Tacos are a favourite food of people from all over the world. They are covered in guilty pleasure toppings, and are always full of flavour! You can’t think of Mexico without the word Taco popping up in your head. Granted it may be after the words Sombrero, Tequila or Siesta. But get this. You may not have actually been enjoying a true Taco, but an entirely different Mexican dish posing as one? Let’s take a journey through a rich list of “tacos” that aren’t Tacos.
Although these tasty little Chalupas may look like tacos, they really quite different. The base of this delightful snack is made by creating a thin corn tortilla, pressing it through a mould to slightly curl the edges, and then lightly frying it to make it a little crispy. Although you can still bend the tortilla to eat it like a traditional Mexican taco, it is definitely more crunchy.
Chalupas are a speciality throughout Mexican states such as Pachuca, Guerrero and Oaxaca, where many interesting ingredients are added such as; chorizo, frijoles, lettuce and shredded chicken. However, the most traditional Chalupa can be found in Cholula in Puebla, where the tortillas are formed into a sort of boat shape, and are filled with shredded pork, onion and salsa rojo or verde.
This delicious Mexican street food looks just like a giant taco, and let’s face it, the bigger the taco the better right? Actually, Huaraches are more like a corn flatbread than your traditional thin corn tortilla. The name comes from it’s slightly chewy and oblong shaped base. The Mexicans thought it resembled a type of sandal, which in Spanish is Huarache.
This dish is originally from Mexico City, and in the style of a bustling city, it is most commonly sold from a street cart, and enjoyed on the go. Anything can be thrown on top of a Huarache, but the most common toppings are onion, potato, pork, chicken, queso fresco, and either salsa rojo or verde.
From the big to the small, Sopes resemble a tiny little taco piled high with delicious toppings. There is a specific difference between this mini delight and it’s cousin the Taco. Sopes are made with corn flower, and shaped into small round circles just like a Taco. But then they are curled slightly at the sides, forming a sort of pie crust shape. This little adjustment forms a handy barrier to stop all the fillings from falling off whilst you enjoy your Mexican snack.
Sopes usually have a thin spread of frijoles on the bottom, then a bed of shredded lettuce is placed on top, and finally the dish is crowned with some kind of shredded meat, be it chicken, beef or pork. Sopes are then usually drizzled with queso fresco and salsa verde, yum!
If Tacos were an Olympic sprinter, Gorditas would be the a heavyweight boxer or wrestler that just won a gold medal. This satisfying dish is essentially a corn tortilla split open, and stuffed with delicious guisados (meat stew with Mexican salsa). Gorditas are usually extremely greasy compared to Tacos, and are enjoyed as a mid-day meal.
Aside from the delicious hot stew filling, there are traditionally stuffed to the brim with beans, potatoes, sautéed strips of chile, and lots of salsa. The original version of this dish, from the centre of Mexico, is fried before it’s stuffed. However, nowadays there are many variations including baking or cooking the dough on a griddle.
Tostadas are very similar to Chalupas, just flatter and much more crispy. Tostadas look just like any other regular Taco, until you pick it up and try to fold it, only to have it snap and spill everywhere. Tostadas are traditionally eaten when fresh tortillas have become a little old, and have started to go hard in areas. They are then fried until golden, and topped with a wide range of delicious ingredients.
This dish is so popular in Mexico that it now has dedicated restaurants, serving Tostadas with even the most exclusive toppings. Fresh tuna, shrimp, lobster, and the finest cuts of beef can all be seen as toppings on these simple bases.
This delicious Taco alternative is most commonly found in Mexico City, and is available from street cart vendors on almost every corner. Very similar in shape to the Huarache, Tlacoyos also look like a giant taco, however, they contain a secret weapon. Tlacoyos are actually stuffed with black beans, a crumbly white cheese called cotija, or chicharrón.
Tlacoyos come in three different colours depending on what kind of maize with which they are made. The blue Tlacoyos, made with blue corn kernels is the most popular. Traditionally, these stuffed vessels of deliciousness are eaten without toppings, just a healthy serving of salsa. However, many vendors now sell them with large variety of toppings, such as; cilantro, nopales, lettuce, potato, onion and squash blossom.
Now that you have this handy guide to Mexican street food beyond the popular Taco, you can wander through the market places and sample the best dishes without having to ask, “¿Qué es esto?”
Culinary Note: Want to make a little Mexican street food of your own? Here’s a great recipe for savory Chicharrones.