By Rodrigo Manterola
5 Tacos, yes I know, there are hundreds, but we’re going to start with the top 5.
Tacos are probably Mexico’s best-known street food in the world in with fair credit to it as tacos are an institution in the Mexican Psyche. But what is a taco?
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What is a Taco?
Yeah… that maybe the technical explanation but leaves out so much.
A taco is a connection we Mexicans have with our culture, a taco is a special relationship with your food, with no obstacles of any kind, a complete contact.
Since prehispanic times, tortillas where the hearth of our food, the original Nahuatl language that was spoken by Aztecs and many others for thousands of years, and still spoken to this day call them Tlaxcalli
Today and thanks to our Spanish language and customization we call them tortillas.
Now that we got the history down let’s get to the fun part.
Now, what do you put in a taco? The answer is anything and everything, from beef to pork or chicken, seafood, vegetables, cheese, you name it, but in Baja, the king is the Fish Taco, closely followed by Machaca Tacos.
Now, not all tacos are created equal and here a list of the top famous tacos in Baja and also all around Mexico.
Read our article 10 Reasons why you should Explore and Discover Baja
Fish Tacos Baja style
Recipe included at the end of this article
Tacos de Pescado or fish tacos are Baja California’s most famous dish and popularized in the US by the Rubio’s Coastal Grill restaurants “Fresh-Mex” in the early 1980s.
The legend states that Ralph Rubio; founder of Rubio’s was on a spring break trip to San Felipe in Baja California when he tried the fish tacos from a street vendor and got inspired by the almost religious experience and the rest is history.
History of the Fish Taco Baja style
Ensenada in the 1960s was a very different place, a small fishing port on the Pacific coast of Baja California, where goods were trade and fish tacos were born.
According to the story, a fisherman known by the nickname Bachihualato (maybe he was from Bachigualato Sinaloa, Mexico) sold beef tacos by the pier and often, people would ask him to try some of the fresh fish caught in the area.
One day, the story goes, he decided to start selling a kind of fish fairly widespread in Baja California but not so popular amongst consumers: the little angelfish or angel of the Pacific fish.
The tacos of Bachihualato began to have great success among locals, tourists and fishermen from the US who by then were flooding some of Baja’s beaches looking from a nice catch of the day.
Some say this taco master found a way to prevent the fish from sticking to the pan by adding flour and finally, a batter made of flour and beer similar to tempura, probably inspired by the Japanese population that emigrated to Mexico and particularly, to Baja California, during the first part of the twentieth century.
Fish Tacos are still Baja’s numero 1 when you talk about tacos, but definitively not the only tacos in Baja
Shrimp tacos or better known as Tacos de Camaron are another Baja’s specialty and with very similar origins.
Unlike its cousin the fish tacos or Tacos de Pescado, Shrimp Tacos bare a long list of variations and alt-recipes from the different municipalities in Baja California and Baja California Sur.
- Shrimp tacos Tijuana style
- Shrimp tacos Ensenada style
- Shrimp tacos La Paz style
- Shrimp tacos Cabo style
They all have basic origins but the sky is the limit when it comes to food recipes
Tacos de Birria is not original from Baja but from the west-central part of Mexico, Jalisco.
Some say the tradition started when the Spaniards brought goats to the Mexican territory in the 16th century, these goats were not used for their meat but for their milk to make cheese.
The local indigenous population, tough as they were, saw no problem in including goat meat into their very low meat content recipes, added some spices and chiles and through time the recipe evolved to what we know now.
The original recipe calls for an underground process were the meat is placed in a pit and slowly cooked for hours. Newer and easer techniques now include gas ovens and even electric slow cookers.
Today you can find Birria Tacos made with the traditional goat meat, but also beef, chicken and even fish.
Birria is a dish for the masses, something you see in weddings particularly the day after as a remedy for hungover.
Tacos al Pastor
Tacos al Pastor or “shepherds style tacos” are made of thin pork steaks, mainly leg and loin, seasoned, skewered and overlapped on one another on a vertical rotisserie with a pineapple on top while flame-broiled as it spins.
These incredibly popular tacos have made their way to every state in Mexico and have even spread to the United States and other countries.
In some places of northern Mexico, it is also known as Taco de Adobada, or as Tacos de Trompo.
If served on a flour tortilla with cheese, they are called Gringas
Beef and chicken options are available in some Taquerias
Tacos de Suadero
Suadero in Mexican cuisine is an institution particularly in the center of Mexico. Suadero is a thin cut of meat from the area between the belly and the leg, which can be cow or pork.
Suadero is noted for having a smooth texture; traditionally dip fried and served in corn tortillas.
You will find it in taco stands who also sale “bisteck, chorizo, and longaniza tacos”
Now you know, on your next visit to Baja and any other part of Mexico, go out there and get some tacos!
Fish Taco Recipe
So what’s in a fish taco?
The recipe for a fish taco varies from taco stand to taco stand but the general consensus for the original recipe is:
- Corn tortillas
- Sour cream
- Dark beer (Negra Modelo)
- Firm white fish (such as catfish, cod, halibut or tilapia), cut into 8 x 2 cm strips
- Green cabbage, finely crushed
- Avocado, sliced
- Fresh cilantro
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
Check out our full recipe and how-to video here