Whilst I may not be Mexican I would daresay that given the amount of times that I have visited and given the amount of research which I have done on tacos, that I do qualify to hold a strong opinion on this delicious snack, especially when it comes to traditional tacos. There are so many reasons why I love these delicious parcels and I have been lucky enough to see them made in almost every Mexican state. I am therefore often frustrated when I see people in the US purporting to make ‘traditional Mexican tacos’ and then deliver up something entirely different. I have absolutely no problem with people switching up a taco or making their own variety, in fact I’d encourage it, but if you are going to put the word traditional on it, you’d better bring your A-game.
So many get it wrong, and here are the common mistakes.
There are a few pueblos around Mexico who will do make their tacos with a soft shell tortilla, although these are very much in the minority, they aren’t called ‘Children of the Corn’ for nothing. I won’t therefore go in on those using flour tortillas but I am more than happy to call out those who claim that a hard shell is acceptable, it isn’t. These hard shells are often used but they are called tostadas and not even close to being a taco, just stop that.
Whilst I appreciate that the nature of a taco lends itself to filling it with anything, there are some, not many, but some restrictions here. Nobody wants to see a traditional breakfast taco which is packed with sweet maple curled bacon, sausage and hash browns, that is about as traditional as a chocolate and marshmallow pizza. Again, if you wish to create some kind of fusion then be my guest, but don’t give me any of that ‘traditional’ talk, you know it isn’t right.
Let’s just get some things straight here, acceptable condiments for a traditional taco are nopales, lime, pico de gallo, chopped onion, perhaps some chilies and radish if you are doing a mixiote style, and salsa, made from tomatoes and chillies. This therefore does not the include the choices which have long frustrated myself and my taco-expert buddy Javier Burillo, such as ranch, mustard, ketchup or any other such abomination. If you are going traditional then this is the only way to prepare them, if you wish to include more international style toppings, then get that word traditional out of there.
If we are being brutally honest then that dough needs to be handmade and pressed by you, this is how they traditionally do it and this is why each vendor has their own style and taste. If you are its buying up tortillas then in all honesty, you have already swayed from the traditional roots.
If you want to call it traditional, you gotta make it traditional.