Unofficially, Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate Mexican heritage, including food and drink. (The drink part seems to take more and more precedence every year, especially Mexican beer and Margaritas.) Many Americans incorrectly think the Fifth of May commemorates the Mexican Independence Day, which is actually September 16. May 5 commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over France at the battle of Puebla in 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War. A very insignificant event in a long war that has led to annual celebrations throughout the US and some parts of Mexico.
Despite the naivete about the holiday, it is still fun and educational to some to look to Mexico for culinary inspiration. Despite the variety of foods and cooking styles prevalent throughout the country, perhaps no single dish says Mexican like the simple, ubiquitous taco.
Tacos, indigenous to pre-European settled regions of Mexico, were originally made of corn, or maiz, and often included the same fillings used today, particularly various spiced meats or fish. Dating back to the 18th century, and originally called Tortillas de Maiz, they were re-named taco by Spanish settlers. The word taco refers to the charges (paper wrapped around gunpowder) that miners used during this period. Apparently, the original tacos favored these charges.
Many traditional tacos contained ingredients that we typically do not eat in the US, including tripe (beef and pork), chorizo, beef brains, tongue, cheeks, lips and eyes, and fried pig’s esophagus. Sounds good, huh?
Tacos today are more designed for modern tastes. Ground beef and/or steak as well as chicken are often used as filler, along with various cheeses, salsa, sour cream and guacamole. Fresh avocado, cilantro, limes and radishes are also a traditional topping for tacos that can be used today. Many tacos are also served on flour tortillas, as well as corn.
Here is one of my favorite taco recipes that I made recently:
Tacos de Chorizo y Camarones or Chorizo and Shrimp Tacos
Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add one lb. fresh, crumbled chorizo. Cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Add 1 minced small red onion, 1 minced garlic clove and a pinch of ground cumin. Cook, while stirring, until the onion is softened. Add a 1/2 lb. of chopped, shelled shrimp and 2 Tbsp. of Mexican Lager (I used Corona). Cook, stirring, until the Shrimp is cooked through. Stir in the juice from 2 limes, season with sea salt and fresh black pepper and serve with warmed corn tortillas, avocado, cilantro, sour cream and lime wedges.
And beer 🙂