Mexico’s superstar street food, tacos, is a Central American culinary cornerstone that was adored by the Olmec, Maya and Aztec civilisations alike.
What is it?
If maize is the heart of Mexican food, then the ubiquitous taco, a soft corn tortilla stuffed with all manner of delectable ingredients, is its soul.
Ingredients (serves 8)
500g (1lb) minced (ground) beef
garlic salt, to taste
16 corn tortillas
olive oil, for frying
3 serrano chillies, chopped (you can substitute jalapeños)
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 tomato, diced
1 bunch coriander leaves (cilantro), chopped
2 avocados, sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges
salt, to taste
How to cook
Step 1: In a frying pan, cook the ground beef with a couple of dashes of garlic salt until browned. Drain off any fat and set aside.
Step 2: Take your tortillas and lightly brush them with olive oil. Put a large frying pan on a high heat and lightly fry the tortillas so they are still soft but have got a bit of colour on them.
Step 3: Remove from the heat and let them drain on paper towels.
Step 4: Now to assemble the tacos. Place a spoonful of meat on each one, then add the chillies, onion, tomato, coriander leaves and avocado. Squeeze a wedge of lime across it, sprinkle with salt, roll it up and serve. You can also add grated cheese, shredded lettuce, salsa – whatever you like.
If it’s a good taco stall, there’ll be a queue. As the scent of cooking meat and warm tortillas mingles with cigarette smoke and diesel fumes, your appetite will be honed to an unbearable edge. Don’t worry if the stall is little more than a bicycle with a propane heater, or a rundown pushcart. It’s the food, not aesthetics, you’re after. Four tacos make a civilised start, and you can always come back for more. Extra lime, salt and hot sauce will always be close by, so you can personalise and pique the palate. The taco might seem simple, but that contrast between soft tortilla and crisp pork is sublime. If food here is religion, then the taco is God.
Other recipes in this series:
Kolkata kati rolls
Japanese katsu curry
British bubble and squeak
Have you recreated any of the dishes featured in this series so far? Share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram by tagging @lonelyplanet. For more great recipes, check out Lonely Planet’s book The World’s Best Street Food.