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May 22, 2007 08:29 PM

Tacos al Vapor ... what does this mean?

Steamed tacos ... I know.

There are mentions of them here and there but really no detailed info or pictures on how they are made.

Some seem to be made in a pot as in this recipe ... where layers of tortillas and filling are put in a tamale steamer and steamed for an hour.

A restaurant where I ate recently I think had al vapor tacos, but ... vague sign on the wall, ownership change, no English ... who knows.

There was this cart with a stainless steel shelf with holes in it with steam coming up from the holes. The meat was put on this and cooked. Then I think once cooked it was transferred to a steam table to keep warm.

In this Chowhound reply, a poster wrote ...

"Just for comparative purposes, the tacos al vapor in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, are premade, soft, steaming little bundles of orange chile-stained masa, with a meat filling. They are kept separated in the steamer by little squares of deli paper or maybe waxed paper. They are truly greasy, but delicious. We had them on the Plaza Chica in the daytime, from a cart, but if they are available elsewhere in the Pátzcuaro environs, I haven't seen them. (Doesn't means they don't exist.)"

This chowhound link says ...

"Also, I haven't seen Tacos Al Vapor in a long time... should be slow cooked beef that is reheated over steam (kind of like the way Pastrami gets reheated in places that know what they are doing)."

This San Diego report says ...

".I had read about tacos al vapor/cazuela but had never had them before ... He placed a basket on the table which encased the steamed tacos under a veil of a cloth and tin foil. As soon as I lifted this off - a huge cloud of steam arose. The tacos were nicely sweated and lightly doused with an arbol based salsa I believe. The sweating causes the tortillas to adhere together - encasing the taco filling. The accompaning garnish was a molacajete of pickled onions which I found to be a perfect sharp contrast adornment to these tender yielding little guys"

One LA topic mentions local trucks and how to ask if they have them ...

""se asan los carnes? o son al vapor?"

But no details. Dommy in another thread describes her close encounter of an al vapor kind ...

"When it was my turn to order, I instantly noticed that on top of the grilling surface, he had a sheet of heavy duty plastic. On top of the plastic, he had a white terry cloth bath towel acting as in insulator, tapping all the heat and steam inside ... And from underneath his cart, he produced a small bag, absolutely filled with small tissue thin obviously hand made tortillas.

And so, he slightly lifted up the plastic and towel and a huge cloud of steam rose over us as he placed the tortillas to heat up in the steam, “Al Vapor”. I paid for my tacos and within a few minutes he prepared and packed up my tacos in thick tin foil, some radishes and wedges of lime as well as cup of their salsa."

This wiki article has a little info in Spanish but my Spanish isn't good enough to get much of a clue

"Tacos de canasta, tacos sudados o tacos al vapor: son tacos que se preparan con pequeñas tortillas de maíz y se calientan con vapor utilizando una olla llamada "vaporera". Estos tacos se distinguen por ser aceitosos, sudados. Los guisos generalmente son de papa, frijoles, carne deshebrada de res y de chicharrón de puerco, papa, mole verde o tinga de pollo. Este tipo de tacos se consumen mucho en el Norte de México en la mañana o en alguna reunión en la noche. En la ciudad de México son vendidos por taqueros ambulantes en bicicleta, que llevan un gran frasco de salsa verde o roja (aproximadamente un galón); los tacos viajan en una canasta de mimbre (de ahí su nombre) que contiene alrededor de 200 tacos. Son muy populares por ser sumamente económicos."

Ok I get out of that ... made of small corn tortillas something about an olla (pot?) called a vaporera. Something about the meats and sauces and they eat them in Northern Mexico in the morning or at night. Mobile taco sellers (on bikes?) in Mexico City ... somehing about 200 tacos.

Expertise obviously needed.

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  1. The wikipedia article you posted in Spanish does not explain the actual making of the tacos other than what you were able to pick out yourself. Your Spanish WAS sufficient enough to gleen the major points of the article: the ingredients being used, the method of transporting them, the description of the texture (oily, "sweated").

    1. Hey Orange,

      Its Mexico there are bound to be regional differences. The Mexico City version are called Tacos de Canasta because mobile vendors typically keep them warm in a cloth or plastic lined basket with their collective steam / heat. You typically have a cooked, tortilla stuffed with filling, folded in half & then steamed in the Vaporera (which holds about 200 tacos). The steam gets juices running before the masa tends to seal into a type of dumpling.... making them a bit oily & sweaty (aceitosos, sudados). They are served folded in half, and you spoon smooth salsa over them. Some people eat them with knife & fork.

      You may have seen the vendors in Chapultepec... Tacos de Canasta are very popular there on weekends because they are tasty & just about the cheapest thing you can eat. (Last time I had them bean or vegetarian were about 7 for USD $1... animal flesh about 4 for USD $1).....

      3 Replies
      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        Oh, oh, oh !!!

        Found this great link that kind of confirms what I suspect ... al vapor breaks down into two categories
        - the whole taco is steamed ... what you described
        - the meat in the taco is steamed

        In this link they discuss
        - TACOS DE CANASTA which you described
        - TACOS DE BARBACOA where the filling is steamed
        - TACOS DE CABEZA where the cow's head was traditionally steamed

        I think it even addresses those Michoacan tacos ...

        "Even in the north, where flour tortillas are traditional, these juicy tacos are made with corn tortillas. Their traditional accompaniment is salsa borracha - “drunken sauce”- made with pasilla chiles and pulque"

        So much stuff I've learned from my $1.50 taco.

        1. re: rworange

          What a bizzarre site.. it even includes a positive review for a U.S. Mexican rest in Slovakia!

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            Actually, I found out later they got that taco info from a taco article on MexConnect

            A new category ... Mex-Slovak

      2. ....would that inquiry be " Como se hacen los carnes? Son 'al vapor'?"

        How do you make (or heat) the meats? with steam?

        1 Reply