Mexican cuisine is incomplete without mentioning tacos. Today, we are featuring vegetarian tacos called tacos de papa (potato tacos).
They have a significant place not just in the culinary area but also in their culture where slangs have emerged using the word tacos. Nowadays, echarse un taco meaning “to grab a taco” is synonymous with let’s get something to eat. Another everyday saying, Le echas mucha crema a tus tacos, which translates to “you have put too much cream on tacos” means you are too snobbish. The popularity of tacos has risen so high and globally spread that there are tons of varieties of tacos adapted to suit the local taste buds. Tacos are ubiquitous!
Tacos have been a part of the Mexican meal since ancient times. Taco, in a more general sense, refers to a tortilla folded or rolled around a filling with infinite possibilities. They are mostly served warm and rarely you find them with cold fillings.
What is a tortilla?
Tortilla, derived from the Spanish word tort meaning cake plus illa, a diminutive, which means small – a small cake. It is a small, round, unleavened flat bread made either with maize flour or wheat flour. They form the foundation of many traditional Mexican dishes like enchiladas, quesadillas, chimichanga, burritos, tostada and many more.
The original and oldest varieties of tortillas were made only with maize (corn). They are in existence since the ancient times in Mesoamerica. Since maize was the staple ingredient of the ancient Aztec and Mayans, tortillas made of corn represented the large part of the meal. The tortillas were used as a cutlery, folded to scoop meat.
What is a taco?
A traditional Mexican taco is always made of hot, steaming and freshly pressed corn tortillas. The fillings were generally pork, seafood and vegetables. It was mostly popular in central and south Mexico until the 19th century. As the tacos spread to northern Mexico, beef fillings were introduced and more specifically, wheat tortillas (also called flour tortillas) were used, the primary local ingredients.
Most of the tacos in Mexico are soft shells, meaning the tortillas are freshly prepared in a pan with a juicy filling inside. The versatility of the taco filling are endless and it is hard to track all the variations. The filling is usually pork, beef or seafood accompanied by onion, guacamole or salsa or lime wedges. The sauces and accompaniments differ in each taco variety. It can also be with or without sauce.
What is the origin of tacos?
The etymology of the word tacos remains debatable. The speculations are that taco means “plug”, commonly used term in mining. It refers to a paper rolled around gunpowder that was used for blasting. Some also say that the word is derived from the indigenous Nahuatl word tlahco, which means “half” or “in the middle”.
What are the different types of tacos?
Some of the most common tacos include:
– Tacos de asado (grill tacos) – filled with grilled meat
– Tacos de cabeza (head tacos) – usually meat from the head of the animal that is slow roasted.
– Tacos de camarones (shrimp tacos)
– Tacos al pastor – tacos made with thin slices of pork. It is inspired by the Lebanese shawarma.
– Tacos de barbacoa – filling made with lamb, which is slow-steamed and cooked.
– Tacos de pescado (fish tacos) – originated in Baja California, the filling is made with grilled fish and flour tortillas are used.
– Tacos de papa – filling made of seasons potatoes and topped with avocado, lettuce, onion and tomatoes.
Apart from these soft shell tacos, there are other varieties like the crispy tacos. Tacos dorados (fried tacos) commonly referred to, as “golden tacos” is one such variety. They are also called as taquitos or flautas (flute-shaped) depending on their size or based on the region where they are from. The main difference is that the filling is placed inside the tortilla, then it is either rolled or folded before being fried in oil. The fried tacos are then topped with lettuce and cheese and sour cream. Today’s potato taco recipe is of the tacos dorados variety – tacos de papa or tacos dorados de papa.
The hard shells, pre-made taco shells, are never used in the traditional Mexican preparation. These hard shells were invented to extend the shelf life of corn tortillas as the fresh tortillas are not suitable for transporting.
Taco de papa is quite a simple recipe to make. Seasoned mashed potato is filled inside the corn tortilla. Then the tortilla is folded into two or rolled. The shape is generally one’s own preference. The rolled tortillas are fried in oil and topped with various toppings like tomatoes, onions, sour cream and avocados.
Even though Mexican cuisine is carnivore dominant, there are few varieties of tacos that please the vegetarian taste buds. Apart from tacos de papa, you will find tacos filles with poblano chiles, or tacos de nopales (filled with cactus leaves). You can even make sweet potato tacos or sweet potato and black bean tacos. Vegetarian and fish tacos are especially eaten during the lent period as Mexicans follow a meatless diet. And if you are a carnivore, you can pice up this potato taco recipe to make chorizo potato tacos.
- 1 lb potatoes
- 10 corn tortillas
- 1 avocado (about 8 oz)
- 1 large tomato , peeled, seeded and diced
- A few lettuce leaves , cut into strips
- 1 red onion , cut into thin strips
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 oz. panela cheese , grated
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- Black pepper
- ½ tablespoon salt
- Cook the potatoes with the skin in a large pot of boiling salted water over high heat, covered, for about 25 minutes.
- Remove the potatoes from the pot and rinse with cold water.
- Peel the potatoes and place in a large bowl.
- Add ¼ tablespoon salt and pepper.
- Mash the potatoes using a potato masher until they have the consistency of mashed potatoes.
- Set aside.
- Heat the corn tortillas in a pan on medium-low heat for about 1 minute on each side until tender.
- Remove the tortillas from the comal and place 1 tablespoon of mashed potatoes in the center of each of them.
- Roll the tortillas like tacos and close them with toothpicks.
- Pour the vegetable oil in a deep pan to a height of about ½ inch. Heat the oil over high heat.
- Fry the tacos for about 2 minutes, until golden brown. Turn them regularly while frying.
- Place them as you go on paper towels to remove the excess fat.
- Remove the toothpicks and set aside.
- Cut the avocado into strips.
- Line the tacos in a large serving dish.
- Place the following ingredients directly on the tacos: sour cream, onion, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and sprinkle with grated panela cheese.