Tacos are the traditional Mexican dish which continue to gain in popularity because of their extraordinary versatility. Even though they have been a trending item in fast food outlets and retail for some years they continue to be rolled out in ever increasing numbers. Tacos are to the States now what sandwiches mean to the English.
For the product developer looking to tap into the growing snack trend, the taco represents the ideal for fibre inclusion, using old, ancient grains and providing something nutritious in an increasing omnivorous world.
Tacos are the crunchy or soft corn tortillas. You find them stuffed with all sorts of goodies from meat, fresh veg to seafood. Most have their own tasty taco seasoning. All must have crisp lettuce, grated cheese and a dash of tangy salsa to add that extra pzazzz. Perhaps more delicate than the hearty Burrito, tacos lend themselves to a wide variety of dishes and of course recipes. We occasionally have something called ‘taco night’ which is a call to hotter times when the fog and drizzle is assaulting the house.
Tacos are quite simple really. Mark Miller and Benjamin Hargett in their book called simply ‘Tacos’ from Ten Speed Press describe them as an art form – ‘delicious aromatic stewed or grilled meat, a few leaves of cilantro, a bit of chopped white onion, a modest spoonful of spicy salsa, the freshly griddled tortilla lightly coated with cooking juices and tasting intensely of roasted corn’. If that description doesn’t get the mouth watering then what does. Why not try ‘Dragons Love Tacos‘ by Adam Rubin who definitely knows how to entice us into the world of the taco filling.
Originally, tacos were made from masa which is a type of corn meal. They can still be found on most street corners in various Mexican cities as Tacos de canasta or basket tacos. Most tacos are fillings wrapped in a tortilla. The word taco comes from the Nahuatl word ac, which means flat. The Spanish took this word from the Aztecs which built the name around a basic preparation of the food and which they later accepted as a key nutritional food.
Tacos are built rather than prepared. The ‘building’ is the tortilla, the filling, garnish and salsa. Without these elements, the modular form of a taco is missing key essential elements.
Nowadays, tacos are no longer just Mexican. To be frank, they are part of traditional Mexicana but they have become infused with the cultures of US states. Check out California and Texas as well as Arizona or New Mexico. I loved reading snippets from ‘The Tacos Of Texas’ by Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece. This is a neat book containing a broad range of taco inspired recipes. I noticed that guacamole came as standard.
If you are looking for tacos in the fast food outlets then look no further than Pizza Hut and the eponymous Taco Bell. I know Yum ! Brands (parent company of Taco Bell) are also one of the top food service companies producing tacos but I’ve only ever seen them in the US. In line with modern health trends, expect to find tacos free of artificial ingredients. It’s obvious why they were there in the first place, but it’s good to see a return to more natural produce. As David Gibbs, CEO at Pizza Hut commented:-
“As the world’s largest pizza company that has unrivaled heritage in quality and flavorful pizzas, it only made sense for us to lead the category in this area. We are committed to doing this the right way and to make the changes that ensure only the highest quality and greatest flavors in our food.”
Tacos at Pizza Hut should now be free of artificial ingredients. So what else has been removed. Monosodium glutamate, trans fats, unsustainable palm oil derivatives (now replaced with sustainable RSPO-certified palm). Certain antioxidants such as BHA and BHT have also gone or at least been reduced.
The first item on the modular taco list is the shell itself. If you don’t make them, I’d recommend ones from ‘Old El Paso’. I still believe you can find the small or mini tacos they produced in 2015. These were the Mini Soft Tortilla Taco Boats that featured a flat bottom and rounded sides, making them easier to fill, hold, and eat. With the best of intentions, these were ideal for appetizers and taco night. It seems customers were calling the Stand ‘N Stuff Soft Flour Tortillas as ‘Taco Boats,’ which created a bit of confusion. Tracy Chaloupka, associate marketing manager commented:-
“Consumers love the versatility of the original size for taco night, but they were also looking for a smaller option for snacking, entertaining, and for those with smaller appetites.” I quite like their menu suggestions that Old El Paso suggest on their web-site.
B&G Foods have the Ortega brand and they introduced ‘Good Grains Taco Shells’ in 2017. These are hard shells that contain whole kernel corn and some ancient grains. Back in the IFT’s ‘ Food Technology’ magazine for September 2017, Haven Cockerham (great name), and vice-president and general manager at B&G Foods, stated:-
“The introduction of Ortega Good Grains Taco Shells satisfies the growing interest in high-quality meal solutions that are affordable and accessible”.
The shells are available in four varieties—Blue Corn, White Corn With Chia Seeds, Yellow Corn & Ancient Grains, and Whole Grain & Lentil. The suggested retail price was $1.99 for a pack of 10. The business also released a line of Crispy Taco Toppers in jalapeño and onion varieties. These add what is best described as a bold crunch to tacos, burgers, salads and other fast food type foods. In September 2017, they retailed for $2.79 in a 3.5-ounce resealable pouch.
As a reminder, anyone growing chillies in the colder countries of the northern hemisphere needs to start off the chilli growing in the months of January and February
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