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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Many Tacos in Mexican Cuisine

Carnitas, a mexican dish.Image via Wikipedia
By Christine Szalay-Kudra

If you are used to making the same old tacos all the time, you are in for a treat. There are so many different types of tacos served in Mexico that you may find your head spinning. In Mexico, the taco vendors come out at night. This is the best time to wander the streets and sample the local foods. Since the main meal is eaten in the afternoon in Mexico, this makes it easy for people to pick up a light snack later in the evening.

As you walk the darkened streets in Mexico, the air is full of the smell of seasoned meat. Many of the city vendors will stay open until midnight or later. Why so many vendors? Take a look. Tacos sold at the vending booths differ through the methods of cooking used or the type of meat being served.

Tacos Al Pastor

Tacos al Pastor translates to "shepherd-style tacos." These delicious treats are kind of like the gyro sandwiches you will see in Middle-Eastern communities. While they were originally made from lamb, today most are made from pork. The pork is marinated in herbs and spices then stacked on a vertical spit to be roasted slowly. The tacos are filled with thin slices that are cut right off the spit and served with a hot chipotle salsa.

Tacos de Carnitas

Made from pork, the meat for tacos de carnitas is cooked in lard with the rind of an orange, which gives it a rich color. Local will choose their favorite part of the pig for their tacos. Some prefer the liver, the heart, the cheeks, the skin, the ears, or other parts, while tourists tend to choose the boneless meat.

Tacos al Carbon

Also known as tacos de carne asada, these tacos contain meat grilled over mesquite coals. Thin pieces of beef are quickly grilled then chopped and stuffed into tortillas. Garnishes of onions, cucumbers, salsa, limes, guacamole, and radishes are available.

Tacos de Fritangas

Fried meat is the secret ingredient. You may find breast meat, chorizo or even lamb testicles in these booths. While the descriptions may make you pause, once you have topped them with onions, salsa, and cilantro and taken your first bite, you will fall in love with the flavors.

Tacos de Cazuela

A cazuela, or clay pot, plays a key role in this dish. The meat is cooked in one of these traditional pots on a low heat. You may find a choice of chicken, turkey, duck, pork, beef, goat, or lamb. You may also get vegetables in this taco such as squash blossoms, mushrooms, or cactus leaves. In some areas of Mexico, these tacos also can be found with iguana, seafood, or grasshoppers.

Tacos Dorados

Also known as flautas or taquitos, this dish rolls the filling up in the tortilla instead of folding the tortilla over the filling. The whole thing is then deep-fried until crisp. The filling may be shredded chicken or beef. The finished taco is topped with lettuce, cheese, salsa, and crema. If you are looking for authentic Mexican dessert recipes, consider that flautas are also used as dessert. You could adapt them to hold fruit or a sweet filling.

Tacos de Pescado

Along the Pacific Coast, fish tacos are very popular. You can find them with either corn or flour tortillas. The tacos hold fish, guacamole, cabbage, onion rings, and salsa.

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