Overland miles: 209 Tacocount: 16 Days without Tea: 2
Regular readers may be aware of your PFB correspondents’ obsession with street-food. For Clare and me, there is no better way to experience local culinary specialities in the heart of the community known for its production, than at the humble street-food stall or cart. And whilst you’ve got me eulogising about it, I’d go further and argue that three particular types of street food represent the ultimate expression of this experience: perfectly balanced flavours, served steaming hot and ready to go. They are Vietnam’s Banh Mi, the Char Sui Bao (steamed dumplings) of China, and Mexican tacos.
It is devastatingly brilliant a simple trio of tacos can be. We can’t get enough of these tasty little critters: there’s even a taco count rolling at the top of each post on this blog. (For the record, we’re lumping tostadas into the count because they are from the same species of corn-based snack – I describe the fish tostada in more lip-smacking detail here.)
Tacos are eaten literally everywhere and at all times in Mexico – the stands or huts selling them are often called ‘Taquerias‘, sometimes offering outside seating via some bar stools arranged along the counter, always with bowls of assorted salad toppings and chilli salsas lined up for self-service. It’s quite usual for these places to be a hub of activity of an early evening; supply (the main dude and his familiar cohort) struggles to meet demand (a big queue of lots of other families on the street). Not that this ever creates disenchantment, with customers more than happy to wait, chat and listen to Banda music belting out of parked up cars.
So on our first night in Mexico, we naturally headed out into the Tijuana night to get taco’d up. We found what we were looking for at Tacos La Revu, on La Revolucion (the main drag). The place looks pretty funky during the day but it turns into something of a fairground ride at night, with seemingly never-ending old-time crooner numbers rattling out of the speakers behind us. As is perfectly normal, the pre-teen son of the main dude was taking orders and brining out the dishes.
We chose the classic – ‘Carne Asado’ (‘roasted’ meat of no particular persuasion, usually hacked to pieces directly on the griddle rather than going through an actual roasting process), plus birria (kid), and chorizo. The tacos came, as they very often do, with a double layer of tortilla wrapping and a Tupperware container of sides, including limes, pickles and cucumber. Coriander (cilantro) was scattered on top. They were wolfed down in seconds, and more – this time Marlin with cheese – were quickly ordered to sate our rapacious hunger.
Those fish-based tacos were good, but what we were really on the hunt for was the deep-fried version often served by the bucket in ports and seaside towns. As we were conveniently in Ensenada for my birthday, a year to the date that Prawns For Breakfast was conceived (!) it seemed fitting to go for breakfast port-side, cheek by jowl (or fin) with the roaring fish market. The main dude’s wife at Taco Allan waved us up to her stand on the Azueta boulevard just up from the harbour, as if bringing in a Boeing 747. The scene was a joyous morass of colour. Each table was lined with huge cocktail glasses of fiery salsas in a variety of vibrant hues; remembering naive mistakes of past I chose wisely and plumped for the milder option.
I was flying solo on this mission, and wasted no time ordering a couple of camaron (shrimp) and a standard pescado (fish) tacos. They came out minutes later, looking something like battered root ginger: golden brown and tender to the touch. Again, the usual toppings could be added in the quantity desired. Using decent quantities of the fresh coriander and limes I stacked and wrapped ’em, and got ready for Taqueria hysteria.
The result was deliciousness squared. Clare took over the photography duties, and snapped me digging into my birthday treat.
I don’t think any words can do justice to my feelings about the mighty taco, more than these pictures already describe. I will just say this though: the best time to have prawns really is for breakfast.