During the Easter season in most Latin American countries, many people refrain from eating meat. The month leading up to Easter is the Catholic season of Lent – and most Latin American countries have deep rooted Catholic backgrounds.
This is a time when lots of seafood is consumed.
Growing up, though, my family wasn’t Catholic. So during the Lent season, we were one of the only families around that was eating meat regularly. (Also, my mom didn’t like cooking seafood because of the lingering fishy scent.)
Last week, as I was thinking about Lent and seafood, and the fact that my family continued eating meats throughout the season, I was reminded of a time I was served some of the best fish soup I’ve ever eaten.
Before you get your hopes too high, I’ll tell you that this post is not about that delicious soup – though I am going to track down that recipe for a later date. Now, in Mexico we eat tacos dorados with soup, much like in many places soups are served with sandwiches or loaves of bread. Today’s post is about that delectable, crispy bite of comfort that’s often served with a soup and can stand alone just as well – Tacos Dorados.
It was a few weeks before Easter in the early 2000’s when a college classmate and friend looked over at me and said, “Hey, let’s get a group together and go to Acapulco.”
So, naturally, as I am full of spontaneity I said, “Yeah! That would be fun. Let’s do it!”
Within 24 hours, a group of five of us were on our way from Mexico City to Acapulco – about a 4-5 hour drive. In the group were my friend and his brother and sister, and my brother and me.
We had family friends that owned a house in Acapulco, and were away on a vacation of their own, who said we could use their house during our stay, so we were prepared for a non-expensive miniature beach vacation among friends.
The only expenses we would incur would be food and gasoline.
Then, on our way to Acapulco, I remembered that I had a friend who lived right outside of the city – in El Coloso. This friend, Eli (pronounced Eh-lee), would eventually become my best friend, traveling companion, and maid of honor. (In fact, we always talk about how, in that time, we never thought we’d be living in a Malaysian jungle together, or getting a free flight to Hawaii together, or getting lost together in different parts of the planet.)
I messaged her, and she replied telling me she would be in class on the day of our arrival.
Once we arrived in Acapulco and reached one of the most known beaches, we looked around and were all, frankly, quite disappointed. That’s when I decided to call Eli, who had just finished her college classes for the day.
Eli brought us away from the touristic areas and to the most beautiful local beaches with golden sands and crystal clear water nestled in between two mountain peaks. Needless to say, we were excited to find such a lovely area, and we decided that is where would continue our vacation the following morning.
That next day, Eli’s mother – Mama Berna – sent, with her daughter, some fish soup and tacos dorados for us to enjoy on the beach.
I grabbed a taco and poured some soup in a container and tasted both. As expected, the taco was perfection, but the soup surprised me with its delicate and intrinsic flavors.
Usually, fish soup is strong – it’s aftertaste and smell overpowers
This soup, however, was not that. The fish wasn’t soggy. It’s consistency was pure. The vegetables had a nice fish taste, but didn’t lose their vegetable essence.
I remember thinking a hot soup would not be good for a day at the beach, but it was actually light and refreshing and perfect for a beach day.
Seriously, I will get that recipe and make it for this blog one day.
Maybe the reason I thought the food was so good that day was because Mama Berna did not know us – we were just friends of her daughter – and she went out of her way to show us such love and hospitality.
Mama Berna really became someone very special to me that day – even without knowing her until later. She made that food with love and gave it to us without asking for anything in return.
That day changed all my thoughts on fish. It made me more open to seafood – as my mother didn’t cook seafood and we didn’t live in an area where seafood was fresh and readily available.
My little brother, Jorge, on the other hand, was not as open to anything seafood. He refused to taste the soup and missed out on a real delight. He didn’t care about the soup. So we didn’t care about him.
“Whatever,” I said. “Just eat sand.”
So we ate. We finished the soup and turned toward that heaping plate of about 50 Tacos Dorados, which I had already enjoyed eating one earlier, with my soup.
They were gone.
Jorge had eaten the entire plate of Tacos Dorados.
Still, to this day, when I think of Tacos Dorados, I think of what they probably would have tasted like after that delicious fish soup. And in my dear brother, this is one of his favorite dishes.
All that said, this is a great Mexican dish to enjoy with friends and family, especially with little ones who like to eat with their hands!
RECIPE TACOS DORADOS
The biggest issue of Tacos Dorados is that you must have access to corn tortillas, or at least MASECA corn flour.
Either purchase corn tortillas from your local grocer, or follow the instructions to make tortillas on the package of MaSeCa. I like to make my own tortillas, which is pretty easy.
-- To make corn tortillas, add water to MASECA corn flour (use amount directed on package) and salt; then knead. Roll into balls and flatten to thin-ness of a tortilla. Place on dry skillet on medium heat and cook both sides. --
The tacos, traditionally, are filled with cooked shredded chicken, beef, or boiled and seasoned potatoes.
Heat tortilla in microwave or stovetop, remove from heat, and place line of meat/potatoes in the middle of the tortilla.
Take one edge of the tortilla and reach toward the protein, and pull it toward the edge as you roll the tortilla tightly – Be careful not to spill out any of the meat/potatoes.
Once rolled, seal the end with a toothpick. The toothpick keeps the taco closed once placed in the hot oil. Use more than one toothpick if necessary.
Place oil (vegetable oil, canola oil, etc.) in a pan and bring to medium-high heat.
Place tacos into hot oil and fry until golden and crispy on all sides. If you have a fryer, this process is much easier.
Put the tacos on a platter with napkins or paper towels underneath to allow excess oil to drain.
At this point, once cooled, remove toothpicks and the Tacos Dorados are ready to be consumed. You can eat them alone as a snack, with a soup, or as a meal topped with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, avocados, salsa and whatever else your heart desires.
Substitute chicken for potatoes.
Try this recipe and share with us through #johastable