A taco is a traditional Mexican dish made up of a wheat or corn tortilla rolled or folded around a filling. A taco can be composed of a wide variety of fillings like chicken, beef, vegetables, seafood and cheese, which makes for great versatility and variety. A taco is eaten without using utensils and is usually accompanied by garnishes like salsa, guacamole or avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, onions and lettuce.
Since the early twentieth century, different styles of tacos have become popular in the US and Canada. The style that has become most popular is the U-shaped and hard-shelled version first described in a cookbook written by Fabiola Cabeza de Vaca Gilbert. These have been sold by many restaurants and by fast food chains. Even non-Mexican fast food restaurants have included tacos in their menu. Mass production of this type of taco was encouraged by the invention of devices to hold the tortillas in the U-shape as they were deep-fried. Such tacos are crispy deep fried corn tortillas that are filled with seasoned ground beef, lettuce, and cheese and sometimes may be added with tomato, salsa, onion, sour cream, and avocado.
Puffy Tacos, Breakfast Tacos, Taco kits and Tacodillas
Since 1978, a variety of taco called the “puffy taco” has been popular, which originated from San Antonio, Texas. It is uncooked corn tortillas that are quickly fried in hot oil until they expand to become “puffy”. Fillings are the same as the hard-shelled versions. Restaurants that offer this style have increased in other Texas cities and in California.
Ready-made kits are now available at any convenience stores or groceries and usually include taco shells, which are corn tortillas already fried in a U-shape, taco sauce and seasoning mix. Commercial vendors for the home market also market soft taco kits with tortillas instead of taco shells. The breakfast taco, which is found in Tex-Mex cuisine, is usually filled with eggs, meat or cheese, with other ingredients. The tacodilla contains melted cheese in between the two folded tortillas, which is almost the same as a quesadilla.