If you’ve been anywhere on social media in the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly seen a few standard, non-stop circulating memes:
And then, the comments start to get juicy, and Michael Jackson pops in for a snack:
…and then Gene Wilder shows his smug face…
And somehow, some pre-middle age ladies can make any conversation about wine. (I refuse to believe that this demographic is actually that obsessed with it, but that it has become such a social media joke that they have tricked themselves into believing wine is the new sun.)
But there’s always one that seems to say what’s on everyone’s minds, all the time…TACOS.
And I’ve got tacos on my mind today. Just call me Juan.
My main squeeze, Yossiho, is from southern Mexico. Tapachula, specifically….about as far south as you can go without being in Guatemala.
Being the nopal-on-his-forehead kind of Mexican that he is, our weekend nights are consecrated to tacos. We live on the east side of the city. Every Friday night (and sometimes Saturday, too), we attend our sacred taco mass. We drive 15 miles clear to the west end of the valley to a little hole-in-the wall, Azteca del Oro. Of course, there are taco carts and dives all along the way. We’ve tried them all. But nothing tops Azteca. Well, maybe Tacos El Gordo in Las Vegas, but I happen to prefer Azteca. He may leave me if he reads that.
Nestled in a strip mall next to an AutoZone, and across the street from El Coyote night club, the sights, sounds, and smells are sure to delight. Motor oil, meat grease, and canola oil from the woman frying chicharrones out front will slap your nose the second you leave the car. And your eyes are in for a treat, too! You’re sure to see plenty of Trival boot and cowboy hat-clad Rico Suaves and sequin mini skirt-wearing mamis hiking up their tubetops and clunking along in their tacones. Don’t forget the insane base shaking the ghetto fab cars pulling into the parking lot.
A tiny Latino market with a short traditional menu by day, on Fridays-Sundays, 8:30 p.m.-5 a.m., Azteca devotes itself to Mexico D. F. style tacos. You can order anything from your basic al pastor or chorizo to any part of the animal you can think of. The real deal. (For the record, my favorite is sesos, or brain. No judging until you try it.)
We go through phases. Occasionally, we stay home and make our own tacos. They’re ridiculously delicious and a much cheaper alternative to going out for tacos. We drop about $28 on average every time to go to Azteca (or anywhere, really…it happens when your husband eats eight tacos in one sitting). Making tacos at home is not only cost effective, but pretty easy, and delicious!
It also has a much cleaner bathroom, always stocked with toilet paper and hand soap.
Lucky for me, I live with a Mexican.
As I’m a fiend for all things “authentic,” we are a match made in heaven.
I actually eat vegetarian for the most part, except when travel or tacos are involved. That’s great, because the meat is the heart of the taco.
I’ve perused Google and Pinterest occasionally, seeing what people are up to when they make tacos. But I have yet to see a Mexican living in the U.S. share the secrets. And that’s what this post is about to do.
What makes tacos so irresistible?
Admit it – you LOVE tacos. You would eat them until it hurts. If you can’t have the real deal, you’ll eat terrifying impostor tacos to get your fix. Taco Tuesday? Try Taco Everyday. There are reasons you love tacos, and you may not even realize why. Let me enlighten you!
To make a successful, authentic taco, you need:
It must needs be corn. No question. Usually, the tortilla is doubled or tripled, depending on the meat. They’re smaller than an average corn tortilla, so it won’t do too much damage. There is nothing worse than picking up a greasy, juicy taco, and having it all fall out the bottom. Use two tortillas. It’s insurance.
The easiest is to purchase corn tortillas at the grocery store. You can use normal size, but it’s too much. Use a cup or a lid to cut smaller circles out of the large tortillas. That’s what we do if it’s all we have. Bonus if you have a Mexican grocery…they sell taco-sized tortillas for ridiculously cheap ($1.99-$2.99 for 60 tortillas).
You can also make your own tortillas, using a simple mix of corn flour and water. Once you have handmade, you’ll never enjoy store bought. [Recipe and tutorial coming! – check back]
If you’re feeling like the domestic goddess of the universe, and you just had a baby with the authenticity police, you can go crazy and grind your own corn, making your own flour, and then making a tortilla. Trust me, I would do this if I had the tools.
In the streets, you can order all cuts of meat, usually beef, pork, or chicken, and pretty much any organ you can imagine. You don’t need to buy an 8-foot long intestine and pressure cook it to enjoy an authentic taco. A simple good cut of meat and applying some tricks of the trade in prepping the meat before you cook it will yield excellent results.
Yossiho’s favorite is a particular thin cut of beef. He lets it sit in pineapple juice for a bit to soften it, macerates garlic and salt, and slathers it all over before cooking. Unbelievable. Chorizo is a great home choice because it comes already prepped and ready for cooking.
Traditionally, tacos are garnished with chopped onions and cilantro, and [optional] radishes. Keep it simple. Too many ingredients will drown out the simple but delicious flavors that are all layered together.
Lime. Must add a squeeze (or three) of lime. A good rule of thumb is about 1/2 to 1 lime wedge per taco.
SALSA. Salsas are the crown jewel of tacos! They’re also the reason many people regular certain taco joints. Authentic tacos have a couple traditional options: salsa verde [green], salsa roja [red], and an avocado-like salsa. However, here is the easiest you can get creative with your tacos. Salsa recipes are sacred, just like your granny’s spaghetti sauce. But here I’ll share recipes for the three basic salsas [forthcoming]. We love to make a red onion and habanero quick pickle and use it as a salsa – spice and crunch together mean double delicious.
See? It’s simple! Tortilla. Meat. Onion and cilantro. Lime. Salsa.
Now you’ll just have to have some discipline. It’s so incredibly cheap to make your own authentic tacos that you won’t be able to stop. Invite some friends over, and hours later, you’ve had well over a dozen tacos and already made plans to open your own restaurant. But I wouldn’t know anything about that. 🙂
Have you made your own authentic tacos at home? Do you have a favorite meat? Salsa recipe? Feel free to share.