icon Beef Tacos à la Taquería Corona
from the Taqueria Corona
in New Orleans

The taco is a very old dish, predating the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors to Central America. There is anthropological evidence that the indigenous people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico ate tacos made of tortillas filled with small fish. The first encounter of the conquistadors with the taco was in Coyoacán, a village south of Mexico City. When Hernán Cortés came, it was inhabited by the native Tepanecas, who had beef with the Aztecs and actually welcomed Cortés, allowing him to use the village as headquarters during his conquest of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City). After the Aztec capital was destroyed, Cortés remained in Coyoacan and made it the first capital of New Spain from 1521 to 1523.

In it most basic form, the traditional taco consists of a corn or wheat tortilla, folded or rolled around a filling (sliced beef, ground beef, pork, chicken, seafood, vegetables or even cheese), and garnished with salsa, avocado, guacamole, cilantro, tomatoes, onions or lettuce. Mexican tacos come in a great variety, making them the ideal late-night, after-party, street snack.


Carnitas taco.

Barbacoa taco.

Typical Mexican tacos include:

  • Tacos de Asador: rib-eye carne asada taco consisting of grilled marinated rib-eye steak served with cebollita, pico de gallo, cilantro and onions.
  • Pork tacos consisting of thin slices of charbroiled lean pork.
  • Chicken tacos consisting of marinated bits of charbroiled chicken breast.
  • Chorizo tacos conssiting of charbroiled pieces of the spicy mexican sausage.
  • Tongue tacos made with tender and spicy beef tongue. Tacos al Pastor (shepherd style) consisting of thin slices of pork seasoned with adobo seasoning and pineapple, is then skewered and roasted on a vertical rotisserie.
  • Barbacoa tacos consisting of "barbacoa", various meats slow-cooked over an open fire, steamed until tender.
  • Carnitas tacos consisting of heavily marbled pork slowly braised or simmered in oil or lard for 3-4 hours
  • Cheese tacos filled with melted mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.


Shrimp taco.
Two styles of tacos originated in the Baja California region:

  • Tacos de camarones: shrimp tacos consisting of sautéed marinated shrimp.
  • Tacos de pescado: fish tacos seasoned fish filet bits crispy fried, topped with red cabbage and spicy tartar sauce


Typical American hard-shell taco.
"American tacos" are tacos that made it to the United States and Canada. They consist of a hard, U-shaped , crispy taco shell made from a corn tortilla, filled with ground beef, lettuce, cheddar cheese & salsa. They were first described in a cookbook called "The good life: New Mexican food" by Fabiola Cabeza de Vaca Gilbert and published in Santa Fe in 1949. Fried U-shaped tortillas are sometimes used in Mexico as well, but it is the ground beef that sets the American taco apart.


Navajo taco made with frybread.
Indian tacos (or Navajo tacos) are made using frybread instead of tortillas.

Closely related to tacos are fajitas, a Tex-Mex creation from the 1970s.

In 1988, the Taquería Corona opened in New Orleans. It was a small-greasy spoon on Magazine Street, opened by restaurateur Roberto Méndez, a San Salvador native who came to the United States as a well-trained chef and manager. He introduced New Orleans to inexpensive,

Taquería Corona in New Orleans.
authentic Mexican food (minus the fat), served in a small, casual neighborhood eatery and bar. His second location on Fulton Street in the Warehouse District was an instant hit with the oil industry lunch crowd from downtown. The word 'taqueria' was unknown in Louisiana before him.

Méndez's secret is using the best and freshes ingredients, hand-cutting his produce, and using vegetable oils rather than the traditional lard, as well as trimmed lean meats. His menu always had diversity, expanding the image of tacos as beign made only with ground beef, tomato, cheese and lettuce.

Here is a version of the beef tacos just like those served in the Corona.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs rib-eye steak or flank steak, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika

Preparation:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine tequila, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, juice of 1 lime, olive oil, salt, black pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, oregano, cumin and paprika. Whisk until well blended.
  2. Lay the flank steak in a large glass baking dish. Pour over the steak in the dish. Turn over once to coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap, and marinate overnight.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together 1 chopped white onion, cilantro, and the juice of 1 lime. Set aside to use as a relish for the tacos.
  4. Prepare charcoal grill, or preheat the oven to 450 deg F (230 deg C).
  5. Grill the steak 5-10 minutes per side. Remove from grill and slice diagonally across the grain into thin slices.
  6. Warm the tortillas in a dry skillet for about a minute on each side to make them pliable. Tortillas may also be warmed in a microwave oven. Arrange two or three tortillas on a plate, and lay a generous amount of beef over them. Top with a sprinkle of the onion relish and a large spoonful of the pureed salsa. Add as much cheese as you like. Garnish with lime wedges, and serve.


Beef taco a la Taquería Corona.

back to Radim and Lisa's Well-Travelled Cookbook | email us

Originally included on March 30, 2003; last updated on June 1, 2014

Designed with SuperEdi