Forget quesadillas, enchiladas and fajitas, tacos are the number one dish in Mexico. These folded and filled corn tortillas are supremely popular and incredibly versatile – locals enjoy them for lunch or dinner, on the way home from a night out or socially with friends. And everything you can imagine has been tried and tested as a taco stuffng, with every single region of Mexico having its favourites.
For example, piglet tacos are king in the state of San Luis Potosí; lobster and beans are the combo of choice in Baja California (unsurprisingly, given its long stretches of coast); in Hidalgo they even stuff their tacos with worms. And of course, tacos aren't just popular in Mexico: in 2014, Americans ate over 4.5 billion tacos, roughly equal the weight of two Empire State Buildings.
There is a near-endless list of taco recipes, but capital Mexico City is home to one of the most popular: Tacos Al Pastor...
Recipe: Tacos al Pastor Serves 4 1kg pork steak, sliced very thinly
500ml annatto marinade (see below)
Corn oil, if frying
Sea salt 6-12 corn tortillas, 7-11cm wide
Garnish (eg pineapple chunks, chopped onion, lime wedges, fried green onions, guacamole, chipotle, Mexican salsa)
For the annatto marinade:
1 dried sweet guajillo chili
30ml corn oil
65g chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon achiote paste
1 tablespoon sugar
3 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 whole cloves
½ tablespoon ground cumin
½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground anise
1 allspice berry
250ml fresh orange juice
Sea salt and apple cider vinegar
Mexican tacos (Shutterstock)
To make the marinade:
1. Fry chilis in oil over a low heat for 2-3 minutes until crispy (but not bitter). Remove the seeds.
2. Grind chilis, onion, garlic, sugar and spices in a blender until well combined.
3. Add orange juice, salt and a few drops of vinegar to blender; pulse to combine. To make the tacos:
1. Place meat in marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Roast the meat on the grill or a griddle for a little more than 1 minute, or until golden brown. (If not working with a grill, sauté the meat in a skillet with a little oil. The steaks should be cooked individually for the best results.)
2. On a cutting board, slice the meat into strips, season, and keep warm. Serve on the warm tortillas with a selection of garnishes.
NB: You can swap the pork for chicken, fish, aubergine or courgette Recipe taken from Tacopedia (Phaidon, £20) by Déborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena; foreword by Rene Redzepi
Main image: Mexican tacos (Shutterstock)