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Everything Yucatan: Tacos

Enjoying tacos is a family affair in Yucatan and all over Mexico

We recently worked on putting an article together about the best tacos in Merida, Yucatan when we realized that many people new to the Yucatan Peninsula and other parts of Mexico might not know what makes a good taco and our region’s take on this popular type of food.  Yucatan Compass Consulting’s Diana Gonzalez had some great taqueras on her list.  We thought we might pick her brain a little to first look into what makes a good taco, when to eat them and how tacos have been adapted in Yucatan from other parts of the country.  Diana should know about local cuisine as she has lived in Yucatan all her life, minus a semester learning language in Europe and her time traveling abroad. 

If you want to learn more about Diana and the Yucatan Compass Consulting team please click here.  

You can email her directly for more information about tacos or just about anything else related to living and doing business in the Yucatan Peninsula at diana@yucatancompass.com.

What Makes a Taco Great?

There is a lot that goes into a good taco.  For those not familiar with one of Mexico’s most favorite foods there are likely a few things to learn.

The meat used in a taco is the centerpiece of any flavor experience.  My opinion is different from some of my friends and family- but not that far off.  For me the most important feature of a good taco meat is quality, soft, fat-free meat with lots of flavor.  I really enjoy beef tacos like al pastor and arrachera.  This is a great place to start.

Then there is the tortilla.  Most taquerias (also sometimes spelled taqueras ) offer corn tortillas but some, depending on the style of taco, may also offer flour tortillas.  If you are looking for a really great taco you should look for taquerias that make their tortillas fresh and by hand.  Trust me- you can taste the difference between a fresh, handmade tortilla and one made by a machine a day or more before.  Since fresh tortillas are not always easy to make most taquerias that make their own tortillas will have a sign that highlights this fact somewhere.  Look for the term “tortillas hechas a mano.”

Lastly there are the sauces.  A traditional taqueria will offer at least two, usually more, sauces or “salsas” to go with your taco.  They may be tomato-based sauces yielding a red color or tomatillo-based sauces yielding a green color.  Some tacos have a sauce that is designed specifically for that type of taco.  For example, a popular variation on the taco is the ever-growing “Arabian” style.   This type of taco is typically accompanied by delicious cream-based sauces .  No matter what style of sauce is available it is important to check the level of spiciness prior to covering your entire taco and digging in.  For those not familiar with the localized perception of “spicy” in most of Mexico, even a sauce that is identified as “not spicy,” or “no pica,” can still be quite spicy.  As a rule of thumb, you should take a small amount of the salsa you want to try on a plate and taste it first.  If you can handle the spice level then go ahead and top off your taco with it and enjoy!

What is in your favorite taco? Share your ideas on our Facebook page!

When to Eat Tacos

Tacos are great for all occasions and many times of the day.  There are two main types taquerias in Merida- those open for breakfast and lunch and those open for dinner and late night dining.  I am most familiar with the late night taquerias.  Perhaps a result of the traditional afternoon rest from the heat and humidity (siesta), most evening activities in the Yucatan occur a little later than traditionally experienced in other parts of the world.  Dinner and other social events start later and, therefore, end later.  It is not unusual for a family or friend “reunion,” known in English as a “get together” or informal social gathering in one’s home, to last into the early hours of the following day.  After all that talking and even longer goodbyes you can get a little hungry.  This is when you search out for your favorite taquerias that are open and ready to whet your appetite.

The Popularity of Tacos in Yucatan

Tacos are not a traditional Yucatecan dish- many new to the area may not know that.  There has been an influx of new residents to the area from other parts of Mexico (mostly attracted to the quality of life and safety here) that have brought the taco concept and the variations on the concept to the region.  In the last decade the popularity of tacos has greatly increased along with the number of taquerias offering these tasty treats.  There are a lot of great options for tacos in the Merida area.

Before the growth in popularity, there were only a small number of informal taquerias in Merida and one or two local restaurant chains.  Now you can find tacos at establishments small (think eating a great taco standing up outside a roadside cart) to North American-style sit down restaurants.

Do you have more to share about tacos in Yucatan?  What do you think makes a delicious taco and why?  Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook page or Twitter feed

Look for Diana’s list of the best taquerias in Merida in our next “Yucatan Top Five” article coming soon!

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