Before you get too excited, leap up from your chair and start calling all your friends, telling them you’ve finally found the answer… wait. In this blog we’re only looking at theories of where the humble taco is from, since the origin is really unknown. Still, a hunt around articles on the internet written by eminent scientists has given us a fair idea of taco-history, which we’re going to share now.
Basically, one theory is that tacos are named after a stick of dynamite. Just think about that when you’re dousing one in hot sauce and shoving that little torpedo of flavour into your maw.
See, the word ‘taco’ used to refer to little pieces of paper that would be wrapped around gunpowder, before being inserted into holes in the rock face. This was during the 18th century, when there were silver mines dotted all over Mexico and miners would be trying to excavate ore. So many people believe the actual word taco dates from this time. And you can imagine the corn tortilla like a piece of paper wrapped around fiery goodies.
As for official references, the first one comes from the end of the 19th century, and one of the first described is called tacos de minero—miner’s tacos. Kind of like the Mexican version of a Cornish Pasty, we suppose.
So how about the taquería – when did that become popular? They started popping up in working-class neighbourhoods, when the lure of industry brought migrants to Mexico City. The area became a melting pot of various cuisines from the different regions. These taquería sprung up in neighbourhoods where different fillings could be added and news could be exchanged, and it is thought there were string influences from Lebanese immigrants that brought their skills in kebabs and soft flour wraps with spit-cooked pork. The taco is simply a tortilla with a filling, much like a sandwich. They can be made with soft corn tortillas or be fried and filled.
There are three main types of taco sellers in Mexico:
Taco al Pastor – The most popular taco in Mexico – it means “shepherd’s-style taco.” Usually filled with pork, they are a Mexican adaptation of Lebanese kebabs.
Breakfast Tacos– Breakfast tacos or burritos are available at many restaurants across the Southwest (especially New Mexico and Texas). It is a fried corn or flour tortilla that is rolled and stuffed with a mixture of seasoned meat, eggs, or cheese, and other ingredients such as onions and salsa.
Fish Tacos – Ensenada, Mexico claims to be the birth place of the fish taco, and they are advertised at restaurants throughout the city where many claim that their taco is the original. The fish tacos served are simply small pieces of batter-coated, fried fish in a hot corn or wheat tortilla. They are incredibly popular in San Diego.