Northern tacos in the south, and southern in the north and even imported tacos

Heading the Pacific coast, from the south to north, we stopped in the picturesque port of Zihuatanejo. With its colorful architecture of low buildings, wide streets and sidewalks covered with recovas, is a very pleasant town to walk around. Being on the coast, but with the hills very close to it, it has a wonderful weather year around.

Because of the pleasant weather, this place was “discovered” about 30 years ago by a group of Canadians trying to escape from their weather, and this fishing village offered affordable prices not just for the food and accommodation, but also for real estate. The voice spread out and more Canadians arrived and stayed. Today, the Canadian dollar is more widely accepted than the US dollar.

Interesting enough, as you can expect, mariachis are always around, but to have a blonde-blue eyed 30-year old hippie coming with his guitar to the table offering Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5 or Justin Bieber gave us a good laugh. And got him a couple of dollars.

In the south, but having northern tacos

Among the most renowned restaurants in “Zihua”, you will find Marisquería La Principal, over public beach, right in the heart of “downtown”. And there was where our taco experience started.

Looking at the menu, there are four tacos and we tasted them all. The tortillas were flower tortillas, and the first one on the list was the taco del gobernador, or governor’s taco. A very popular along the whole country, but original from Baja California, at the north of the country. Allegedly created for a gobernador of the state of Baja, and became his favorite, stuffed with shrimps and beans. Traditionally, this taco is made with a corn flower tortilla and cooked on a comal.

The taco al pastor, or sheperd’s taco (this is the translation, don’t try to order it in English because they will not understand what you are asking for, like anywhere in México) is typically made with beef, but here we got the fish version of it, which was made with thinly sliced fish previously marinated in achiote sauce and pineapple, in a sort of creative seaside fusion of a classic.

The taco La Principal, the house’s creation, is a real delight with all the best seafood you can find in any coastal town along the west coasts of Mexico: octopus, shrimp, ahi tuna, cheese and beans.

Margaritas and micheladas are always a good option to temperate the heat of the chili and hot sauces that used to spice up a good taco.

And if we are going to talk about Mexican beverages, is a must to have a michelada, a very refreshing concoction of beer served in chilled glass over ice (?), with salt in the rim and several lime wedges squeezed into it. I know… in many cultures serving a beer over ice is unheard, but not in México!

In the north, in the quest for traditions

We could say that Cabo San Lucas, at the bottom south of the Baja California peninsula, is the real California. I remember being in Todos Santos (home for the mythic Hotel California) about 60 miles (100 km) north from Cabo San Lucas, in a bar, and have a tall Caucasian gentleman, dressed with boots, a leather vest and a Stetson-style hat, having a pleasant chat with an absolutely Mexican gentleman. The cowboy speaking in English and the other replying in Spanish… I know what you are thinking. After a couple of drinks we all speak any language, but these two were having coffee, it was the middle of the day, and we were talking business. I speak both languages, English and Spanish. The conversation made sense!

Anyway, Los Cabos is almost an American colony, it lives out of the American tourism and cruise ships. Finding an old style traditional restaurants is difficult because they are almost extinct. An exception is Tacos Guss, at Melchor Ocampo and Bulevard Lázaro Cárdenas, Los Cabos. Plastic covered communal tables, the menu on the wall, and all the classics on the menu. You choose the style and the stuffing. As soon as you order your drinks, a clay tray with all the sides is being delivered to your table. There is when you get cucumber, tomato, pickled onion, lime wedges, cilantro, carrot and cabbage among the sides. And all the different hot sauces…

The taco al pastor, one of the most popular from México, is not actually Mexican in origin. When I saw it the very first time I was intrigued, and surprised. It resembles so much to a Greek gyros, or a shawarma, that I couldn’t believe that I was in the Americas! The same sliced meats cone, cocked from the side, and cut vertically into thin strips that you see in the Mediterranean, but in the land of Moctezuma! Asking around, because I couldn’t believe my eyes, I learnt that it was inherited from the large Lebanese immigration generations ago, and now part of the local culture.

Among the stuffings we have the arrachera, original from Monterrey and Sonora, in the center-north of the country, is very tender beef, pulled and sliced. Also we have the alambre (or wire, in English) which is grilled and seasoned beef or pork with sliced red bell pepper, original from the capital, the D. F. (Distrito Federal).

Another very particular taco is the huarache. Is a oval-shape corn tortilla, sometimes made with beans in it, and topped up with beef, tomato, salsa, onion and cilantro. Huarache is also a type of everyday leather light sandal I found in Sinaloa. And makes sense, the tortilla resembles to the sandal in shape.

Mexican food is very complex and changes dramatically from town to town and from state to state. When in México be adventurous. Your tastebuds will be jumping in happiness. And always remember, if you have to much hot sauce or chili, don’t drink water, tequila will calm the heat down, or make you forget everything!

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