By Valerie Berenyi
Mexican street food makes me salivate. There’s something addictive about the combination of grilled or braised meat, seafood or chicken sprinkled with tomatoes, chilies, onions and cilantro, rolled up in a hot corn tortilla, squirted with fresh lime juice and eaten curbside on a stinking hot day along with a cerveza fria.
I still dream about the tacos I ate this spring in Mexico: tacos al pollo snarfed at a nameless little stand in Rincon De Guayabitos and, only slightly more upscale, the street-side tacos al pastor from Takos Pancho in Old Town Puerto Vallarta. Really, I can’t get enough tacos.
So, I was thrilled when a true hole-in-the-wall taqueria opened on Edmonton Trail a few months ago. I kept El Charrito Taqueria a little secret for a while, not wanting to share my find because the Mexican owners looked a bit stressed and their systems, Interac included, weren’t quite nailed down. And then the word was out. John Gilchrist, a colleague and fellow taco-hound, first spilled the frijoles in a Calgary Herald story and then again in a review on CBC Radio. Now todo el mundo knows and the operation is fully up to speed.
I could eat at El Charrito every week (okay, day) but a gal has only so many dining-out dollars to spend. I was delighted to see that the owners of “The Little Cowboy” sell some of the foodstuffs needed to make your own Mexican fare, specifically corn tortillas. I’m tired of eating the weird-tasting, chemical-laden flatbreads that pass for tortillas in most Canadian supermarkets, so I’ve been buying the family-size, two-kilo packs of Romero’s corn tortillas at El Charrito for a mere $5.50.
Two kilos is about 70 or 80 tortillas, enough for a fiesta. If you’re not planning a party, pop 10 or so into small zip-top bags and freeze. They thaw beautifully and warm up nicely in the microwave. Do they taste as amazing as corn tortillas hot off the press from a tortilleria in Mexico? Not quite. But they’re a decent stand-in with that distinctive tangy flavour that comes from whole dried corn and slaked lime (a.k.a. calcium hydroxide, an alkaline mineral that helps release nutrients from the corn).
And, should I want to really indulge my love of tortillas, El Charrito also sells bags of masa harina so that I can make my own. Buen provecho!
Tell us: Where do you get your Mexican food fix?