A Taco is a corn tortilla that is folded over with a filling inside.
Though Mexican restaurants outside Mexico offer Tacos as part of a sit-down meal, Tacos in Mexico are something that you eat out of hand on the go, like a sandwich. They are not really meant to be a sit down and eat food. They are small, about the size of your hand.
In Mexico, you can’t buy stiff-shelled Taco shells, such as are sold at supermarkets in North America. Though a filled Taco might be deep-fried, making the tortilla hard (see “Flautas” below), Tacos always start with soft tortillas.
The filling can be any combination of beef, chicken, pork, veg, cheese, refried beans, salsa, scrambled eggs, or anything, really — including tongue, eyeballs, stomach and bull’s balls, and insects such as ants, grasshoppers and worms. Some Taco fillings are meant to be eaten in the mornings (mañaneros), some in the afternoon (vespertinos), some in the evening (nocturnos), for late at night (trasnochadores), and some any time. The tortillas are warmed before the filling is put in.
Tacos are usually sold in Mexico from street stands or trucks. A Taco stand or place is called a “taquerías.” A person who makes Tacos is called a “taquero.” Customers get to pick the filling they want from those being offered, and then add their own toppings of chopped fresh vegetable, lime juice and salsa.
Tomatoes not often used with Tacos in Southern Mexico. In Northern Mexico, shredded cabbage is a more typical vegetable topping than shredded lettuce.
There are many special recipes and ways of preparing.
- Flautas: Tacos which are rolled up tightly like a flute, with their fillings inside, and then deep fried until golden;
- Tacos de guisados: Tacos with stewed meat in them, served at noon hour;
- Tacos escamalies: Ant eggs in the filling;
- Tacos indígenas: Tacos with bugs in the filling such as crickets, “maguey worms”, etc. (liked only by few in Mexico);
- Tacos Nopalitos: The filling is made with a cactus leaves;
- Tacos Vapor: Tacos that are warmed by steam.
Enchiladas are similar, except that they are covered in sauce, often baked, and you eat them with knives and forks.
For “Tacos” made with flour tortillas, see entry for Burritos.
Taco may be derived from Aztec words, perhaps either “tlaxcalli” or “quauhtaqualli”.