This story was originally published in Spanish on MUNCHIES MX in October 2016.
Over the last few weeks, people all over Mexico have been debating about the country's best food on social media , creating a list to choose "the best typical Mexican dish". People have been nominating their favorites, and finalists will appear on #GuiaModelo, the first gastronomic guide of Mexican dishes crowdsourced by those who love eating (and created by the beer company Modelo).
Here at MUNCHIES, we think there should be more than one taco on that list—because if there's anything that Mexicans know how to do, it's eat tacos. We have created tacos that have become famous around the world—hey there, taco al pastor! We've also transformed (almost) every typical Mexican dish into a taco.
However, within this taco universe, there are some tacos that are extra memorable, those that leave a mark on the perennial list of "things that are worth living for". So today, we are making our own list of five of Mexico's best tacos.
Los Cocuyos, Mexico City: Taco de suadero
This taco is almost like a confit, cooked in its own juice and wrapped in a mixture of different types of fats: suadero (brisket), tripe, chorizo (sausage), and pig's head, all cooked in the same pot. Rigoberto of Los Cocuyos finishes the preparation of his suadero by frying the meat over the sheet of steel, just to give it a crisp around the edges. Then he pours some drops of lime, radishes, cilantro, onion, and either spicy red salsa made with avocado and habanero or green sauce. The bite is soft, juicy, and friendly. It is a fleeting pleasure that ends in a couple of seconds—one or two bites and it's over. Then you'll be asking, "Can I get another one?"
Residents of Tlaquepaque agree. Chef Jorge Vallejo, owner of the "best restaurant in Mexico", according to a list called Restaurant, agrees. We all agree: suadero tacos from Los Cocuyos are among the best dishes in Mexico. Not only because they are indescribably delicious, but because they are a beacon of hope during every single citizen's hungriest time: in the middle of the night.
Where: Taquería Los Cocuyos, Bolívar 56, Centro.
Pitiona, Oaxaca: Taco de lechón con mole de chicatanas
Maybe this taco is perfect because of the cut of meat, which has that point where the pork fat and meat intertwine. Or maybe it's perfect because of the smoky, salty, umami mole chef José Manuel Baños' makes with chicatanas (ants). Or maybe what makes this taco so wonderful is the crispy skin of the pig that the chef serves over the meat, just before adding some crispy pork rinds, creamy avocado, radishes, roasted onions, cilantro, and a serrano pepper slice.
No, no, no. The greatness of this taco resides in its two tortillas, so you can turn one taco into two—that's its best attribute.
Where: Restaurante Pitiona, Allende 114, Centro.
Zacapu, Mexico City: Taco de achicalada, de
Achicalada tacos are the tastiest on the menu at Zacapu, a very nice and well-kept butchery in the La Lagunilla neighborhood of Mexico City. The achicalada is a mixture of various pieces of pork—a little bit of everything—and the meat is often golden brown and crunchy. The trick is to put a little bit of red salsa—which is spicy enough to suffer—and be reminded why a pig is a gift from the gods. As Zacapu is surrounded by old tortillerias using real corn and not masa, the taco is not broken even if you put more braised pork skin or more nopales.
Where: Zacapu: Honduras 34-16, Lagunilla.
La Panga del Impostor, Guadalajara: Taco de pulpo y chicharrón prensado
This taco is a combination of octopus, chicharrón prensado (pig skin deep fried and topped with gravy), crispy pork rinds, avocado, onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime, all wrapped in a soft, handmade flour tortilla. The architect of this masterpiece: Antonio de Livier, master of the "sea and land" kitchen. We would travel to Guadalajara and cry tears of happiness just to eat this taco.
Dónde: La Panga del Impostor, Lerdo de Tejada 2189, colonia Americana.
La Tonina, Mexico City: Taco de chilorio
Genoveva, the cook, stretches the dough with the rolling pin, cuts a tortilla made with flour and butter, and puts it over the comal (a flat cast-iron griddle). When the tortilla is inflated and begins to get brown, she fills it with chilorio (shredded beef previously seasoned with butter, ancho chili, vinegar, cilantro, garlic and oregano). If you ask her, she can add northern cheese (fatty manchego cheese) before she rolls the tortilla. Before giving it a bite, add two drops of lemon, three drops of green sauce, and pa' dentro. There are other dishes from Sinaloa offered in this half-hidden place with only four tables in the San Rafael neighborhood, but we consider the chilorio tacos superheroes fighting for justice of hungover people.
Dónde: La Tonina: Serapio Rendón 13, colonia San Rafael.