The real taco is a simple, soft tortilla, traditionally made of maize but is now often in the form of small corn or wheat flour tortillas.
Like traditional cuisines in many countries, tacos vary from one region to another and are unlikely to include the combination of tinned refried beans, shredded lettuce, guacamole and tasty cheese.
Carnitas are what you will usually find on a pub, club or food truck menus. Literally meaning “little meats”, they are found in the provinces of Michoacan and Jalisco, and are the Mexican version of pulled pork, the fillings made by braising or simmering pork in oil or pork fat until tender. Tacos de barbacoa on the other hand, are from Hidalgo and Tlaxcala, and are made from parts of the heads of cattle, such as cheeks. You can also use alternatives such as slow roast cuts, including brisket, or even goat meat (cabrito).
Barbecued chicken and achiote paste, also known as “Recado Rojo”, are the stars of pollo pibil from the Yucatan region, with the paste – a blend of annatto seeds, cumin, pepper, coriander, oregano, cloves, and garlic – being a staple in all Yucatan dishes.
Small fish have also been enjoyed, folded in tacos, since before the time of the Spanish, but these days fish fillets have found more favour.
Other fillings or flavourings to consider are the picantes or Mexican sauces. Pico de gallo is a fresh chunky salsa picante of tomato, garlic, coriander, onion and jalapeno. Salsa verde as the name suggests, is a green sauce of tomatillos, coriander, garlic and jalapenos, while salsa roja is a simple red sauce of tomatoes, onions, chilli and garlic. The cheese meanwhile is usually queso fresco, or fresh cheese, which is similar in texture to feta and is traditionally made from raw cow’s milk or a combination of cow and goat milk.