Remember when tacos were just—well, plain tacos? These days, they’ve been receiving new levels of attention and interest, and it’s becoming hard to imagine what you won’t find wrapped in, around or underneath the once-humble dish.
According to Jeffrey M. Pilcher, author of Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food, the origin of this iconic dish is somewhat unclear, but his best guess is that they were created sometime in the 1700s around the silver mines in Mexico, where the word “taco” meant the small explosives used to excavate ore. “When you think about it, a chicken taquito with a good hot sauce is really a lot like a stick of dynamite,” he’s been quoted saying. From that humble beginning, the taco has gone on to conquer the imagination of creative cooks all over the world.
Breakfast, sushi, dessert
Tacos are making their way through every daypart, with an increasing number of cities claiming to offer the best breakfast tacos, even as Austin and San Antonio continue their debate on which city began the trend. One breakfast standout is HomeState in Los Angeles. With a neon “I Love Breakfast Tacos” sign in its window, its choices include The Trinity–made with eggs, bacon, potato and cheese, and The Blanco–made with egg whites, mushrooms and Monterrey Jack cheese.
Creativity has extended to Asian-fusion tacos, especially as popularized by California-based Norigami Tacos, which claims to be the home of the “original” sushi nori taco. There are even dessert tacos, notably from Austin, Texas-based food truck TacoSweets, which bakes waffle cones into taco shapes and stuffs them with ice cream.
If all this seems to stray far afield from the taco’s origins, don’t worry. Plenty of attention is still being given to its traditional roots. Many chefs are focusing on serving hyper-authentic versions made with heirloom corn tortillas and classic barbacoa.
In an article in FoodFanatics.com, chef Matt Drummond from Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar in Boston summed it up like this: “Tacos are a great platform for flavor. They’re composed dishes. Pretty much anything you can put on a piece of china or porcelain, you can put on a corn tortilla as well.”