Anyone that knows me knows that my absolute favorite food is Mexican cuisine. It would be my last dying meal. I love learning about the history of food, so bear with me as I share the history of one of my favorite foods: the taco.
In Mexico, the word taco is a generic term like the English word sandwich. A taco is simply a tortilla wrapped around a filling. Like a sandwich, the filling can be made with almost anything and prepared in many different ways (anything that can be rolled inside a tortilla becomes a taco). The contents of a taco can vary according to the geographical region you are eating them. The taco can be eaten as an entree or snack. They are made with soft corn or fried corn tortillas folded over. The versatility of the tortilla as a wrapper in endless. They are used for tacos and enchiladas. Among native Mexicans, tortillas are commonly used as eating utensils, as a plate as in a tostada, and much more.
Bernal Diaz del Castillo (1496-1584), a Spanish soldier who came with Hernen Cortes to the New World, wrote an intriguing and detailed chronicle called A True History of the Conquest of New Spain. He also chronicles the lavish feasts that were held which were later published in an article by Sophie Avernin called “Tackling the taco: A guide to the art of taco eating”.
The first “taco bash” in the history of New Spain was documented by none other than Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a Spanish soldier who came to the new world with Hernan Cortes. Hernan Cortes organized this memorable banquet in Coyoacan for his captains, with pigs brought all the way from Cuba. It would, however, be a mistake to think that Cortes invented the taco, since anthropologists have discovered evidence that inhabitants of the lake region of the Valley of Mexico ate tacos filled with small fish, such as acosiles and charales. The fish were replaced by small live insects and ants in the states of Morelos and Guerrero, while locusts and snails were favorite fillings in Puebla and Oaxaca.
It was not until 1914 that the first-known English-language taco recipes appeared in California cookbooks. Bertha Haffner-Ginger, in her California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook, said tacos were:
“made by putting chopped cooked beef and chili sauce in a tortilla made of meal and flour; folded, edges sealed together with egg; fried in deep fat, chile sauce served over it.”
Today, there are many types of tacos served in Mexico and the United States. The following are the most popular ones served in the United States:
Taco al Pastor – The most popular taco in Mexico. The name means “shepherd’s-style taco.” Here the main ingredient is spiced pork, which is cut, in slivers, from a loaf of meat standing on a vertical spit in front of an open flame. These tacos are a Mexican adaptation of the spit-grilled meat brought by immigrants from Lebanon.
Breakfast Tacos – Breakfast tacos or burritos are available at many restaurants across the Southwest (especially New Mexico and Texas). It is a fried corn or flour tortilla that is rolled and stuffed with a mixture of seasoned meat, eggs, or cheese, and other ingredients such as onions and salsa. Much like sandwiches, these tacos can be as simple or complex as imagination allows. They are served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and they have gone mainstream to meet demands.
Fish Tacos – Ensenada, Mexico claims to be the birth place of the fish taco, and they are advertised at restaurants throughout the city where many claim that their taco is the original. The best place to sample them is at any of the small food stands that line the streets around the Mercado Negro, Ensenada’s incredible fish market. The fish tacos served are simply small pieces of batter-coated, fried fish in a hot corn or wheat tortilla.
People in the coastal areas of Mexico have been eating fish tacos for a long time. The history of fish tacos could possibly go back thousands of years to when indigenous North American peoples first wrapped the plentiful offshore catch into stone-ground-corn tortillas. The people of Ensenada say their port town is the fish taco’s true home, dating at least from the opening of the Ensenada Mercado, in 1958.
The people of San Diego, California, have been hooked on fish tacos since 1983. In fact, fish tacos are the fast-food signature dish of San Diego: they’re cheap to buy and fast to make.
Fish tacos were popularized in the United States by Ralph Rubio, who first tasted them while on spring break in Baja, Mexico. According to the story he tells, there was one Baja vendor he especially liked, a man named Carlos, who ran a hole-in-the-wall taco stand with a 10-foot counter and a few stools. Carlos fried fish to order and put it on a warm tortilla. Customers added their own condiments. Rubio tried to persuade Carlos to move to San Diego, but Carlos was happy where he was and would not budge. He did agree, however, to share his recipe, which Rubio scrawled on a piece of paper pulled from his wallet. Several years later, Rubio opened his own restaurant in San Diego, called Rubio’s – Home of the Fish Taco. Today, fish tacos are legendary and are sole throughout San Diego and the Southwest.
It probably isn’t surprising that the real popularity for the taco came from the popular fast food chain, Taco Bell. The founder of Taco Bell, Glen Bell, created a franchise for people that wanted to experience the taco, but didn’t want to travel all the way to Mexico to taste one. As a kid I loved going to Taco Bell but as I began to experience life and was exposed to authentic Mexican cuisine, my palate changed and what I consider to be fantastic is very different, not to mention a taco from Taco Bell is not what I would consider authentic in taste.
Many foreigners come to Mexico with the idea that they can get tacos any time, but this is not generally true. Looking for tacos around midday, perhaps at the time of the gringo lunch, will not normally be a successful pursuit. Tacos are either a morning treat or a nighttime snack, pretty much disappearing between the hours of noon and six p.m. This is because the main meal in Mexico is eaten in the afternoon. Not to worry though; by about six the smell of meat begins to permeate the air and the taquerias are back in business. . .
From noon until about six there are almost no tacos available; morning vendors are closed until the next day. Right around dusk, however, there is a perceptible change in the atmosphere of the street following the afternoon lull. Permanent puestos, stalls and storefront taquerias begin opening, and ambulatory taco carts roll into place, usually connecting the wires from their naked light bulbs into overhead lines. . . The most compelling signal of “taco time”, however, is the aroma. Of all the street food in Mexico, the taco is King of the Night, attracting clients with the appetizing scent of grilled, fried or steamed meat. Since the big meal of the day is eaten in the afternoon, many people opt for a late supper, or cena, and taquerias usually stay open until about midnight, and later in big cities. On weekends, taquerias near discos and clubs stay open until the wee hours of the morning, when they provide welcome sustenance to hungry partygoers.
Taco Tuesdays was a thing in our house for many years and we would go all out each week. Nowadays, we do not have a designated night or time to have tacos. At any given time you can go into my refrigerator and find the fixings for a taco ready to assemble and enjoy.
This week I decided to change it up and make Carnitas in my Quick Pot and then finish off in the oven. The flavors were amazing. My son is already requesting that I make them again. This flavorful pork not only made for good tacos, but my husband used them in a taco bowl, I used it in an omelet and my son added some to his nachos. I made keto friendly tortillas using my handy dandy tortilla press; one of my favorite kitchen gadgets! Who would have thought that gluten free low carb tortillas could taste so good. I love how pliable they are and adding a bit of corn extract by Amoretti make them taste just like the real deal. I added my homemade salsa and guacamole and all was right in my world!
Making this meal was so easy! I plan on making it again soon. The recipe could have easily served dinner for company. I hope that you will try this recipe and enjoy! I would love to hear about what you like to put inside of your taco shell. The skies the limit! Leave a comment below.
Keepin it fresh!
- May 9, 2019
- 1 hr
- 480 Cals/Serving
- Print this
- QUICK POT CARNITAS INGREDIENTS
- 1 (4-5 pound) lean boneless pork roast, excess fat trimmed, cut into 2-inch chunks
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil or olive oil
- 1 batch mojo sauce (see below)
- MOJO SAUCE INGREDIENTS
- 1 cup beer
- 1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled and minced
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
- LOW CARB / GLUTEN FREE TORTILLAS
- 2 cups almond flour
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 4 teaspoons xanthan gum
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1/4 teaspoon corn extract
- 6 teaspoons water
- OPTIONAL TOPPINGS
- Queso Fresco
- Sour Cream
- Step 1
- TO MAKE THE QUICK POT CARNITAS: In a medium mixing bowl, prepare the mojo sauce, mixing all ingredients in a bowl
- Step 2
- Season pork chunks on all sides with salt and pepper.
- Step 3
- Click the “Saute” setting on the QuickPot. Add oil and half of the pork, and sear — turning every 45-60 seconds or so — until the pork is browned on all sides. Transfer pork to a separate clean plate, and repeat with the other half of the pork, searing until browned on all sides. Press “Cancel” to turn off the heat.
- Step 4
- Pour in the mojo sauce, and toss briefly to combine. Close lid securely and set vent to “Sealing”.
- Step 5
- Press “Meat”, then press “Pressure” until the light on “High Pressure” lights up, then adjust the up/down arrows until time reads 30 minutes. Cook. Then let the pressure release naturally, about 15 minutes. Carefully turn the vent to “Venting”, just to release any extra pressure that might still be in there. Then remove the lid.
- Step 6
- Turn on the oven broiler to High.
- Step 7
- Shred the pork with two forks. Then transfer it with a slotted spoon to a large baking sheet. Spoon about a third of the leftover juices evenly on top of the pork. Then broil for 4-5 minutes, or until the edges of the pork begin browning and crisping up. Remove the sheet from the oven, then ladle a remaining third of the juices from the Instant Pot evenly over the pork, and then give it a good toss with some tongs. Broil for an additional 5 minutes to get the meat even more crispy. Then remove and ladle the final third of the juices over the pork, and toss to combine.
- Step 8
- Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro, then serve immediately in tacos, burritos, salads, or whatever sounds good to you! Or, refrigerate pork in a sealed container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
- Step 9
- TO MAKE TORTILLAS: Add almond flour, coconut flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt to food processor. Pulse until thoroughly combined.
- Step 10
- Pour in apple cider vinegar and corn extract with the food processor running. Once it has distributed evenly, pour in the egg. Followed by the water. Stop the food processor once the dough forms into a ball. The dough will be sticky to touch.
- Step 11
- Wrap dough in cling film and knead it through the plastic for a minute or two. Work it like a stress ball. Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes
- Step 12
- Heat up a skillet (preferably) or pan medium heat. You can test the heat by sprinkling a few water droplets, if the drops evaporate immediately your pan is too hot. The droplets should ‘run’ through the skillet.
- Step 13
- Break the dough into 16 – 1” balls. Roll out between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper with a rolling pin or using a tortilla press (easier!) until each round is 8-inches in diameter.
- Step 14
- Transfer to skillet and cook over medium heat for just 3-6 seconds (very important). Flip it over immediately (using a thin spatula or knife), and continue to cook until just lightly golden on each side, 30 to 40 seconds. Be sure not to overcook them, as they will no longer be pliable or puff up.
- Step 15
- Keep them warm wrapped in kitchen cloth until serving. To rewarm, heat briefly on both sides, until just warm (less than a minute).
- Step 16
- These tortillas are best eaten when first made. You can store the tortilla dough in the refrigerator up to 3 days.