Ultimate Guide to Tacos in Mexico City
Mexican cuisine is so rich that UNESCO named it as an intangible cultural heritage of mankind, however tacos are still the king of Mexico’s vibrant street food. Tacos play a big part in Mexican lifestyle, for which streets and markets are so central, and talking about new puestos (food stalls) and debating about tortillas, filling and salsas is typical among Chilangos so that now it is very natural for me too! Let me share with you some of the best tacos in Mexico City as well as the best street food in the capital, the types of tacos and how to eat them like a local. So even if you have only 48 hours in the capital, you can eat your way around while exploring its must sees.
Tacos al pastor
In CDMX, you can find pretty much any type of taco, and possibly the best tacos in the world. But don’t miss out on one of the capital’s signature dish, the tacos al pastor (shepherd style). This historic dish, based on the shawarma spit-grilled meat, was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the early 20th century. Differently from the original, tacos al pastor are made with pork, not lamb, and they are served on a corn tortilla. Apart from the traditional toppings of onion and coriander, al pastor must be seasoned with a pineapple slice. Head to El Huequito in the city centre, El Vilsito in Narvarte, or to El Califa if you’re elsewhere.
Although you can find some vegetarian options, meat is the king among tacos filling, with some of the most typical being longaniza (a sausage similar to chorizo), suadero (skirt, flank or bisquet), campechano (a mixed of the two). Cooked in a sizzling choriceras, large metal pans, for hours, the meat is then chopped on a wooden block and delivered on a warm, usually hand-made, tortilla. There are plenty of good taquerías to eat these at, but my favourite at the moment is Los Cocuyos in the city centre. When I fancy a taco after a late night out, I usually head to one of the taquerías Orinoco or to the historical Chupacabra, if I am in Coyoacan. If you prefer fish, go to Chico Julio in La Roma.
If meat is the typical filling of a taco, pork is the king among meats. You can have pretty much any part of the animal served on a tortilla. Among the different types of breakfast tacos, those of carnitas must be tender, moist, juicy and riddled with plenty of well-browned crisp edges. When I am in La Roma on Saturday I never miss the chance to pay a visit to “Meche y Rafael” to eat some delicious tacos carnitas. This taquerìa is located in a very unique market, Mercado Medellin, nicknamed little Havana, as it offers products not only from Mexico but also from all over Latin America. Another great option is El Gran Abanico.
The typical taco for a Sunday breakfast or brunch is one with barbacoa along with a consommé, a broth made using the same meat. A pre-Hispanic form of cooking meat, from which the term barbecue derives, nowadays it refers to slow-cooked meats, typically lamb, over an open fire, or more traditionally, in a hole dug in the ground covered with maguey leaves. Don’t miss out on this tender and strong-flavoured meat and head to Edison Barbacoa, just behind the monument of the Revolution, or to one of the tianguis (pop-up markets), such as that in Portales, a southern area still untouched by gentrification.
Tacos de guisado
As in any big city, urban life doesn’t always allow for a home-cooked meal. So in CDMX the home-cooked meal has come to the street in the form of tacos de guisado. The filling, stewed meat and veggies, are usually prepared off site and placed in ceramic pots called cazuelas to keep them warm. These ancient and not at all flashy tacos comes with endless variations as any ingredient that can be stewed has likely been used to make a taco de guisado somewhere in Mexico. Head to Tacos Hola in La Roma and try my favourite, chicharrón en salsa verde (pork cracklings in a green tomato sauce).
Salsas and toppings
Whatever the filling, make sure to sprinkle your taco with some lime, garnish your taco with some chopped onions and coriander and don’t forget one of the amazing salsas that are offered at every taquería’s counter. The great variety of Mexican chillies is reflected in their salsas. The basic ones are red and green depending on the chilly they are made of. Then you can have sauces of peanut or pineapple, just to mention some, depending on the other ingredients. Salsas are very flavourful, but they are also very spicy so always try a bit before topping your taco. If your mouth starts burning, te enchilaste, as they say, don’t worry - every real Mexican must do so!
How to eat a taco
Eating a taco is all an art and a Mexican can definitely tell somebody who is having one for the first time. However rule number one to fit in is that you must eat your taco by hand, at a taquería or in one of the amazing places to eat in the capital. Grab the taco with three fingers raising your little finger, and tilt your head a little to bite the taco from the side. Don’t worry about making some of the filling fall in your plate, it is basically inevitable, if you are not a Mexican pro. There is only one thing left to say, provecho! (enjoy your meal), and don’t forget to wish so to the people close by!