London Taco Tour
In preparation for an upcoming top secret project (and in lieu of a trip to Mexico, birthplace of tacos) I thought a visit to London and self guided taco tour would be a good idea to understand what us ‘gringos’ consider Mexican food to be about. As a teenager in the 90s my friends and I cooked up Tex-Mex style fajitas and enchiladas with gusto. We considered sliced peppers and chicken cooked in a mild seasoning, slathered in sour cream and cheese then served inside a flour tortilla wrap to be ‘authentic’ Mexican. Whilst there’s still a place for Tex-Mex style cuisine, it seems that the British tastes in Mexican food are evolving with a greater desire for more traditional dishes and ways of serving them.
In London, the rise up pop up restaurants and street food stalls has meant that lots of Mexican taco places (or taquerias) have opened. From London Bridge there are probably 10 different taco places within a 20 minute radius. Armed with my trusty camera phone and an empty stomach I went to try and eat as many of the tasty morsels as possible. Unfortunately however, whilst they may look like a small on-the-go snack it turns out that attempting to eat 16 different versions of tacos was at least 8 too many.
What is a taco?
A small, handheld tortilla (usually made from corn but can be made from wheat) topped with some kind of filling (meat, fish, beans, veg etc), salsa (of which there are countless versions), possibly a shredded veg garnish or Mexican cheese. Taco translates as ‘stopper or plug’ meaning a snack that plugs your stomach. They are however also eaten alongside rice and beans to make a complete meal. As well as the rice and beans common accompaniments are totopos (fresh fried tortilla chips) or chicharron (pork scratchings!) served with guacamole and at least one other salsa.
A few of the best taco fillings…
This pork taco filling is cooked on a vertical rotisserie (like a doner kebab) - this is said to be a technique that was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. The pork is marinated in a sauce that’s bright red from the use of both chilli and annatto paste. It’s usually cooked with grilled pineapple resulting in a delicious sweet and savoury flavour
This crispy battered fish taco filling seems to be a popular filling on the London taco circuit. Possibly because it looks great topped with the obligatory pickled red cabbage
Chicken is slow cooked in a rich chipotle heavy sauce then shredded. The dish is said to have originated in Puebla in central Mexico - an area well regarded for its food
Another slow-cooked and shredded meat dish, this time pork. This comes from Yucatán and is traditionally cooked in an underground BBQ pit
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