An Introduction to Tacos
Where did tacos get their start?
Now we know that tacos are a staple in many households in varying forms, but tacos have been around for way longer than many people think. Tacos date all the way back to the 18th century in Mexico. While the exact origins are unknown, researchers theorize that they can be traced back to the silver mines in Mexico. The word “taco” referred to the small explosive charges that they would use in the mines. The way the paper was wrapped around these charges resembles the way tacos are wrapped today. The earliest written evidence of a taco was in the 19th century and was called the “taco de minero” aka. the miner’s tacos. The taco slowly made its way to the US in the early 20th century when Mexican migrants began to move into the US. Tacos began as a working-class food being served to many of the Mexican migrants who had recently come to the country. They would be served out of carts and food trucks. However, tacos slowly moved their way into the mainstream and eventually even into fine dining restaurants.
What is a taco?
In the most simple of terms, a taco is a tortilla (corn or flour) with some variety of filling. However, this simple definition does not even begin to cover the multitude of variances of tacos across Mexico and Latin America. The traditional taco is a far-cry from the tex-mex version that many Canadians are used to getting out of a box and cooking up at home. Let’s break down the different components of a taco into more detail.
Firstly, you must start with a good base in the form of a tortilla. These can come in many varieties but the most traditional are corn tortillas. Traditional corn tortillas are made from corn kernels soaked in lime and water in order to remove the skin of the kernel. The kernels are then ground into a dough called “masa”. The tortillas are then flattened and cooked. The cooking process imparts a slight smokiness which should not overwhelm the mild sweet corn flavour. Like many things, fresh is best with tortillas.
The fillings for tacos can vary greatly depending on where you go. This is where a chef can truly show their creativity in the kitchen and experiment with new flavour combinations. The best tacos have a perfect balance of richness and freshness. The rich component can come from a slow-cooked meat or vegetable filling with deep complex spices. The fresh component can come from fresh vegetables, a spicy pico de gallo, or a sprinkling of cilantro. The sign of a great taco can often be its simplicity. A traditional taco is not stacked high with a million ingredients and sauces. The sign of a truly great chef is their ability to show restraint and allow the flavour of a dish to shine and provide an intricate balance of flavour.
It would be impossible to cover all of the options for the filling in tacos, but to see a few examples check out our menu here.
Tacos have taken the world by storm and can definitely be considered one of the most popular dishes across North America. You can hardly go anywhere without coming across an establishment that sells a variety of tacos. The tacos that we make in-house are only a small sampling of the infinite possibility of a taco, but we think they are pretty delicious!