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A Beginner's Guide to Real Mexican Tacos
Citizen reporter Erich Moncada walks readers through the rough and tumble world of the taco
Erich Moncada (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2004-11-22 20:27 (KST)   
Dear OhmyNews readers. My name is Erich from Hermosillo City, in the state of Sonora, Mexico. I saw the OMNI request for articles on typical regional dishes. Since I'm a big fan of food (and especially Mexican), I decided to show you my country's most famous and copied dish.

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A closeup of tacos de carne asada, or tacos of grilled meat, from the north of Mexico.
©2004 E.Moncada
Now, there are a few things you need to know before I get into the subject.

Firstly, I must be clear about the kind of tacos I'll be reviewing. They're called tacos de carne asada, or tacos of grilled meat, and they come from the north of Mexico.

The main differences between northern and southern tacos are the way the meat is prepared and the type of tortilla (similar to the pita bread used in gyros, but thinner and made from wheat) that is used. Here in the northwest, the meat is cooked on a grill, with only salt and pepper as condiments and a glass of lager.

Where Erich is from, the taco meat is cooked on a grill with only salt and pepper as condiments.
©2004 E.Moncada
Mexican tacos have nothing in common with Taco Bell and all of those fraudulent franchises. If you want a real taco de carne asada, you will need to cook it by the book.

I'm looking forward to show you the way to make them, even in distant countries like Korea.

The lucky restaurant that my girlfriend and I choose as one of the best taco joints in town it's called "Tacos Cowboys," and it's located, ironically, just in front of a Gold's Gym.

Taqueros, taco vendors
©2004 E.Moncada
And here's a picture of the guys responsible for preparing this tasteful and fattening sin.

Now, the most popular taco combinations are the following:

  • Taco de carne asada - Taco made of grilled meat
  • Taco caramelo - Taco of grilled meat with melted Chihuahua, Manchego or any kind of melting cheese
  • Taco de pastor - Taco made of marinated meat, grilled onions and pineapple
  • Taco de tripa - Taco of the cow's udder... yeah, it sounds gross, but it's really tasty
  • Taco rasurado - Taco made of grilled meat from the ribs
    Virtually all the parts of the cow can be eaten and there are more strange combinations, depending on if it's breakfast, lunch or dinner. It also can depend on the region of the country, but tacos of grilled meat are really classic and special.

    Here in Sonora we eat meat almost three times a day, seven days a week. It's no coincidence that the primary cause of death in the state is heart attacks.

    Once you know what kind of tacos you want to order, the fun part comes in: it's time to go to the... um... salad bar to fill your evil taco with lots and lots of ingredients. (Beware: it's not actually a salad bar, but I couldn't come up with another name to it).

    ©2004 E.Moncada
    From top right to left, the ingredients: slices of radish; purple onions with vinegar and spices; guacamole; limón verde (green lemons) aka limes; chopped white cabbage; salsa bandera (or "flag," because of the red, white and green colors); salsa bandera with guacamole; and diced cucumbers.

    More ingredients: (from left) chiltepin salsa and coriander cream
    ©2004 E.Moncada
    The secret of salsas

    The main accompaniment for tacos is salsa. In the restaurant you can choose from four different types of salsa. You already saw how salsa bandera and chiltepin salsa looks like, but you have to see the best salsa in the place, called salsa molcajeteada:

    This is called molcajeteada because of the volcano-shaped container where it's made. Called "molcajete" (from the native term molcaxitl), it means "little box for salsa."

    It's commonly believed that nothing replaces this technique for making salsas because when you use the tejolote (a palm-sized volcanic rock) to hit the molcajete, the stone breaks the seeds of the tomatoes and the chillies, liberating essential oils that cannot be released with the electric food procesors.

    Molcajete means "little box for salsa."
    ©2004 E.Moncada
    Here's a picture of a pig-shaped molcajete with the name "Manuel" on the side of the stone.

    The basic ingredients used in Mexican salsas are dried and/or fresh chillies. They can be blended, chopped or sliced, mixed with onions, garlic, coriander and epazote in raw or boiled form.

    I wish I could tell you more about the great variety of Mexican dishes. As I told you at the beginning of this article, I will show you how to make your very own Mexican salsa and guacamole, with simple ingredients available in your nearest supermarket. Thanks for reading and see you next time!

    Salsa bandera
    ©2004 E.Moncada
    Salsa bandera

    1 tomato
    A half an onion
    Coriander, if desired
    One or two serrano chillies (small and pointy, see picture below). You can use any kind of green, fresh chiles.

    Cut the tomato and the onion into little squares, chop the coriander into very small pieces and the serrano chile in slices... always remember to remove the seeds.

    Mix all the vegetables; add salt, a couple of drops of lemon juice and a pinch of black pepper.

    ©2004 E.Moncada

    1 avocado (aguacate)
    1 tomato
    a half an onion
    coriander, if desired
    One or two serrano chiles

    It's the same procedure as in the salsa bandera, just take the peeled avocado and mash it completely, mix the vegetables together, add salt and pepper, and add a splash of milk to the mix.

    ©2004 E.Moncada

  • You can find Erich Moncada's blog here.
    ©2004 OhmyNews

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