Originating in Mexico sometime in the 18th century, today’s taco craze proves these simple tortilla snacks have serious lasting power. And with good reason; tacos are cheap, versatile and undeniably delicious. This hand-held street food packs intense flavour in just one bite and boasts the ability of entirely new tastes depending on your salsa of choice. Whether you’re grabbing some late-night eats off the street corner or indulging in the diverse flavours at a high-end restaurant, a taco simply never disappoints. Why not make your New Year’s resolution to try the best tacos with one of food expert John Catucci’s picks of 2021!
Based on the lamb Shwarma brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, the Al Pastor taco combines aromatic Middle Eastern spices with those indigenous to South America. A mainstay staple, this beef or pork-based taco can be found at just about any authentic taqueria, but for the ultimate plant-based take you’ll want to head to Tumerico in Tucson, AZ. Prepared with smashed jackfruit, deep-fried then sauteed with pineapple for a sweet, caramelized finish. Top it all off with fresh corn, pico de gallo, onion, cilantro, a drizzle of cashew cream, and restaurant signature – a dusting of Tumeric. Beloved by meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike for it’s spicy, smokey flavour.
Get the recipe for Al Pastor Tacos
Over at Tacos Chiwas, Chef Nadia Holguin shares the flavours of her families home state of Chihuahua, Mexico. The smoked brisket Deshebrada Roja Gorditas is the supreme hand-held food; slow-cooked shredded beef and refried beans fill a homemade flour tortilla pocket. Chef Nadia makes the 12-hour trip home each month to bring in the dried red hatch chile used to make the savoury Roja sauce, so you know she is passionate about bringing her guests the absolute best.
At the height of their popularity, the traditional taco took on a whole new delicious dimension when chefs began cooking them in a fusion style. At Toronto, Ontario’s Dailo, Chef Nick Liu creates predominantly Chinese fare with signature flair, including his exquisite Crispy Octopus Tacos. The self-titled Ninja Chef begins by substituting your standard corn tortilla with thin slices of crunchy, sweet jicama and follows up with layers of salty pork belly, crispy fried octopus and an Asian vegetable garnish. The result, as John demonstrates, is a bite worthy of three first pumps of pure joy.
If you’re intrigued by a new blending of flavours but aren’t ready to give up a corn base, Primal Kitchen & Bar has you covered with their Tuna Tacos. This Halifax kitchen fills their tortilla with a seared, pink tuna steak, topped with avocado crema, pickled vegetables and delicate shavings of dried seaweed. Not that it needs selling, but John Catucci does call it “the best fish taco” he’s ever had.
Get the recipe for Tuna Tacos
Now that you’ve dipped your toes in the experimental side of things, it’s time to up the ante with a true original; Abe Fisher’s Veal Schnitzel Taco, found in the heart of Philadelphia. These decadent tacos are uniquely prepared with chunks of braised veal, which are then breaded and deep-fried. Finished with a salty anchovy mayo and sweet and spicy pickled red cabbage for the perfect bite every time.
Get the recipe for Veal Schnitzel Tacos
If you’re looking to really surprise your taste buds, Hamilton’s own Rapscallion Rogue Eatery is slinging sweetbread tacos, made with a less conventional, but seriously amazing, buttermilk fried pancreas. This buttery, rich meat is complemented by a drizzle of smokey, poblano aioli, spicy mango salsa and garnish with pickled red onion and fresh cilantro. Meat lovers everywhere- add this to your bucket list!