Taco Count Update: 965

I was in a rush yesterday to get from the British Embassy (which has nice cookies) near Tabacalera to Polanco.  The journey on foot takes about 20 minutes and passes through the business district just north of Reforma and west of the park.  I had only been through here on weekends and in the evenings, when the area is pretty much deserted… but at lunchtime on a Wednesday, the changarros bloom like desert flowers after a rain.

Of course, when there are large numbers of taco stalls, competition usually results in some excellent eats.  I stopped at a stall on Calle Tolstoi (south side of the street. between Escobedo and Dante), that was really just a big flat grill affixed to a bicycle.  Appropriately, the laminated menu proclaimed the name “Bicitaco.”  The steak was so-so, though it seemed to be on par with Mexican tastes that have an affinity for fatty strips of beef, but the longaniza (a type of chorizo), was really nicely done, and, covered in cheese, it was like a little bomb of “sabor.”  What had attracted me to the stall was the pile of alambre (prepared meat, mixed with grilled onions and peppers), which I didn’t end up trying, and a row of interesting, and, as it turned out, fire-breathing salsas.  Definitely worth a return visit.

The count so far: 965.

 

México. D.F.

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More Awesome Street Eats

Just a picture today… a little fusion, Mexican style:

You had me at "el taco"

File this under "outrageously good"!

From the nearby food truck: a chile relleno taco with Mexican rice, covered in pipián, a rich, nutty, earthy mole, chayote squash, and a hunk of carnitas. Oh, my!

 

México, D.F.

The Rules of Thumb for Mexican Salsa

¿Son picosas?” I asked, pointing to three bowls of salsa at a street-side taquería near Torre Mural. One was a big bowl of proper guacamole, with large chucks of avocado and a green, velvety texture; the second, also green and full of onions and cilantro and other herbs; and the third, a standard smoked & roasted pepper condiment that could be more aptly described as taco-sauce than salsa. “Las verdes más que la roja, que no es picosa” the woman said, informing me that the two green salsas were hotter than the mild red. But I couldn’t stay my curiosity; the red is common, almost pedantic, but these two green ones looked different… forbidden… enticing. I had to try them…. Well. It’s almost an hour later, and the fire in my mouth is still raging.

Salsas are a ubiquitous part of daily cuisine in Mexico City and a specialty of many taquerías. Although the colors are often standard, red, yellow, and green, the varieties are nearly endless. Perhaps later, I’ll have tried enough to accurately categorize them; however, in the mean time, it seems prudent that I place a reminder here for myself about how not to obliterate my sense of taste. It’s not that every salsa is spicy, but, on occasion, those harmless looking bowls of uber-sabor can belie a monster.

The Rules of Thumb for Mexican Salsa

  1. Unlike back home, green and yellow salsas are much hotter than red
  2. The more interesting it looks, the hotter it’s likely to be
  3. Cooks, waiters, and customers will gladly give you their honest opinion…
  4. …but are likely to underrate a salsa’s bite
  5. Salsas with big chunks of pepper aren’t always hot; those without aren’t always mild
  6. Salsas off the street tend to be more interesting, and seem to be much hotter, than those at restaurants

Thus, it’s a good idea to always ask, always expert something hotter than described, and if it’s green and looks really interesting, have a fire extinguisher ready.

 

México, D.F.

Tacos de Guisado

In the afternoon, along Calle José Martí near my apartment, there are tacos de guisado vendors. Tacos de guisado is a catch-all term to describe a tortilla filled with a variety of prepared meats, vegetables, and moles. For example, one vendor will have big pots full of chiles rellenos, which are enormous chiles stuffed with cheese, washed in egg and either pan-fried or baked; tortitas de pollo o bróculi, thick pancakes with egg and either chicken or broccoli; pork and chicken stewed in a thick and rich mole verde; and sautéed steak with potatoes and peppers; among other dishes. Here, the pork and the chiles are particularly spectacular. A single order is a large tortilla filled with your choice and topped with sauce and a scoopful of rice, which costs 13-15 pesos; 40 pesos will buy an order of three, served with bags of rice, tortillas, and sauce for customers to take and assemble at home.

Chiles rellenos and tortitas... oh, my!

Chiles rellenos and tortitas... oh, my!

The prepared nature of tacos de guisado means that it is common for vendors to serve from the street, where a portable table or, in this case, the back of a pickup truck serves as the lunch counter. I’ve asked the vendors when they prepare the dishes and the answer is always in the morning before they arrive, usually at their homes and often under the direction of the family matriarch. While some people may flinch at the idea of prepared food being heated and served hours later, to me, it’s nothing different from a potluck or a fancy restaurant; except here it’s being prepared by a grandmother. As long as, once cooked, the dishes are kept away from raw food, then food safety isn’t really that big of an issue… I hope. And for those willing to take the plunge, eating tacos de guisado is, perhaps, the best way to sample a huge variety of mexican dishes in a very authentic environment.

Big pots full of dishes are arranged in the back of a truck

Big pots full of dishes are arranged in the back of a truck

México, D.F.

Steak Tacos on the Cheap

On occasion, I take the metrobús home from ITAM and, when I do, I often pass by a park-side shack that sells steak tacos (map).  These tacos may be described as steak-and-cheese gifts from heaven, with thin sheetlets of grilled beef, melted queso oaxaqueño, warm corn tortillas, and creative salsas with cucumber, pineapple, radish, and something that might be jicama.  And although there are some upscale joints that do mighty-fine steak tacos, too, at 10 pesos apiece, about 70 cents, those here cost less than a fifth of the ones in La Condesa.

Steak and cheese tacos with salsa

Steak and cheese tacos with salsa

Granted, this little changarro may not be for the faint-of-stomach, as there’s not much in the way of refrigeration or seating (or running water); though, unlike most resorts in Mexico, you can watch the head chef and boss cook up some lovin’ on the grill right in front of you.  And the food will taste better here, too.

From the box to the grill to the plate to your mouth

Steak: From the box to the grill to the plate to your mouth

 

México, D.F.

Five-Star Street Tacos

If there is such a thing as high-end gourmet street tacos, then I very well might have experienced them last Wednesday.  On a desolate calle near ITAM, where I work, (actually on Torres de Ixtapatongo, I believe, across Periférico from San Angel Tizapán) is a family-run street-side taquería — four posts and a plastic tarp roof.  The street on which this particular taquería is located is unusual because it’s on a small hillside and surrounded by empty lots.  There are few buildings, tons of parking, and no other changarros.  Such isolation is rare in this city!  But the street around this taco stand is packed with cars, all customers for what may described as “deep-fried goodness.”

My order (thankfully recommended) was for two tacos, one with a chicken cutlet and the other with stacked slices of ham and cheese.  Each filling is breaded and then deep fried in a huge cauldron; the resulting piece of heaven is then sliced into strips and heaped onto two warm tortillas.  Yeah, there are salsas and limes, too.  But it’s really about what goes in, and not on a taco.  The chicken is warm and moist and flavorful and the ham and cheese, which I must admit I was a bit skeptical of when ordering, was stellar: the melted cheese, warm ham, and crunchy breading are an outstanding combination, especially when they are fresh from the hot oil.

I need to go back.

I need to go back.

It was a good day for a diet.

 

México, D.F.

Fried Bread Breakfast

Every morning on my way to ITAM I pass a set of food stalls in front of the entrance to the Barranca del Muerto metro station.  A common item at many of these stands are tamales — not just the normal steamed variety, but fried in a bowl of hot, smoking grease.  These tamales, which are made of ground corn and are filled with green or red salsa or mole, already have a soft, crumbly, doughy consistency before they’re dumped in the hot oil.  And after?  Well, they’re basically fried bread!

There is nothing like the smell of deep fried tamales in the morning.

There is nothing like the smell of deep fried tamales in the morning.

 

San Francisco, CA