TACOS IN MEXICO CITY
..tasty, succulent caramelised meat on a double layered of soft warm tortilla,
stringy melted fresh mexican cheese,
a slice of creamy avocado,
a slice of tomato,
few slices of sharp red onion,
a bowl of multi-coloured pickles on the side,
and more chilli salsas than you ever need.
The first time I had tacos in Mexico I was blown away. In fact, the picture above is the first taco I had, at breakfast, eating standing up by the counter in Zona Rosa area (translated to pink zone, the lively gay area) in Mexico City. We had been in Cuba for a month prior to coming here and the only chilli we had was from a small bag of chilli flavoured Doritos on the flight into Mexico City. After not having had chilli or really any kind of spices for a month (yes the food in Cuba was bland. Another post. Another time), the sensation of having something spicy for the first time was quite mind blowing. I didn’t know some of the sensory spots in my mouth exist! I of course made friends with the stewardess and she brought me extra bags of chips. It’s good to have friends in high places…
I must admit I was never really a fan of tacos before coming to Mexico. I had some back in Melbourne here and there and I was found them to be slightly bland and underwhelming. I don’t know, I just always felt like it didn’t deliver as much punch as I had hope it would. The only really good taco I had in Melbourne was a tasty fish taco in Mamasita, a hip Mexican restaurant where unless you arrive before 6pm, you have to wait for two hours to get a table. Their fish taco has some punch but their other tacos are nothing spectacular in my opinion.
Back to these bubbling, melted cheesy goodness. These tacos were filled with grilled marinated chicken, done on a hot plate. Sorry vegetarians, these hot plates had anything and everything on them, including offals. It would be hard to get a completely vegetarian tacos on the streets of Mexico I would say. Once the chicken is cooked, the man behind the grill then portioned the chicken into three piles and shredded queso fresco (basically translates to ‘fresh cheese’) generously on top. A small sheet of foil went on top of each pile to aid the melting process. If you haven’t had queso fresco, the texture when it’s melted reminds me of a less stringy version of mozzarella cheese, while the taste reminds me a bit of a mixture between halloumi and ricotta cheese. This baby comes a ball shape, much like buffalo mozzarella, and can be shredded cold to use as a topping on pizza, bread, inside quesadilla (mexican cheese toasties), or just straight into your mouth. I once bought a big ball of queso fresco and none of it made onto anything but my mouth. Nom nom.
As the cheese was bubbling away and the sweet, meaty smell of caramelised chicken pieces somehow seemed to intensify (maybe I was just hungry it was breakfast after all), it’s time to scoop each pile onto two layers of warm soft tortilla no bigger than the size of your palm. A slice of tomato and avocado each went on top, along with a few slices of red onion, and finished with a few wedges of lime on the side. I didn’t take more photo because I was too hungry and they all went in matters of minutes! There were about four different types of chilli salsa (just means ‘sauce’ in Spanish) on the table, ranging from medium to gouging-your-eyes-out hot. And also a big communal bowl of pickles, including trusty jalapeño. Right, time to get your game face on. Dress the tacos with salsas, squeeze in the lime, cradle with care, and watch the drip at the other end of the taco down your arm.
Finally my question had been answered. The tacos that delivered a real punch, with tasty marinated meat, melted stringy cheese, creamy avocado to help with the heat, tangy fresh lime to cut through the grease, and a huge array of chilli salsa more than you ever need. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about these. After these initial chicken tacos, I have gone on to eat many other fillings. Tender pork liver cooked in milk and caramelised onion, braised beef cheeks, chargrilled beef tongue, slow cooked pulled pork, other parts of meat I had no idea what they were (but tasted good anyway), tangy spicy marinated shrimps, deep fried fish with tangy slaw..the list goes on..
I am glad I didn’t write off tacos before I came to Mexico. Just like many other types of cuisines, I generally fell in love with them (or fell even harder!) after I had eaten at the source. To be completely honest, I really couldn’t have made myself write it off anyway, I am too scared of missing out on good food.
I have been meaning to make tacos since I have been back so look out for some pictures and recipe when I do.
What is the best taco you have ever had?