Fresh off the Plancha: Tasty Tacos and Tortas with Mexican-style Sodas
Tacos and tortas are eaten throughout Mexico, and many stores and stalls are set up to serve them in all forms. Although, we are familiar with tacos (at least the U.S. version), torta is the word used to describe both the actual sandwich and the type of bun/bread it is served on.
There are many types of tortas but they’re usually spread with mashed beans, black or pinto, mayonnaise, and topped with avocado and pickled jalapenos. They can contain a string cheese called quesillo or Oaxaca cheese (similar to mozzarella string cheese), milanesa (a thin cut pork or chicken cutlet lightly breaded and pan fried), or shredded chicken in a spicy red adobo sauce.
Taquerias serve tacos in all varieties. The tortillas are soft corn tortillas and are often doubled up so that one tortilla is layered on the other. The tacos are small and a person usually orders 3 or more. They contain finely chopped meat (not ground meat, as in the U.S.) that has been topped with chopped cilantro and onions and served alongside lime wedges, radish slices, and spring onions that have been grilled on the plancha, a round flat grill. Usually a choice of both salsa verde (green salsa) and red salsa is placed on the table. Tacos are almost always served in soft tortillas and never topped with cheese. With the cheddar and ground beef, the delicious U.S. taco is closer to a spicy hamburger than an actual Mexican taco. If craving a hard shell and cheese, a tostada can be ordered.
There are many different kinds of tacos. One popular one is cecina, a salty thin sliced beef. Then there’s a spicy pork taco that cooks over an open flame called al pastor. The pork is often topped with a pineapple and then placed on the skewer, for added sweet flavor. There’s a thicker cut of beef called bistek. Chorizo, a flavorful ground pork sausage is often a choice. Then there are tacos with rice and hardboiled eggs, eaten for breakfast. Some tacos use other parts of the animal: There are also beef head tacos called cabeza, or beef tongue tacos, lengua, and fried beef intestine tacos, or tripa.
Tacos durades (hard tacos), also called taquitas or flautes (flutes), are tortillas stuffed with mashed potatoes and onions or chorizo (spicy pork sausage), or shredded chicken or beef. Tacos durades are rolled into a tube and deep-fried.
For refreshments at taquerias, there are often sodas for sale in long neck glass bottles (the kind we used to have in the U.S. in the 80’s). Most popular international soda brands sold in Mexico contain sugar rather than the corn syrup that is used in the U.S. A lot of sugarcane is grown in Mexico, particularly in Puebla, where farmers have contracts with Coca-Cola and other soda companies, who then refine the sugar and use it in their sodas. You might actually prefer the flavor of a soda made in Mexico as it tastes like you remember it, if you are old enough to remember the 80’s.
There are more fruit flavored sodas, tropical fruit drinks, and a punch drink called sangria (that doesn’t contain wine). They’re available at taquerias and are contained in glass bottles. Aguas like Jamaica (ha-my-ick-a) and horchata are made fresh with ice in large glass containers. I go into detail about the aguas in another article.
FYI, the drinks are prepared with bottled water. Everyone in Mexico knows not to make drinks or ice with faucet water.
When traveling, it’s common to get stomach issues because the microflora is differs. In Mexico, food, drinks and ice are prepared with clean and safe water since the tap water is not fit for drinking. It is recommended that you use your own common sense, good judgement and precautions.