El Cactus Tacos - Tacos Mineros?
Have dined now several times at El Cactus Tacos, a new taqueria in Boyes Hot Springs. On the first visit (right after they opened), I watched as they pressed out fresh tortillas for each order. They were sublime! we tried the three meats available that night - Pierna, Birria, and Asada - all were excellent.
On a subsequent visit, I had a Torta de Pierna which was good, but not great
On the last visit we again had tacos, sadly on commercial tortillas. They were great none the less. Posted on the wall (missing the first two visits) was a menu featuring among other things, "Tacos Mineros" I asked about them but couldn't quite understand what they were. The waitress mentioned mexican sausage, which I presume is Chorizo, but said that the tacos were boiled, which left me wondering...
Anyone familiar with Tacos Mineros (miner's style)?
I have actually read about these tacos - In the northern states of the El Bajio in Mexico - Guanajuato, Zacatecas etc - silver mining was once a huge industry. The wives of the miners would make steamed tacos wrapped in a towl and placed in a basket to keep warm for lunch deep in the mine
I really have to thank you Sam for discovering this place and posting about it after having a little antojito of Tacos Mineros for dinner yesterday evening.
I have only had these style of tacos once at a great restaurant (with a noble mission and great heart) in San Diego called 'Mama Testas.' http://mamatestataqueria.com/ [great website design]
If you click on the menu link and then on the "Mama Cesta" picture - you will see what kind of tacos these exactly are.
I also know remember having a conversation with my favorite pan dulce baker at the El Tigre Market in Fallbrook, Ca. She was from Zacatecas - the heart of the silver mining industry - and she explained that these tacos once born out of neccessity (hence the steaming and wrapping in cloth for heat preservation and protection for later consumption), now are considered a local nostalgic delicacy.
You can read more about them in Diana Kennedy's "My Mexico" book - which is a great read. They are called tacos 'sudados' - or sweated tacos. Included is an intriguing recipe (for some reason carb on carb recipes interest me greatly a la tamal torta, tacos de papas) that is on my list to make of sweated tacos filled with fideos! Nice!
Anyways - El Cactus' offering of Tacos Mineros are wonderful; Mama Testas version does not even hold a dribbling candle to these guys - in my opinon there is so much more soul in El Cactus'.
What you receive for 6 dollars is 5 (tj street size) tacos doubled over each with there own filling which was an unexpectant surprise for me.
When you order them the taquero opens and reaches down into the big tamal steamer pot on the stove and pulls out a little aluminum foil package which he places on a plate and opens with a big rush of steam. [ i really like that you can watch all the taquero action up close and personal at this restaurant]
He ladles a delicious chile fortified tomato sauce over the sweated tacos and blesses with cilantro, chopped onion, and romaine. However - one mistake of a topping is the "mex blend" shredded industrial cheese - luckily its just a little and I can get over it - although queso fresco or cotija would be great.
As I was chowing down (fork and knife is necc. for these tacos - the tortillas soften and mold together - which is the essence of the dish) I loved discovering the fillings - two were filled with a rich pork guisado, another with frijolitos and queso and finally 2 with my favorite mashed potato filling. I applied a genrous squeeze of lime and I was in heaven - in fact afterwards outside as I was drinking their stellar mango agua fresca (papaya was also offered) I had that capscian (sp) warmth and high going on from the delicious sauce. Life is good.
PS - this place is a cut above other taquerias - I can tell already - its onl;y been open two weeks and they are still moving in but in is nicely designed and a pleasant space.
Gosh this place sounds amazing. I'm having serious taco cravings right now, and no access to anything remotely resembling mexican food at the moment. *mock angry voice* Damn you all! *shakes fist*
So I'm curious if this place is next door to, or nearby a place called Cactus Ice (which sells smoothies). I was telling my brother, who still lives in Sonoma (my hometown) about this wonderful bit of taco heaven and he thought it might be nearby Cactus Ice. If it is, it would make it easier for me to find it on my next trek to Sonoma.
I found several recipes and all of them have the same ingredients. The tacos are called "tacos sudados," "tacos al vapor" or "tacos de canasta," dependeing on the location.
Below are the links to the recipes (the second one is in Spanish but it has a picture):
re: ana paulina
Yeah, round this parts of Mexico they are called tacos de canasta and you buy them from the "canasteras" who set up shop in a corner street and sell all kinds of yummy tacos de canasta... de frijol, papa, de cabeza, de enchilada.. and of course, memelitas, enchiladas de mole (traditional: NO CHICKEN filling).....
Finally got El Cactus and was dissappointed that they didn't have Tacos Mineros. Ended up chatting up the owner (or half the owner).... he is from Mexicali, she is from Puerto Vallarta. He is not really interested in food, and prefers eating Italian... she is the one driving things. He was telling me that their first two months... they were offering daily specials with real traditional, home cooked dishes from Vallarta... but they ended up throwing it all away at the end of the day... so they refocused their offering back to Taqueria / Fruteria fare. He says the Fruit Salads, Liquados, Bioniocos etc. continue to be a big hit, they tend to sell alot of Tortas and their Taco offering is doing fine... he recognizes that they didn't market the real food well but is afraid to give it another shot as they lost alot of money in those first two months.
I had three tacos.... Al Pastor, Cabeza & Lengua:
> Al Pastor... forgettable
> Cabeza... good, very rich, beefy flavored meat as tender as could be.
> Lengua... straight up braised tongue with no roasting step... clean tasting with the characterstic bounciness. Its all about texture in this dish... not for everyone, but as good as I've had in a very long time.
The tacos are fairly petite for $1.75.... which makes for a light, healthy meal when paired with their fruit based items. The salsas were disappointing... the Salsa Verde had no punch to it, the Avocada Salsa was bland... and the Guajillo-Arbol Salsa managed to be more bitter than spicy.
The medium size Mango Licuado (20oz for $4) was good and comparable to what I make at home.
Although I wont be rushing back.... it still seems good for Sonoma (compared to the crap dished out at Amigos... its like eating at the Girl and the Fig)... and it might be the place that happens to generate some increased interested in Mexican... its reasonable clean & comfortable (has a very neighborhood coffee shop feel to it)... with just enough authenticity & freshness to excite some of the mainstream locals (who I don't perceive as being cool enough to hit the taco trucks).
I look forward to more positive reports. Also... knowing that the wife is from Puerto Vallarta, I would look for more of those specialties which would entail lots of seafood based tacos particularly Spiny Lobster, Sea Bass, Marlin, White Shrimp as well as Shrimp Pozole, White Pozole, Shrimp in Raicilla Sauce*, Manta Ray stew, Shark soup, Pescado Zarandeado etc.,
Raicillia is a high proof, light colored & light bodied, distilled beverage made from Agave & Sugar Cane with a flavor reminicent of Tequila with some very smokey undertones... its made exclusive in Puerto Vallarta & nearby towns and its all cottage industry.
hey EN -
Thanks for discovering the backround information in re. to the owners.
I wonder what dishes they initially had to throw out and give up on? What a shame.
Their mango anf papaya aguas frescas I have had rank toward the top of those I have tasted.
Chocolateninja went there - but I cant remember if she wrote a report.
Any reason why no Mineros?
As you know Mineros are premade then kept in light steam (rather than heating upon request)... I can only assume they were throwing those away as well.
The owner is pretty smart... he realizes his mistakes and is figuring out how to adjust. The interesting thing is he told me lots of people go in & ask them about their specialties... so they are really interested in re-introducing something but they are in the process of rationalizing & trimming the menu... and trying to figure out how to promote / highlight the specialty to generate interest so they don't throw things away.
I think they are at the place were if enough people came in & said we want the Tacos Mineros.... or some Mexicali style Chinese-Mexican fusion... or some Puerto Vallarta style seafood dishes they would make it happen.
Personally.... I think they should get out of the regular Tacos biz.... their other competitors in the area... El Cactus' just aren't that great... and he confirmed they sell alot of Tortas (which are a natural at places that double as Fruterias).... then maybe offering a few specialties like the Tacos Mineros (which nobody else in town offers) etc.,
Maybe the idea just seduces me because one of the concepts I envisioned for the Santa Rosa JC area would be a Torteria / Fruteria decked out in 1960's Mexican decor (think black & white films about Lucha Libre Super Heroes battling alien invadors & communist spies, underground Rock & Roll clubs etc.,)