Mexican Food: The History Of Tacos
Updated: Oct 21, 2021
In the world of delicious Mexican food, nothing quite beats the humble taco. With a signature u-shaped shell and fillings designed to bite you back, tacos are street food that have carved out a place for themselves in Mexican cuisine and can be found on our Tequila Sunrise Mexican Grill menu. While there is no clear history on the exact origin of tacos, early records give us a glimpse or two into the colorful history of this Mexican dish.
The earliest mention of tacos is linked to the Mexican silver miners of the 18th century. A “taco,” in miner’s terms back then, was a charge used in the ore excavating process. They used small pieces of paper, wrapped them around gunpowder, and shoved them into carved out holes in the rock face. Once lit, they would blast through the rock in no time, much like what a good, hot, taco does when eaten. This theory is supported by the fact that one of the first types of tacos recorded is tacos de minero – literally miner’s tacos.
Towards the end of the 1800s, Mexican migrants came to the US as workers in mines and railroads. They brought authentic Mexican food with them. At the time, Mexican food was purely street food, linked to a group of women called the Chili Queens who would sell spicy food off carts during festivals. With the rise in tourism, the food sales became a regular event. Mexico itself was rife with crime, so tourists would seek out the Chili Queens as a way of flirting with the heady risks that Mexico was famous for, without being robbed. The Chili Queens offered a thrilling brush with danger and more.
The children of the early migrants settled in, gained civil rights, claimed citizenship, and began to make economic waves. Even as their incomes improved and they began to branch out and eat other foods, their staple diet remained Mexican. As the cultures adapted to what ingredients were easily available in America, the taco ingredients shifted to things more commonly available in the US, leading to the emergence of Mexican-American tacos. These quickly gained popularity nationwide.
Fast-food tacos are made by pre-frying a tortilla into the characteristic U-shape. There is controversy over who came up with this breakthrough first – Glen Bell or Mexican restaurateurs. Regardless of whose idea it was, making taco shells ahead of time allowed them to be served at a much faster rate than before, allowing the food to gain fast-food status.
Firstly, check out the shell. If it’s a corn tortilla, you’re likely holding an authentic taco. Americanized tacos are usually served with a flour tortilla. Corn tortillas don’t keep well; the move to floured tortillas made tacos more versatile and commercially viable.
The contents will give you a second clue. Authentic tacos are simple, with few ingredients such as chicken or pork (no ground beef), lettuce, and cheese. Americanized tacos can be loaded with many different ingredients.
Each culture that embraces tacos will inevitably put their own swing on it and each generation will add their twist too. At the Tequila Sunrise Mexican Grill, we offer a wide spread of options. A good example of such cultural influence comes to us from the Lebanese:
Lebanese migrants brought with them their shawarma – lamb cooked on a vertical rotisserie and served on pita bread. They adapted their shawarmas by serving the soft meat on tortillas. This created Arab Tacos.
The second generation of Lebanese migrants adapted the Arab Taco recipe by replacing the lamb with pork and adding pineapple. Voila, a new type of taco was born.
As the hottest Mexican restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, we bring you the best of ancient and modern times, as you can choose an authentic crunchy corn taco shell, soft corn tortilla, or soft flour tortilla. You’ll have a tough time choosing from our menu as our fillings cover the full range from traditional, to fish and seafood, carne asada steak, chicken, and vegan. Each filling comes with perfectly matched fresh ingredients and sauces that elevate the humble taco to something memorable. You’ll be spoiled for choice, and the only solution is to join our fan club and keep coming back to try them all.