The beauty of the Mexican Taqueria

The thought of two weeks off in February or being house-bound due to Olympic Madness and transit nightmares was incentive enough to start pinching pennies back in September. With visions of tropical beaches and tequila-induced euphoria, I bought the cheapest ticket to Mexico I could find.

The next challenge for this budget-minded student traveler was to find cheap lodging, and cheaper food. Well, with a little pavement pounding, I got lucky with the hotel, and as far as cheap eats go, a definite contender for the gold medal in Olympic Street Food is the Taco Stand (It’s not an actual event).

Taquerias are a ubiquitous mainstay of the Mexican diet, and they range from little more than hot dog stands, where you stand to devour the little buggers as they are handed to you, to full on sit-down restaurants, with tablecloths, even. Although you tend to pay more at the sit down places, I never spent more than 20 pesos (roughly $1.50) per taco, and that was for fresh mahi mahi, where I watched the senoritas make my corn tortillas by hand. The flip side is that I could also get 5 tacos for 30 pesos at a street vendor stall I frequented daily, and that was a good meal for $2.50.

Some people balk at the idea of eating street food abroad, what with the diarrhea and all, but I like the idea of seeing your meal prepared right in front of you. If it looks sketchy, just go to the next Taqueria. And the experience doubles as a free Mexican cooking class.

I have taken the liberty of jotting down some tips so you can make great tacos without leaving your cocina, but really, everything tastes great when you’re shittered on Tequila.

Taqueria Tips

Corn tortillas (soft) – The linchpin of any good taco. Hard tacos are for gringos, much like bad sunburns and beads braided into your hair. Once a specialty food item, corn tortillas are available at pretty much every large supermarket these days.

Salsa – There are as many different salsas in Mexico as colours of the rainbow, but the easiest to make at home is salsa fresca. Just chop some tomatoes, white onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and squeeze some lime juice over it.

Adobada – Grilled pork marinated in red chili sauce. An easy way to fake this is with chorizo sausage.

Carne Asada – Literally grilled meat. I prefer flank steak marinated in dark beer, salt and pepper. Mexican style usually means very thin cuts of beef, lightly seasoned and grilled medium.

Al Pastor – Pork loin marinated in spices and herbs, then grilled on a vertical spit. A pineapple chunk atop the meat drips sweet juice over the pork, basting the piggy as it slow cooks.

Fish Tacos – Just like the name says, grill your seafood of choice, and stick it in a tortilla with some chopped cabbage.

Warm the tortillas on a heavy pan, or simply char them slightly on a greased grill. Stack two tortillas on each other, and shovel the roughly chopped meat on top. The true beauty of the taco is that pretty much any filling will work. Garnish with minced white onion, cilantro, and lime wedges. Serve with salsa, hot sauce, grilled onions, and cold beer. Viva Mexico!

To experience the authenticity of a Mexican Taqueria in Vancouver, hit Dona Cata’s on Victoria at 35th Ave.

//Mike Kennedy
arts editor

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