Quick: How many Mexican taco fillings can you name off the top of your head? Four? Five? In reality, there are dozens of taco fillings to be found all across Mexico, using just about every part of just about every animal (and that’s not to mention the vegetarian ones). Here are 20.
Consider yourself lucky if you can ask for specific parts of the cabeza; you know you’re in a good taquería if you can. If given the option, opt for the cachete, or beef cheeks, sweet and full of flavor. Keep an eye out, too for cachete de cerdo, or pork cheeks.
Enchilada here doesn’t refer to the dish of that name made with filled rolled tortillas; it simply means “in chile sauce.” If you order carne enchilada at a taquería, you’ll get a taco filled with chopped pork that’s been marinated in and cooked with chile sauce; it’s generally one of the spicier options you’ll encounter.
Tracing its roots to the state of Michoacân, carnitas is made by cutting pork shoulder into chunks and slowly simmering it in lard until tender, then shredding. The lard is usually melted down in a large copper pot and seasoned with flavorings including chile, cumin, garlic, and oregano. The shredded carnitas is sometimes crisped up on a comal before serving.
Cecina is beef or pork that’s been salted and pounded thin, then allowed to dry somewhat before being cooked on a comal. It’s pleasantly salty and slightly chewier than your traditional carne asada. It’s also sometimes dry-cured, like Italian bresaola.
Chapulines are small grasshoppers, popular as taco filling (as well as bar snacks) in parts of Mexico including Oaxaca and Mexico City. After being washed, they’re generally seasoned with lime juice, garlic, and salt, and toasted until crunchy on a comal. Some are dyed pinkish-red with food coloring.
As opposed to the cured, dry Spanish sausage of the same name, Mexican chorizo is a fresh pork sausage seasoned with vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, thyme, allspice, cloves, and a whole lot of guajillo chiles (individual recipes may vary). In the area around Toluca you’ll also find green chorizo, which is traditionally made with pork, tomatillo, cilantro, green chiles, and garlic. The meat is usually removed from the casing, crumbled, and seared up on a comal before being added to a taco.
Fish tacos originated in Baja, the peninsula off the northwest coast of Mexico. They’re made with corvina or some other white fish that’s been battered and fried (occasionally grilled), and are traditionally topped with shredded cabbage, a thinned guacamole sauce, and a mayonnaise- or sour-cream-based white sauce.
Res is beef, usually shin, typically braised or stewed with spices.
If you order tripas expecting tripe, you’re in for a susprise; tripas are actually the small intestines of the cow, cleaned, cut up, boiled, fried until crisp, and chopped before being added to a taco. If tripe isn't your thing but you're feeling adventurous, try these 12 tacos that break away from tradition.
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