What makes an authentic Mexican taco? Did you know that what many people consider a taco here in the Philippines is actually American or Tex-Mex. This is something I realized during my trip to Mexico where we got to eat at many neighborhood tacquerias. It's as authentic as it gets! A traditional Mexican dish, the basic taco is made with either a soft corn or flour tortilla, stuffed with various kinds of meat, as well as onions and cilantro, and served with lime for added zest.
Condiments are always included in any tacqueria. These include salsa roja or salsa verde (chili sauce), salsa picante (chopped tomatoes, onions, chilis and cilantro) which locals also call salsa mexicana or salsa bandera because the salsa contains the tricolor of the Mexican flag, guacamole (avocado sauce), and more lima (lime), cebolla (chopped onions) and cilantro (coriander).
The differences in the tacos are usually in the meat filling. It can have beef, pork, chicken, fish or shrimps. The meat can be grilled, spit-grilled, griddled, stewed, simmered or fried. Even the way the meat is marinated varies. You'd also often hear the term adobada. We had really great tacos at a popular tacqueria in Queretaro called Tacqueria El Paisa I which serves a wide range of tacos.
Trying out tacos in various cities around Mexico, I've seen so many terms used like pastor (spit-grilled meat, carved to order), suadero (thin cut of beef from brisket), campechanos (combined meat specifically beef or bistec and pork, including longaniza or chicharrón), longaniza (sausage), tripa (tripe), alambre (meat cooked in a skewer then chopped), bistec (seared steak), cecina (salted and dried meat) and carne asada (thin slices of grilled marinated beef steak).
Tacos al Pastor stands actually look like they're selling shawarma. The vertical spit grills were said to be brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. But the flavors are undoubtedly Mexican. We had our first taste of Tacos al Pastor in Mexico City.
Tacos de Cazo is filled with meat simmered in fat and juices usually in a large metal container, that is sliced and heated on a griddle before serving. This stand in Mexico City was so appealing, seeing and smelling all the delicious meats cook in the metal vat of bubbling oil and juices. On another side of the stall, they also had Tacos al Pastor.
Many of the tacos we got to try around Mexico were Tacos de Asador or grilled meat tacos. These delicious tacos with assorted meats are from Palenque.
There are also variations to the taco condiments like this taco served with avocado slices we had at a food stall in front of Teotihuacan. All this writing about authentic Mexican tacos is making me really hungry! I definitely miss Mexico even just for the delicious tacos!