Taco Stand Nostalgia

The taco platter pictured above was my lunch a few days ago, prompted by the photos one of my daughters sent me from an outing with friends to a taquería (a stand or restaurant specializing in tacos) in Toronto (Ontario, Canada); her friends enjoyed the classic al pastor (shepherd’s style pork, below, left) while she indulged  in a vegan platter of sautéed mushroom tacos (below, right):

When I saw those tacos served on plates lined with paper, I had an instant flashback to my old-time meals at the very famous taquería El Tizoncito™ in Mexico City, where each taco was placed on top of a small piece of paper, served in cheap plastic plates.  Customers could go inside and grab a table, but many ate outside, next to the taquero (taco cook), while standing up (is that why they are called stands?); the proper technique was to hold the plate in one hand, and a taco at a time in the other, while slightly leaning forward to avoid dripping salsa landing on one’s shirt.  At the end of the meal, each person was charged according to the number of paper squares on the empty plate.  Ah, how people used to joke about eating a few pieces of paper, either out of hunger or lack of cash to pay the bill (LOL); but in fact, it was an honour system that worked just fine.

Now I had a craving for stand tacos!  All I found in the fridge was leftover pork loin roast, so that had to do for this meal; I chopped some up and re-heated it in a pan with a little oil. Then, I assembled my taco platter with warm corn tortillas filled with: the pan-fried loin; finely chopped onions and cilantro; a scoop of salsa, one taco with green and the other with red; and a squirt of lime juice.  I had no pineapple, but I placed them on paper squares cut out from a bread bag, and served them on a plastic lid, for effect.

After my delicious lunch, I looked up El Tizoncito and went exploring its history on the website’s home page; there, it is claimed that in 1966, their founder was inspired to create the original taco al pastor by the vertical arrangement of the shawarma grill, doctoring the seasonings with her secret ingredients for pork, and adding a pineapple to crown the rotating cone-shaped meat fixture, which reminded her of a trompo (a toy top).  It remained a one-location company in Mexico City’s La Condesa neighbourhood for many years, but now has a brood of locations including one in McAllen, TX.  Many Mexican restaurants around the world now sport this iconic taco on their menus; unrelated to El Tizoncito, but not surprisingly, the restaurant that my daughter visited is called El Trompo.

In a previous post, “Donair and Tacos al Pastor – A Family Tree Update“, I talked about the history of this taco with a little more detail, in connection to the Canadian Donair, including a fusion recipe; I am certain I will revisit the topic and post a recipe for a homemade classic taco al pastor, as soon as I figure out how to go around the trompo fixture.

17 thoughts on “Taco Stand Nostalgia

    1. Anything stuffed in a tortilla makes a taco … soft or crunchy, corn or wheat, meat or veggie, or all of the above; I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful cooking adventure for you, Mel!


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