The Truth About Tacos

It’s hard to imagine a world without these little parcels of love, so let’s not.

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Tacos date back to the 18th century and were likely invented by Mexican silver miners. There are countless variations of tacos, otherwise referred to as, “Mexico’s favorite food.” It’s not just Mexico that loves tacos, though, the whole world craves this delightful combination of ingredients. 

WHAT'S IN A TACO?

In Mexico, tacos are sold at street food stands, known as taquerias, which are found in abundance. They are also commonly sold at indoor markets and, of course, at dine-in restaurants. While there are both hard and soft shell tacos, hard shell tacos were made popular by fast food chains in the United States. The traditional taco consists of a soft corn tortilla, containing meat, commonly beef. Then it’s usually garnished with cebollita y cilantro (diced onion and coriander), as well as salsa and, in some cases, radish and a squeeze of lime juice. 

Besides beef, taco meat options include lamb, chorizo and spit roasted pork, which is then sliced and infused with pineapple juice. The latter is known as tacos al pastor (shepherd style). While chicken tacos are generally less common, chicken tinga is the name for chicken thighs that are braised in a tomato-chipotle chili sauce and then shredded. Fish and prawn tacos are also common, especially along the Mexican coastline. They often come lightly battered but still make a lighter option than meat-based tacos. They are usually garnished with lettuce or cabbage and pico de gallo, which is a fresh salsa made with onion, tomato and cilantro.

The traditional taco consists of a soft corn tortilla, containing meat, commonly beef.

TORTILLAS

Tortillas are the thin round flatbread that is served with almost all Mexican fare. In the case of the taco, the tortilla is the vessel for toppings. There are two main types of tortilla; corn and flour. The main difference between them is that corn tortillas are made from corn, whereas flour tortillas are made from wheat flour. Corn tortillas, smaller in size, are packed with flavor and must be heated, or else they will simply fall apart. They are considered more authentic because corn has been the staple ingredient of Mexico for thousands of years. In the United States, where Tex-Mex reigns, you’re likely to find flour tortillas used for tacos, but they work much better when used for burritos, since they are large and sturdy enough to contain plenty of fillings. As for nutrition, corn tortillas are healthier since they contain less fat content and more vitamins and fiber. As a bonus, corn tortillas are completely gluten-free. To warm them, you can put them in the oven or a skillet, but if you have a gas stove, you can place them right over a low flame until they develop toasted brown spots on both sides. 

The main difference between them is that corn tortillas are made from corn, whereas flour tortillas are made from wheat flour.

BURRITOS AND BEYOND

The taco and the burrito are similarly assembled (fillings wrapped in tortillas) but they are actually quite different. While a taco is small in size and meant to be eaten as a light snack, burritos are much larger and eaten as a whole meal, containing more than one filling, such as rice, beans, meat, vegetables and cheese. The burrito is also a more recent invention and considered less authentic Mexican food. Enchiladas are simply tortillas folded around a filling and baked under a sauce, while fried tortillas topped with meat, beans and cheese form tostadas.