-y, basically).

But the all-knowing Google tells me that there are innumerable versions of each that blend into each other, so you can undoubtedly be served migas that look like chilaquiles, and vice versa.
posted by Forktine at 9:37 PM on May 15, 2012


I've had lots of blow-your-mind interior Mexican and Tex-Mex in Houston.

Seconding this as another native Houstonian living in Austin. Austin gets a lot of cred for breakfast tacos but it's not a great Mexican food town IMO. I can only imagine what it was like in the 80s. I have yet to try Matt's El Rancho but I haven't beat Ninfa's (the one on Navigation, not the chain) for actual Tex-Mex. (Sacrilege: not a big Chuy's fan.)

When I was growing up, it was all "Mexican", but there is a huge difference. There's also a huge difference between Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex, each of which have their merits, but both of which are Americanized.
posted by immlass at 9:38 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stop the fuck'ng presses:

THERE'S A BREAKFAST TACO??
posted by joe lisboa at 9:44 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


(comicbookguy) I've wasted half my life. (/comicbookguy).
posted by joe lisboa at 9:45 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The chinese chow fan (or 炒饭) means fried rice. The dish is normally prefixed by whatever it happens to come fried with. It doesn't default to chicken."

I know that. That would probably be why I didn't say it did default to chicken. However chicken is certainly one of the most common meats served with it (along with pork, and lamb among the Muslim Chinese), and chicken is also a common meat among the various offshoots globally.
posted by aurelian at 9:46 PM on May 15, 2012


Sacrilege: not a big Chuy's fan.

I ate there about three years ago, and that was memorably good eats. If it's gone downhill since then, I'll be sad.

THERE'S A BREAKFAST TACO??

Hint: there are meal-appropriate tacos for every time of day.
posted by Forktine at 9:49 PM on May 15, 2012


Yes, joe lisboa, there are breakfast tacos. Not only can you eat tacos for breakfast, but breakfast tacos make breakfast appropriate for every other meal. Win-win!
posted by Mizu at 9:54 PM on May 15, 2012


My theory is that it dates from the 18th century and the silver mines in Mexico, because in those mines the word “taco” referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore.

I don't buy this theory. Unless he is talking about the word taco and not the taco itself.

They were making maize tortillas in Oaxaca at least 500 years before Christ. There is very solid evidence for that. There is evidence of tortilla making 1,500 years B.C. all over Central America.

Even Bernal Díaz del Castillo describes Hernán Cortés eating something one would definitely recognize as a taco in Coyoacán (you can still eat pretty decent tacos in Coyoacán).

If you are worried about authenticity, the original taco consisted of a handmade corn tortilla with beans and chiles. Three ingredients. That is all. Anything else is an innovation.


THERE'S A BREAKFAST TACO??

There is a taco for every hour of the day. People called my uncle crazy when he had cold re-fried beans and strawberry jam tacos for breakfast. I call him genius.

(I just realized that azuki paste filled mochi is just a sticky sweet bean paste in a starchy envelope that facilitates handling, just like the strawberry jam and refried beans tacos)
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 9:54 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, joe lisboa, there are breakfast tacos.

*cries sweet, sweet taco tears into a tortilla fashioned from regret and great expectations*
posted by joe lisboa at 9:55 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ok. Fuck this project.

I am going to the closest taco truck. I am in San Bruno right now, no Idea how good they are going to be, but there are enough Mexicans here that something must be good. See you later.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 9:57 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I swear to Ayn Rand and/or God I never thought I'd say this, but: can you spot me a taco, bro?
posted by joe lisboa at 9:58 PM on May 15, 2012


Migas sound a lot like chilaquiles, is it the same? A quick query of my inlaws (1st gen Californian, previous gen from Zacatecas) turned up a blank on migas.

Yeah, the scraps of totopos always make people think of chilaquiles. But the chips are not a major feature of migas like they are in chilaquiles. The chips are there to bring texture but it mostly egg based with some vegetables served with or in tortillas (usually flour unless you ask for corn). The scraps are broken chips or sliced and fried corn tortillas. One place made their migas with those narrow strips of tortilla like you get in tortilla soup).

Aside from people along the border getting migas from whatever their abuela had around to eat, in Austin I thought that having migas on the menu was a requirement from the city to get a permit because every place opened for breakfast seemed to have them on the menu even if they weren't TexMex.
posted by birdherder at 10:01 PM on May 15, 2012


now I want a chicken fried rice taco.
posted by ninjew at 10:02 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


How in the hell did I miss this post earlier? Now I'm hungry all over again.

And I really miss the taco truck that came by where I worked in West Oakland. Their tacos al pastor....
posted by rtha at 10:06 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


posted by Brandon Blatcher Where Did the Taco Come From?

Aquí, casi todos los días.
posted by mattdidthat at 10:07 PM on May 15, 2012


The Texas Mexican food stuff is driving me nuts. Trudy's is not good Mexican food. Chuy's is not good Mexican food. Neither is Matt's El Rancho, for that matter. All three of those are places where people go to drink heavily (evening) or celebrate their college graduation with their grandma (afternoon).
As for the Tex-Mex dissing, I've noticed a tendency for people to decide what sort of Mexican food they don't like, then call that Tex-Mex. Anything good is either "real" Mexican, or some Mex fusion that is somehow more ethnically pure.
posted by Gilbert at 10:09 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


"now I want a chicken fried rice taco."

I bet a Peruvian place would do that. Great stuff, Peruvian food.
posted by aurelian at 10:12 PM on May 15, 2012


Adding: no migas outside of Austin? I'm from San Antonio, and can vouch for migas there since at least the late 70s. I can also attest that I have eaten migas in Nuevo Leon on at least two occasions. Neither was in a restaurant, but then again restaurant dining isn't as popular in Mexico as it is here.
posted by Gilbert at 10:13 PM on May 15, 2012


Further on the mole derail, all this talk of mole poblano and no love for the Oaxacan or mole negro?
Quoting from the book of wiki:
The best known of Oaxaca's moles is mole negro, which is darker than mole poblano and just as thick and rich. It also includes chocolate, as well as chili peppers, onions, garlic and more, but what makes it distinct is the addition of a plant called hoja santa. It is the most complex and difficult to make of the sauces.
Protip to the vegetarians out there, if you can find a place that makes their beans and mole negro without lard, try and get some enmoladas. Warning: if it isn't served to you with pickled purple onions atop, it might not be authentic.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 10:23 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


fiercecupcake: "Ivan, I really like and respect you as a MeFite, but hush your mouth."

As another New Mexican I can say I think he's right. Trying to find decent Mexican food in Texas is like trying to find decent Italian food in New York - that is, almost impossible unless you live there and have time to search, owing to the huge number of establishments apparently vying for the title of crappiest reproduction of the food.
posted by koeselitz at 10:26 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just came here to say that New Mexican food is literally the greatest food in the world.

That is all. Thank you and good night.

(Also, I like tacos)
posted by dirigibleman at 10:26 PM on May 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Can we talk about carne adovada yet? Specifically that most wondrous of New Mexican inventions, carne adovada ribs? Eating those things at Sadie's (or Maria's if you're slumming it in Santa Fe) is a freaking religious experience.
posted by koeselitz at 10:29 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, total derail... I got carried away.
posted by koeselitz at 10:30 PM on May 15, 2012


Joe: I just ordered an extra buche con todo in your honor.

I have Mexican friends in Ann Arbor, they make pretty good tacos at home, and they are in the education and music business both in Ann Arbor and Detroit.
There is a non zero chance you may know them.

I don't know why am telling you except to torture you.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 10:30 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


just wanted to drop in, and note that even though I am eating a snack, this thread is making me hongry.

what'm I eatin?

tacos.
posted by mwhybark at 10:31 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


For more on the taco, KCRW's Good Food radio show did an episode on tacos a couple of weeks ago. There is a bit on the history of Taco Bell, an interview with Gustavo Arellano, and some other interesting stuff.
posted by apricot at 10:31 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


hm, I just goofed on a memory of a passage from Zola's Germinal in which, in my memory, Zola describes the lunch of one of his miners. He talks about meat and bread tucked into the shirt of one of these guys.

The miner-food theory of taco, which ascribes dynamite mimesis to the taco, does also describe a portable starch-and-protein totin' device.

Of course, reflecting on this makes me hongry.
posted by mwhybark at 10:37 PM on May 15, 2012


How is it that I live in Los Angeles, order al pastor pretty much anywhere that its on a menu and many places where it is not, and have never gotten pineapple with it.

That sounds pretty delicious. What the hell, past tacos?
posted by flaterik at 10:39 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sioux City, IA: surprisingly great Mexican food all over the place. The places serving lengua tacos may in fact outnumber the Taco Bells and Taco John'ses combined. Surprised the hell out of me when I moved here.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:42 PM on May 15, 2012


Flaterik: When living in Mexico it takes fifteen minutes for a group of friends to agree to go have some tacos al pastor. It then takes two hours of arguing to decide whether to go have al pastor con piña or al pastor con cebolla.

I don't know a single place that does both pineapple and caramelized onions, but that is OK. Pineapple is better.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 10:44 PM on May 15, 2012


The pineapple is pithed on top of the giant skewer of meat and its juices run down onto the meat as it all roasts in the heat. At least at the taquerías i've been to, they don't serve any of the pineapple with the al pastor (unless it's some kind of Cal-Mex place where they stick pineapple in the salsa).
posted by jamaro at 10:50 PM on May 15, 2012


What happens when you mix Ritz with a Taco
posted by not_on_display at 10:54 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh! Yes! I have previously noticed pineapples perched above the pastor. I now feel less deprived.

Thank you again, metafilter.
posted by flaterik at 11:08 PM on May 15, 2012


I've found that al pastor is only really good in taco form (or really, served in a shallow bowl with a bunch of tortillas on the side). I've tried burritos at a bunch of places, and it's just too overwhelming.
posted by LionIndex at 11:09 PM on May 15, 2012


I like the pastor burritos at el cotixan in san diego. Except when one makes the mistake of adding sour cream to a burrito that already comes with guacamole. Between that and the juiciness of the pastor, without rice to soak it up, you end up with tube soup and despair.

Even with the tube soup danger, I find el cot burritos to be a special kind of magic that I can't find in LA. I don't know why; I assume it's the cosmos apologizing to people for the rest of living there.

remember hyperbole is funny you don't have to tell me what you like about san diego and why LA is terrible I'm sure it's enjoyable for many people that aren't me and we all agree that tacos are pretty great
posted by flaterik at 11:17 PM on May 15, 2012


Al pastor with guac? We normally get guac with our carnitas or carne asada burritos, but I've never seen it with al pastor. That might help a bit.

You'll have to be more specific than "El Cotixan" though - that's only giving me slightly better info than saying it has a name that ends in "-berto's". There are at least two in the county, neither of which are in SD proper, and then there's a whole bunch of places named with some other Cotija variant.
posted by LionIndex at 11:28 PM on May 15, 2012


I like this, thank you. The word "taco" is irresistible to me, dating back to my early teens. I enjoy tacos themselves, soft more than crunchy, but the word...ahh, love that fucking word. Taco taco taco.

Anyway my imagination would like to propose to you that "taco" is an onomatopoeia word (holy crap I spelled that right the first time, I think) to the effect of "tah-kow! A little paper bomb thing just blew shit up! Ta-kow!"

We get some flak here in Denver for not being as cool and exotic and keepin' it real as New York and Seattle and LA whereverthefuckelse when it comes to the food scene, but I think our Mexican scene is pretty bad-ass and there's a Colorado influence you'll find that I greatly enjoy (as for tacos you can find the most exotic cheek-meat / offal kind of stuff if you crave it and our "Mexican parts of town" don't particularly intimidate my lily-white self, a topic TFA brushes against slightly) and we also have decent Vietnamese tacos courtesy of a Vietnamese food truck (Manna from Heaven).

Like many "street foods" with humble origins, tacos are just a great way to stretch out a little protein and use up a bunch of random shit taking up space in the fridge.
posted by aydeejones at 11:29 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The possible etymological connection with mining really makes me wonder about the relationship between the esteemed taco and Cornish pasties. Cornish miners working in Mexico introduced the pasty (or paste in Spanish) in 1824, apparently, and you can still even buy them in some parts of central Mexico. If we completely ignore the evidence presented above for tacos having existed long before the arrival of the Cornish, though, I wonder whether in some sense the taco could in fact be some sort of Cornish pasty gone native, though it doesn't really seem to be able to fulfill the same purpose of a pasty (i.e., of staying intact and warm through a journey into the mines), other than deliciousness . One must concede, however, a superficial similarity between the two in form. Okay, so it's completely unlikely that there's a relationship, but no matter: TEACH THE CONTROVERSY.
posted by bunyip at 11:53 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Which, living in Japan, could take a very, very long time. Mexican food is not so big here.

I share your pain, Ghiadora. You can get halfway decent tacos in Tokyo, but there are only a handful of places, and the serving size is pretty damn small. So to get halfway full would cost you a bit of yen. I found a Mexican tabehoudai (all you can eat) a while ago, I think in Kichijoji. The food was decent, but I ended up being that annoying gaijin who kept asking for more salsa, more tortillas, more of everything. Guacamole? Sour cream? Didn't have it. My waitress had never heard of guacamole. Cheese was in short supply as well.

Apparently there was a Taco Bell in Tokyo about ten years ago--just one. It was open for six months or so and closed. I guess they were testing the waters and didn't like what they found.
posted by zardoz at 12:16 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


All I know is if your "taco" has cheese on it, somebody did it wrong.

(Also, if I were Mexican, I'd get fired from every restaurant I worked at because I wouldn't be able to resist saying to any gringo who ordered a taco, "SPEAK ENGLISH! THIS IS AMERICA!")
posted by straight at 12:27 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


You'll have to be more specific than "El Cotixan" though

Oh yeah... the one on Genesee by the circle K.

Something about their tortillas - flour, but with oomph - and hot sauce - not very spicy but just the right flavor - makes me incredibly happy.

I was going on and on about them to my girlfriend last year, and I got sort of polite nods, and then we drove through SD on the way to something in Mexico, and stopped for burritos. It was her asking if we could stop there on the way back.

Goddammit now I want a burrito AND a taco.
posted by flaterik at 12:32 AM on May 16, 2012


Joe Lisboa: As a Southwesterner who lived in Ann Arbor for years, I have a gift for you.

No breakfast tacos, alas.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:42 AM on May 16, 2012


The best tacos I ever had were in Cuautla in Mexico, in the shadow of Popocateptl. I was 15 years old on a language class exchage program. Servers cut the seasoned roasted meat off a vertical roasting spit with a big knife into the little soft tortillas and brought baskets filled with them to the table with whole roasted little onions on the side. No sauce, no cheese, no lettuce. There were working guys and old men in white serapes at the little tables in the shabby dark room and I can still remember the wonderful taste of those tacos, and I want some now.

TL,DR: I've eaten authentic tacos and you have not.
posted by longsleeves at 12:43 AM on May 16, 2012


Well maybe you have.
posted by longsleeves at 12:48 AM on May 16, 2012


I'm from Texas (the panhandle, if that matters), and I'm not going to argue the merits of Tex-Mex or Mexican food in Texas in general. Ivan's right in that much of it is bland and repetitive, put together from a SysCo order sheet and slopped onto a hot plate with a tuft of shredded lettuce and a dollop of despair. But I'll argue that certain dishes at certain places are little baskets of heaven. Like the place in my hometown that served huevos rancheros with a green chile salsa that makes me cry just remembering it. They made the salsa fresh every morning, and it was a crapshoot whether it would singe your nosehair (excellent) or nuke you from orbit (even better).

Since moving to Oregon, I've found a lot of mediocre, half-assed Mexican food that sort of scratches the itch (just like home!). I've also found, again, a few places that just do it right. Rigoberto's (aka Rivas, and now something else, I think) makes tacos like nothing I've ever had. Shredded beef fried in the hand-made shell, fish tacos in floppy corn tortillas with a squeeze of lime over fresh pico de gallo. $2 each. $2! Whenever I tell my students how much I love these tacos, I always get "omg, I got food poisoning there!" and "my boyfriend almost died after eating there." They're just not doing it right. If the taco kills you, you weren't worthy of it.

La Rockita makes a breakfast burrito with spicy pork that's exactly the same size as my stomach. Sweet, sweet misery.

I'm still searching for a good diner burger (the kind where they brush both sides of the bun with melted butter before dropping it on the grill just before the patties are done so the yellow paper they wrap it in turns clear from the grease by the time you get it home) and BBQ that's not dependent on the sauce for its flavor. I'm not holding my breath.
posted by malthusan at 12:51 AM on May 16, 2012


The key to a great taco is fresh tortillas. In fact, they should still be warm and soft, having just popped out of the tortilla machine (hand-made is good too)

By the next day, my grandmother in Mexico would feed all the remaining tortillas to the pigs.
posted by vacapinta at 12:58 AM on May 16, 2012


Zardoz, I've been to a good number of restaurants here, and the only one that was any good was between Harajuku and Shinjuku, on Meiji-dori, just start walking from Harajuku, head north. There's a big hill, and the restaurant is built into the hill on the left. It looks like any other building on the outside, then on the inside, adobe? Southwestern color scheme that's not atrocious? Good food. Then again, for two people, with drinks, it was nearly 9,000 yen ($100 for those keeping score back home).

The quality of Mexican food in Japan is one of the reasons I started learning how to cook. Many of the Japanese imitations of foreign food are pretty awful (unless you're in a more high end place, then it can be amazing), especially food that's not so popular (Indian food, though, there is plenty of good Indian. Spanish/tapas is popping up everywhere, and there's Thai around). I figured, why pay for something I can make better on my own, and so I started in on it. As far as I know* I make the best carnitas in Chiba, and my tacos are pretty damn good. I'd still kill for a food truck that sold something other than kebabs, as delicious as they are.

I'm sure to be struck by lightning for that, I know it. It's just, Chiba? Foreign food? A vast land of disappointment.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:09 AM on May 16, 2012


A friend of mine has T A C O T I M E tattooed across his fingers and is frequently treated to free tacos on the strength of it.

Damn, it's 3:20 in the morning and I'm fantasizing about running down to the Magnolia Cafe for some migas.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:23 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


breakfast tacos

Ffffsaw...

The Real Breakfast Taco:
One Torillta slathered in Peanut Butter, sprinkled with Frosted Flakes, and again slathered in Grape Jelly, then folded up in the usual manner. Drink milk liberally during consumption as this is the only way to de-adhere each bite from the roof of your mouth.
posted by Chekhovian at 1:55 AM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, the new taco bell "Dorito Taco Shell" may represent the singular high point of american civilization.
posted by Chekhovian at 1:56 AM on May 16, 2012


posted by Ayn Rand and God I am going to the closest taco truck. I am in San Bruno right now, no Idea how good they are going to be, but there are enough Mexicans here that something must be good.

It's a bit of a hike from San Bruno, but El Metate in Belmont is awesome.
posted by mattdidthat at 1:58 AM on May 16, 2012


This is one of my favorite trivia questions. Who was the founder of Taco Bell?

Most people are like, "how the fuck should I know?" But I tell them that the answer lies within, and if they meditate on the question, they may find the answer. Sometimes they argue that meditation is more of an Eastern thing, and the question involved Mexican food. I point out that Taco Bell is not really Mexican food, and sometimes this produces the strike of enlightenment all true practitioners of Zen hope for, but other times people just complain that I'm asking pointless questions. But it's not pointless, so I'll pose it again to you.

Who was the founder of Taco Bell? The answer is below,




ןןǝq uǝןb
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:14 AM on May 16, 2012


Doctor of Tacology, sir.

P.Eng of Burrito Construction.
posted by thewalrus at 2:28 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can anyone comment on how good Rick Bayless's books are in terms of representing good Mexican cooking? I've got a copy of "Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen" that a relative bought me last year, and once I've tracked down the necessary ingredients (no easy task in the middle of the UK) I plan to try a few of his recipes. Am I going to be disappointed?
posted by pipeski at 3:06 AM on May 16, 2012


There's some audio of the West Coast band The Flying Burrito Brothers playing in NYC in 1970 on youtube. At one point during the show one of the band members of the band asks the audience if they know what is a "burrito". Judging by the response, hardly anyone knew.
posted by Mister Bijou at 3:06 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Help-me-please-I-am-in-Holland-and-dear-god-what-is-this-thing-they-call-a-taco?
posted by digitalprimate at 3:08 AM on May 16, 2012


Pipeski, I've got Bayless' Authentic Mexican, and I haven't had a recipe come out less than awesome. Let me know how your book is, I might pick it up sometime.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:10 AM on May 16, 2012


I'm no taco historian nor have I read this guy's book but it seems to me that the prevailing theory of the origin of the word 'taco' is that it came from the Nahuatl.

Bernardino de Sahagun describes the Nahuatl words for the types of tortillas as ueitlaxcalli, quauhtaqualli, tlaxcalpocholli and taqualli.

I know that provenance is not proven by similarity but the notion that 'taco' comes from 'taqualli' sounds as good as anything else.

Also everyone mentions that tacos are in Bernal Diaz de Castillo's books (Diaz del Castillo was one of Cortez's men) but nobody quotes any passage. I took a look through the Spanish text and I did find a mention of tortillas served at the table but nothing that sounds like a taco.
posted by vacapinta at 3:29 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hate this thread right now, because I am hungry and it's 6:40 in the morning. Good thing there's readily available tacos within walking distance of where I'm sitting right now. Perfect tacos, too, as good as can be found anywhere on earth. I love this part of town.
posted by item at 4:44 AM on May 16, 2012


Also, the new taco bell "Dorito Taco Shell" may represent the singular high point of american civilization.

Until the Cool Ranch Dorito shells hit this fall.
posted by radwolf76 at 4:44 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I moved to Dallas in 1982, someone eagerly took me to the "best Mexican food restaurant in town" because I was New Mexican. And, lo, I discovered where the recipe for Patio Mexican tv dinners came from, apparently.

These awesome tacos I spoke of a few comments up are in Dallas, in Oak Cliff, and they've been available here for generations. Sounds like your friends here might've been morons.
posted by item at 4:52 AM on May 16, 2012


If this thread were any more awesome the FAA* would shut it down. So I'll just post something boring here instead.


*Federal Awesome Agency.
posted by eriko at 5:28 AM on May 16, 2012


your friends here might've been morons.

I think "Mexican food challenged" is the preferred term these days...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:38 AM on May 16, 2012


Possibly the greatest thing I've ever tasted was a fried chicken taco from Torchy's in Austin, TX. It was amazing enough to make me consider not getting on the plane and going home. Two things that should not go together and yet... perfect for each other.

Also incongruously, the best burritos I ever had were at Mama's Tacos in Reykjavík (which has since closed - sadly). You wouldn't think "Iceland" and "burritos," but there it was. A Mexican man moved to Iceland for other reasons and realized there were no good taco stands (or really ANY taco stands) so he quite literally imported his mama to make tacos. And it was glorious.

(Also also, this one time I was in Lisbon and my husband asked me what I wanted to eat and I thought "I could really go for a burrito." And then I thought about it and realized how close to Mexico I WASN'T at that moment and cried a little inside realizing that such a thing was impossible. And lo, I do not know of any Mexican establishments in Lisbon - which is their misfortune. Except that Portuguese food is totally amazing, but one can only eat chicken piri-piri so many times.)

(Also also also, I live in New England and yearn to be somewhere with better tacos. Though Anna's Taqueria in Boston is the second best burrito I've ever had [and is recommended by friends who have lived in New Mexico, which is from my understanding the Greatest Food State in the Universe] and redeems quite a lot of otherwise mediocre food in Boston. Which is to say, most of it. What is it with Boston and food that should be really good but just... isn't?)
posted by sonika at 5:41 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Also, if I were Mexican, I'd get fired from every restaurant I worked at because I wouldn't be able to resist saying to any gringo who ordered a taco, "SPEAK ENGLISH! THIS IS AMERICA!")

There are two possible indicators of a particular type of taqueria quality: At some places you need to order in Spanish because otherwise you get no food. And at some other places, you try ordering in Spanish and the guy gets mad and yells at you because fuck you, he grew up here and speaks perfect English, what the fuck kind of stereotype is making you speak in bad Spanish to him, asshole? In both cases, you get great food once you navigate the linguistic hurdles.

Can anyone comment on how good Rick Bayless's books are in terms of representing good Mexican cooking? I've got a copy of "Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen" that a relative bought me last year, and once I've tracked down the necessary ingredients (no easy task in the middle of the UK) I plan to try a few of his recipes. Am I going to be disappointed?

I have one of his books. The recipes are good, but they are definitely fussy and involved. It's complex, special-occasion cooking, not regular cooking. The link I gave above to the interview with Arellano has a funny critique of the Bayless style; personally, I think it has a place but represents just a small fraction of good, tasty, and yes, totally authentic Mexican cooking.
posted by Forktine at 5:57 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jeffrey M. Pilcher, professor of history at the University of Minnesota, has traveled around the world eating tacos.

had tacos in Miami, had tacos in Bombay
over in Saint Petersburg, and down in San Jose
ate 'em up in Reykjavík, and in Toledo, too
but never had a taco babe, that tastes as good as you

I've munched 'em in Madrid and Mons, Accra and Amsterdam
Havana, Warsaw, New Orleans, and down in Birmingham
Lagos, Philly, Dublin, Rome, and hey! Kalamazoo!
but never had a taco babe, that tastes as good as you

I've swallowed 'em in Singapore, Seville and Santiago
I've chewed in Chula Vista, Corpus Christi and Chicago
tasty tacos in Taipei, Tangiers and Taos too
but never had a taco babe, that tastes as good as you
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:08 AM on May 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


can you spot me a taco, bro?

Con mucho gusto pagaría martes para un taco en la actualidad.
posted by zamboni at 6:30 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Weren't they invented by John?

(I only saw one reference to Taco John's above, but at the risk of making this a fast-food Americanized-taco war, I'mma let you finish, but Taco John's is by far the best fast food taco around, and those of you not in the northern-western-midwest-central states are missing out, seriously. The chicken meat-and-potato burritos are heavenly.)
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:37 AM on May 16, 2012


Mashed Potato Tacos.
Deep fried.
With a stinky queso fresco grated on top.
There, I said it.

I used to get them in San Pedro (the one near LA harbor) at a place that called them "tacos d'oro" and doesn't seem to have an internet presence, maybe it doesn't even exist anymore, and haven't had them since, but like anything else, there are now recipes online.

Who invented those, I'd like to know.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 6:37 AM on May 16, 2012


La Isla Gordita

You guys crack me up. I think I died a little.
posted by Tarumba at 6:38 AM on May 16, 2012


Mashed Potato Tacos.
Deep fried.
With a stinky queso fresco grated on top.


Those are pretty standard in Mexico. Or at least I've had them all over. Known as 'Tacos Dorados de Papa' or with 'Pure de Papa' Youtube link.
posted by vacapinta at 7:08 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I ate there about three years ago, and that was memorably good eats. If it's gone downhill since then, I'll be sad.

I just don't like Chuy's. They're actually more authentically Mexican in places, e.g., the mole for the cheese enchiladas is bitter, but sometimes the place reads like a parody of 50s-style Tex-Mex in the menu as well as the decor. Also their fish/shrimp tacos come in miles behind Berryhill and the Berryhill we have in Austin isn't even very good.

(I don't know why people confuse Tex-Mex with actual Mexican. Love it or hate it, old-school Tex-Mex is an actual style, not just "Mexican I don't like". And decent modern Tex-Mex is almost all fusion of that style with something else.)

fried chicken taco from Torchy's in Austin, TX.

Trailer Park--TRASHY. Them's good eatin'! Not "authentic" to anything but themselves, but delicious nonetheless. Also, the queso used on them has some good green chiles in them. Delicious.

The worst "Mexican" food I've ever had was in London in the late 70s or early 80s, travelling with my parents. A flat, stale Old El Paso-style shell, mozzarella for the cheese, and a black olive on each carefully separated quarter of the shell. To quote my late father, "this isn't a nacho, this is a goddamn pizza!"

Which brings me back to one of the really funny things about the article to me was the reliance on the fried corn shell, which is kind of an abomination IMO. Corn tortillas don't last that well in fried shape, as anyone who's eaten one of those Old El Paso dinner boxes from the grocery store can tell you. Flour tortillas may be more gringo but unless the tortillas are perfectly fresh--and they're best when they're right out of the tortilla machine--the flour ones are better than the corn models pretty quickly.
posted by immlass at 7:12 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Spanish conquistadors looked down on Native foods and tried to bring European foods with them. One of the reasons for this was religion. Corn was associated with Native deities, and wheat was the grain used for the holy Eucharist.

HISTORY FACT TIME!

The other staple grains of Pre-Colombian Mexico were chia and amaranth, the latter of which was actually banned under Spanish Colonial rule. Eating amaranth cakes made with honey and human blood and shaped to portray the gods was a fairly common aspect of several Aztec holidays. Naturally the Spanish saw this ritual consumption of the blood and body of the gods as barbaric and forced the native to take Communion instead.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:22 AM on May 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


Zardoz, Ghidorah, this place is pretty good, for Japan. The chef takes regular visits to Mexico for study, apparently makes the mole himself, and has published a few Mexican cookbooks, for starters. It's in Daikanyama, not too far from the Tokyu Toyoko-sen Daikanyama station (and happily, quite close to my office, which is the only reason I discovered it).

Also, I make halfway decent guacamole. Ghidorah, what about this Chiba barbecue you were proposing last time we met...?
posted by dubitable at 7:24 AM on May 16, 2012


This is more of an interesting etymology question than that of food origin. One of the overwhelming themes of Food in History (and any other food history book/article I've read) is that each civilization has its own staple grain. Combine that with whatever plants and meats are convenient, and you have a portable foodstuff/stew/porridge.

This only becomes a unique "dish" when you have enough food choice to name it a "taco" and not "this is all the food we can grow so you better eat it every day so you don't starve."
posted by Turkey Glue at 7:25 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, Minnesota sits at the north end of I-35 which runs to San Antonio & beyond to the border. It's not surprise that the taco train had made it's stop here. In fact: a recent explosion of food trucks has blessed out fair city with the relaxation of some silly old laws.
The tacos at Mercado Central referenced in the article are a delight as are the offerings of many other Mexican owned & operated restaurants here.

We like our food, maybe with some milder salsa for the Lutherans out there, but there's no shortage of fine inexpensive ethnic eating.
posted by djseafood at 7:27 AM on May 16, 2012


Where did the Mexican cooks of Minnesota get their fresh poblanos y jalapenos in the late 1800s?

I know at least one person who has grown jalapenos here.
posted by hoyland at 7:34 AM on May 16, 2012


I think Firesign Theatre determined tacos to have been invented in (Temporarily) Humboldt County:

CONQUISTADOR: What the Father means is - what is the Cross made of? Gold! Have you got any?
INDIAN: No.
CONQUISTADOR: What about the Seven Cities of Gold? Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas?
SECOND INDIAN: This is Gold.
CONQUISTADOR: What's that?
INDIAN: Corn.
SPANISH SOLDIER: Corn! Now we can make tortillas!
ANOTHER SPANISH SOLDIER: We been waiting for this for hundreds of years!
THIRD SPANISH SOLDIER: I just invented tacos!
posted by tommasz at 7:36 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stop bagging on Minnesota Mexican food. I grew up there, and I find Mexican food in my current home state of Rhode Island to be equally lame. (Though the recent rise of food trucks has turned this around smartly.) At least lutefisk is coated in caustic lime, Rhode Island has "clam cakes" which are made without any clams, and "Johnny cakes" which are made without any Johhny.

And to bolster my pro-MN-Mexicanness argument, my high school classmate Juan Gorman did a presentation on his ethnic roots that simply lifted off the top of my head: Ireland! Yep, "Gorman" is a new form of the older surname "O'Gorman," which was carried to Mexico by Irish soldiers. Or something. Anyway, even if it was B.S., just thinking about it made me be a lot more open to new ideas. Thanks, Juan!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:36 AM on May 16, 2012


Love it or hate it, old-school Tex-Mex is an actual style

Exactly. Folks need to understand the distinction between the Americanized Mexican food that includes Taco Bell, and Tex-Mex, which is the simple food of a Tejano culture in South Texas that predates the formation of Mexico.
posted by IanMorr at 7:37 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I find Mexican food in my current home state of Rhode Island to be equally lame. (Though the recent rise of food trucks has turned this around smartly.)

Taqueria Pacifica in downtown PVD used to be pretty good, but it closed. They also used to be a truck and then got an actual storefront and now... maybe they're back to being a truck? Dunno.

I used to like Cilantro's burritos, but I'm realizing now that it was a sort of burrito Stockholm Syndrome wherein I liked them because they were there. I went back to PVD a few months ago and was so excited to go to Cilantro and... no... I make better burritos at home.

But then, PVD has the best All Other Foods ever, so I guess it evens out. I miss the food in that city so damn much. If you want meat wrapped in a starchy thing, go to East Side Pockets. Amazing gyros.
posted by sonika at 7:45 AM on May 16, 2012


Corn tortillas don't last that well in fried shape, as anyone who's eaten one of those Old El Paso dinner boxes from the grocery store can tell you.

Well that's where migas comes in--if you don't end up eating your corn tortillas fresh, put some vegetable oil or bacon fat or something greasy in a pan, heat it up, and throw those nasty stale-ass corn tortillas (or just stale nacho/tortilla chips or Frito's, it's the same thing) in until they're sort of on the verge of becoming crispy, but still a little chewy/soggy, drain any extra grease/fat (or don't), throw in a few eggs, scramble that shit up and put that inside your fresh tortilla (corn or flour, whatever). Or serve it on a plate with some ranchero sauce.

Ta-da!
posted by resurrexit at 7:51 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, Minnesota sits at the north end of I-35 which runs to San Antonio & beyond to the border. It's not surprise that the taco train had made it's stop here.

Mexican migrant workers did a lot of farming work in Minnesota, particularly in the western sugarbeet fields, from the 1950s to the 1980s. Modern farming techniques and rising salaries have reduced the need for farm labor, but there used to be more authentic Mexican restaurants up here than you'd think. Those restaurants have largely been replaced by generic chains, but they're still around, run by Mexican families serving authentic recipes.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:53 AM on May 16, 2012


Hint: there are meal-appropriate tacos for every time of day.

Don't forget the Choco Taco

And I'll second (third?) a strong preference for Taco John's. Although it's not as good as my childhood memory, still much better than Taco Bell.
posted by achrise at 7:56 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know at least one person who has grown jalapenos [in Minnesota]

Do you get enough degree days to get any heat? We've tried at 45°N and while we get ripe red peppers, they are sweet with not a hint of hot. Asking around, this seems to be a common problem in this area---they grow well but without the spice. You need heat to get heat, it seems.
posted by bonehead at 8:08 AM on May 16, 2012


We've tried at 45°N and while we get ripe red peppers, they are sweet with not a hint of hot.

The heat goes down once they turn red. Eat 'em when they're green. They still might not be as potent as peppers grown in more southerly latitudes, but you don't let them get ripe.
posted by LionIndex at 8:18 AM on May 16, 2012


In case anyone needs some frantic music to help you eat your tacos faster:
Taco taco tacos by Peelander-Z

I live in Austin and have lived in New Mexico.
Chuys, Matt's and Trudy's are there for the drinking.
There are definitely good places In Austin to eat Mexican and, even,Tex-Mex. The problem is that you need to spend some time looking or know someone who has. I short trip to Austin will inevitably lead to hitting the too obvious places and the too obvious places suck.

That being said, New Mexico has better food than all y'all.
Now I shall go pine for those days of yore when every meal was covered in chile.
posted by Seamus at 8:31 AM on May 16, 2012


That's sums up what I always wonder about whenever I hear about ethnic cooking so far from the region of origin: what substitutions were made to adapt to the available local ingredients when the original is in short supply?

I had a sample of what happens in Ireland once - or, rather, what happens when an Irish kebab fast-food franchise attempts to do the taco.

Pita bread instead of the tortilla.
Unidentifiable sauce/spice for the meat.
Raw shredded carrots and cabbage in place of the lettuce.
No guac. No sour cream. No cheese.

While realistically I know that the stint of gastrointestinal distress I suffered for the next several hours was the result of a foodborne pathogen, there is a part of me that is convinced that it was my palate staging a revolt because "fuck you, that was not a taco."


Fortunately I've made up for it - a former roommate was part Mexican, and one day she discovered this taco truck that just randomly set up camp up in the ass-of-nowhere parts of the Upper East Side twice a month, and she rounded us all up for an expedition one night.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:32 AM on May 16, 2012


Who was the founder of Taco Bell?

This guy, right?
i mean it works on so many levels...
posted by entropicamericana at 8:36 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mexican food in Minnesota story time:

I was a high school kid from far northern MN. If there was good Mexican food near me I didn't know about it. I think I had dined at a Chi-Chi's once but I knew nothing of the real deal. Heck, I had eschewed the optional Spanish language courses for German simply because I had a crush on the teacher.

I was a smart kid, tested well, and had applied at several big name East Coast schools and had made it to the "personal interview" round for one of them. They asked if I could drive down to Duluth to meet with an alum over lunch. Not a problem, I hopped in my rusty Plymouth Horizon and drove down to Duluth to meet with the owner of a local architectural firm. It was in the heart of downtown and he suggested we lunch at this hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant a block over.

So we walk over, get a table, and the menus are delivered. At this point I suddenly realize that I know nothing, nothing about Mexican food. The two-page menu was completely impenetrable - I didn't know the difference between any of the entrees, the ingredients were foreign, I had no idea how to judge what I liked or even wanted. My high school know-it-all ego and fear of looking like a kid from Podunk prevented me from admitting as much, so when the waitress came to take the order I stalled and then said "I'll have the same" after my interviewer ordered.

The interview was going well even though I remember being a bundle of nerves.

Then the food arrived.

I took the first bite and immediately realized I had made a huge mistake. For a kid raised on ketchup and yellow mustard this might as well have been a dish forged in the fires of Hell. The interview pressure plus the spicy heat turned my light perspiration into rivulets of sweat. I guzzled water only to discover that it had no effect. Of course I tried to maintain a veneer of composure but the fact that I was dripping sweat onto the table didn't help. Like Homer Simpson eating the Guatemalan Insanity Peppers of Quetzalacatenango space and time warped - the plate was suddenly massive, containing an impossible amount of food to eat. Sweat ran into my eyes but I was afraid to wipe it away fearing of transferring this hellfire to my eyeballs. The Minnesota Nice I was raised with demanded I finish the plate of food that had been purchased for me. I tried to match my host bite for bite, the entire time trying to maintain this stupid polite fiction that 'No, everything is great, thanks!"

I don't remember how it ended. I'm sure I looked ludicrous, some poor HS student trying to talk about study habits and life goals while blinking away rivers of sweat.

I wound up choosing a smaller, more local school due to financial reasons. Or shame, I dunno, it's been a long time.
posted by unixrat at 8:40 AM on May 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


The best taco I have ever had was on the side of the 57 in Matehuala where is narrows down to one lane in either direction (or did then).

They had large wooden tubs in which they roasted beef layered with maguey.
The juices they turned into consomme and served before the tacos with garbanzos.
The tacos were small corn tortillas with super moist shredded beef, served with onion and cilantro and salsa.

I dream of that meal to this day.
posted by Seamus at 8:40 AM on May 16, 2012


I am vegetarian and my tacos are always made with soft flour tortillas, fresh refried beans, lettuce and white cabbage, white sauce, a little red rice, salsa, cheese and guacamole. Mmmm.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:00 AM on May 16, 2012


Re: tortillas.

Flour or corn, make sure you're heating them on a stove until they puff up/steam a bit and maybe even get a few small spots of char. If you're eating them out of the bag, you're living a lie. As I was, for years, until I heard this trick and was gobsmacked by how good it made the tortillas. I stood over the stove just the other day, heating flour tortillas one at a time in a dry pan, then filling them with rice and leftover black beans. No other condiments were needed. They were fantastic.
posted by jquinby at 9:16 AM on May 16, 2012


For what it's worth, Minnesota sits at the north end of I-35

That makes a lot of sense. I know there's a lot of internal (to the US) migration and that Mexican food of all stripes is more broadly available than it used to be, but I couldn't figure out what the pattern was for Minnesota.
posted by immlass at 9:19 AM on May 16, 2012


If you have a gas stove, you can heat old corn tortillas directly in the flame, moving them nonstop with tongs so they don't scorch. They get all moist and delicious!
posted by moonmilk at 9:23 AM on May 16, 2012


The upper midwest has long been a stage in the yearly migrant stream, going back generations now. There should be no surprise at finding good food in odd corners of the country, when there has been significant immigration since before the 1930s.
posted by Forktine at 9:43 AM on May 16, 2012


As good as Mexican food in MN can be, if you're in Minneapolis, hit up Maria's Cafe for Venezuelan corn pancakes (cachapas venezolanas) before anything else. NOM.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:46 AM on May 16, 2012


Maria's is so tasty
posted by djseafood at 10:04 AM on May 16, 2012


If you have a gas stove, you can heat old corn tortillas directly in the flame, moving them nonstop with tongs so they don't scorch.

Tongs? How do you know when they're hot then? You use your fingers. And you have a stack of two or three of them. You put it on the burner for a moment, flip the stack, flip the top one or two, flip the stack, etc. Never let them stay still for too long, and have a cloth ready to receive. They are done when you are muttering "hotsy totsy" to yourself. If you're yelling it, they're probably scorched.
posted by darksasami at 10:14 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was at SXSW this year I ate tacos for every.single.meal. the entire time I was there, up to and including breakfast tacos at the Taco Cabana near the San Antonio airport.

IT WAS THE BEST WEEK OF MY ENTIRE LIFE.

p.s. deep fried avocado tacos at Torchy's. Oh god, oh god, oh gooooooood.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:32 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mashed Potato Tacos.
Deep fried.
With a stinky queso fresco grated on top.
There, I said it.


Melody’s in Reseda has them, although Las Fuentes doesn’t, at least the last time I was there.
posted by bongo_x at 11:08 AM on May 16, 2012


Luckily things have changed, when I was younger I used to listen in horror to stories of people not being able to get Mexican food on the East coast. Someone once told me they asked for tortillas in a grocery store and the manager didn’t know what they were talking about. Dark ages indeed.

I was fearful of moving to Atlanta, but it ends up having some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had.

And after I get back from AZ, now everyone wants to talk about their favorite taco joints there.
posted by bongo_x at 11:12 AM on May 16, 2012


In honor of this thread, I ate lunch at a taco truck today. So, so good.
posted by Forktine at 1:02 PM on May 16, 2012


Also incongruously, the best burritos I ever had were at Mama's Tacos in Reykjavík

Heh. The worst Mexican food I ever had was in Reykjavík. All I remember is bland tomato sauce and blobs upon blobs of congealed tasteless cheese.

This thread has made me crave fish tacos from Baja Burrito in Nashville. If only it weren't a transatlantic flight away...
posted by Bukvoed at 2:53 PM on May 16, 2012


This thread has made me crave fish tacos from Baja Burrito in Nashville.

Oh, come on, you’ve got be able to do better than that. If not, I’ll help hook you up.
posted by bongo_x at 3:23 PM on May 16, 2012


As a British person who spent a couple of months in the US (west coast, louisiana) and then a month in Mexico (yucatan, mexico city, guadalajara), I don't think I get what all the fuss is about.

I hate to say it, but I think I prefer TexMex to actual Mexican tacos. I think it's probably because I was eating a lot of street food in Mexico, but after a month of that stuff it really was time to eat something else.

Tacos are nice, but I think that corn base detracts from them. In the end, it's a corn tortilla with some meat and then a nicely chopped pile of onion and tomato. The red and green sauces you can pile on top are often tasty (although a bit of a lottery - the spicy one was always a different colour). I do prefer the Mexican salsa to the gloopy sauce stuff you get elsewhere though. A quesadilla's just a slight variation on the theme. Gordita's are just a change in ratio.

I think it's mostly street food that I feel this way about. I had some absolutely fantastic meals, but unfortunately budget requirements meant that a lot of what I ate was street-vendor stuff, which tends to be fairly samey.

Before I went to Mexico I had an absolutely fantastic meal at a little place off the main street in Santa Barbara. It was a fantastic burrito in what I can only assume to be the TexMex style (although having not been to Northern Mexico I suppose it could have been similar to the food there). It was served by people who were obviously of Mexican heritage, and had a menu in Spanish. It was probably the best burrito I've ever had.

Funnily enough, I went to Mexico hoping to have a plate piled high with beans and rice, and never did. In fact, I very rarely had any rice at all. I think the part of Mexican food that you can sample as a tourist is fairly limited - the tacos, fried stuff and tortas of street vendors and the higher end gourmet stuff from restaurants. The staple food that most people probably eat is hard to find.
posted by leo_r at 3:43 PM on May 16, 2012


Heh. The worst Mexican food I ever had was in Reykjavík. All I remember is bland tomato sauce and blobs upon blobs of congealed tasteless cheese.

That was NOT Mama's Tacos. Though that sounds just about right for a native Icelandic approximation of "burrito." There's a place called "American Style" that serves burgers that are a distinctly Icelandic experience... they're burgers, sure, but there's nothing remotely American about their style. So yeah, I'm imaging the burrito equivalent of that.
posted by sonika at 4:35 PM on May 16, 2012


Oh god I forgot about American Style... Give me Nonnabitti any day!
posted by smcniven at 5:30 PM on May 16, 2012


Oh man, Nonnabiti. Best zillion dollar sandwiches ever. With the weirdest names. I think the one I usually got was called "The Sheriff's Boat." In any case, whether or not that was my usual order, that name totally existed.
posted by sonika at 6:06 PM on May 16, 2012


Giadorah--yeah, that one in Harajuku is Fonda De La Madrugada. My wife took me there for my birthday years ago. Like you said, really good food but really pricey. And not TexMex: there were some octopus dishes and some (mole?) sauces that I had never heard of (and didn't particularly like).

Good on you making your own. What do you do about the shells/tortillas? You can find El Paso salsa and shells in grocery stores, but they're waaaay overpriced, like four times what you'd pay in the U.S. Guess I should learn how to make my own...
posted by zardoz at 8:52 PM on May 16, 2012


Funnily enough, I went to Mexico hoping to have a plate piled high with beans and rice, and never did. In fact, I very rarely had any rice at all. I think the part of Mexican food that you can sample as a tourist is fairly limited - the tacos, fried stuff and tortas of street vendors and the higher end gourmet stuff from restaurants. The staple food that most people probably eat is hard to find.

There's a lot of neighborhood restaurants in Mexico city but it does take more work to track them down. The street vendors are easy because they're so visible. And the gourmet restaurants are the ones that make it into the tourist guides.

Here, for example, is a nice list from Chilango on where to find good albondigas. Many of the restaurants listed also have other simple but good food. Here's where to get a nice Milanesa con papas. Where to find the best chilaquiles, tastiest Bean stew, and so on.

All that said, Mexican food is much more highly regional than people realize. You can go to Mexico city but you still can't find a good Uchepo from Michoacan. Uchepos are so delicious that it became my wife's favorite food after she first tried one.
posted by vacapinta at 4:01 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Zardoz, I usually get the Tia Maria tortillas that Kaldi Coffee stores tend to carry in their frozen foods section. 12 tortillas for about ¥250-350 yen. Costco has double twelve packs for roughly the same price. They also have larger, burrito size flour tortillas at Costco. Both places usually have dozen corn tortillas, too, but Mrs. Ghidorah doesn't like those.

Occasionally I'll pick up hard shells if they're on sale somewhere. A recent favorite has been potato and chorizo quesadillas. That, and grilled, pressed flour tortilla tacos. Little bit of cheese, little bit of filling (shredded pork or beef with onions and peppers), then pressed on the pan until browned and crispy on both sides. Pretty damn tasty.

As far as bizarre locations, TJs in Kuta, on Bali, has the best Mexican I've had on this side of the planet. They had to reduce their menu a bit due to the tourist drop off, but what they had was still awesome. Balinese style building/open compound, inside, Mexican restaurant. I'd definitely recommend it as one of the only reasons to spend any time in Kuta, the other being Poppy's just down the road.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:29 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


All that said, Mexican food is much more highly regional than people realize.

Seconding this. When I think of really good Mex-Mex in Texas of the more upscale variety (i.e., not hole in the wall), it's all regional cooking or at least regional fusion. There is a difference.
posted by immlass at 6:59 AM on May 17, 2012


Stop hating on Minnesota Mexican food! Sure, if you go to Tacos-R-Us in the suburbs, you're going to get some bland pile of flour tortillas and Kraft cheese for $12 no matter what you order. But I can walk down the street from my house in central Minneapolis and get a bag of tamales that's every bit as good (and spicy!) as the ones I can get in LA. There's even a place that does thirty different flavors of tamales! We have taco trucks roaming up and down the streets, and there's usually a pretty good line of people waiting to order. My favorite Mexican place is Tacqueria los Ocampo, which does central Mexican food that is very different in style from the usual Mexican-American stuff. Tell me their house specialty does not look awesome.

Also, hot peppers grow amazingly well in the Minnesota summer. I got like 200 peppers from one pot of mixed peppers one year.
posted by miyabo at 8:02 AM on May 17, 2012


Crepes! Crepes are French tacos.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:13 AM on May 17, 2012


I am not ashamed to admit that we had tacos for dinner yesterday due to this post.
posted by MustardTent at 8:57 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can personally assure you that you were not the only one, and there is no shame in that. TACO SOLIDARITY
posted by Panjandrum at 11:27 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey! I had tako last night, too!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:55 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


There has to be a fusion food truck somewhere named Tako Taco.
posted by zamboni at 9:04 PM on May 20, 2012


There used to be a sushi place nearby that offered a Tako Salad. Could have been a coincidence.

But they also had a roll with avocado, pickled radish, spicy mayonnaise and chili pepper called Shinko de Mayo, so I wouldn't put anything past them.
posted by darksasami at 2:26 PM on May 21, 2012


Every culture has a taco.

The cultural equivalent here in Korea -- a little bit of grilled meat or fish, some spicy sauces, bits of veggies and raw garlic and sliced hot peppers and so on -- is made by laying a few large green leaf veggies in your hand, piling the goodies in, then wrapping it up and eating it taco style. I am a big fan of leafy greens. It is splendid.

I missed Mexican food for years until I was finally able to buy tortillas and salsa here, beginning a couple of years ago, and started making my own at home. I use homemade yoghurt instead of sour cream, and I'm still trying to get the spice combination right with what I can get here, but...

Oh, man, I think I have to leave work early. I'm hungry.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:05 AM on May 22, 2012


stavros, pretty much cumin, coriander, garlic, salt, chili powder, and possibly oregano is most of what you need. Although I've really given up on ferrying stuff back from visits to the States, one thing I still make sure to bring back are the little tins of chipotle peppers in adobo. That stuff stays good (after you open the can, just put the ones you don't use in a little tupperware box, and they'll be good for quite a while), and it adds a flavor that just doesn't exist elsewhere.

And I love those little lettuce taco things. There's a huge Korean food boom here at the moment, and as much as I'm not fond of pickled greens and such, those lettuce taco things give me something to munch on while Mrs. Ghidorah gets her fill of other stuff.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:16 AM on May 22, 2012


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