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Plse Help Stop the Arguing About 1 or 2 Tortillas on Mexican Tacqueria Tacos!

opinionatedchef Jan 29, 2011 09:40 PM

I am coming to you today because I need an 'authoritative answer' to the following question, which has been much too much discussed and argued on the Boston board of Chowhound!:

Tacquerias in Mexico>> I know there are just a few of them there : ) but is there a 'norm' when it comes to the use of single or double corn tortillas on a taco? The Mexicans that i have asked in Boston have said that it depends on the tacqueria owner; that there is no "Mexican norm" from state to state or region to region, and neither is found more than the other. What is your experience there, and, if you are Mexican, what do your parents say about their experience where they grew up?

I have a few more questions that I've always wanted to ask. Plse understand that i KNOW mexico is a huge country and tacos are found in a million different variations, just like pizza and hamburgers are- here in Boston.

-- Is it common for some types or preparations of tacos to have 'messy' fillings such that the taco may fall apart as you are eating it?

-- This last question involves how tacos are handmade in Mexico. Here in Boston we have a very good tacqueria called la Verdad. It is the only tacqueria here to have latino women on staff who make their corn tortillas and gorditas. I am fortunate enough to watch these women when i regularly have lunch at this tacqueria. These woman do not use a tortilla press. They take a ball of masa and push it down into a metal ring and then they hand pat/push each one into a finished tortilla. Do most tacquerias in Mexico have hand patted tortillas that they use or are they mostly from tortilla presses? We are lucky that we have a tortilla factory here, Ricardo and Maria's, but the hand patted tortillas at La Verdad are amazing.

Please tell me your experiences there, so I can report back to the Boston board! Thanks so much.

  1. Hughlipton Jan 30, 2011 01:14 PM

    Although I have been to both the interiro and Baja numerous times I must confess I don't go there for tacos. I do live in Los angeles and don enoy many of the places that sell tacos. The norm for a soft taco is two tortillas. I've never asked why but always assumed it was so they would not break apart while being eaten. The majority of tacos I order are tacos de carne asada or tacos de tripas (small intestine) They are made of tortillas and meat. Anything else is added by you. I hope I've been of some help.

    1. s
      Strangewine Jan 30, 2011 02:00 PM

      Having spent a considerable ammount of time throughout Mexico (including now finally owning property there) I would have to say I have yet to see a 'norm' regarding the number of tortillas served. I prefer two tortilla tacos but that's me.

      I will also say that the majority of tacos I've seen served at tacqueria's are finished with a tortilla press.

      I'm sure there are as many opinions out there as there are tacquerias!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Strangewine
        d
        Dee S Feb 1, 2011 10:00 AM

        I've spent a lot of time in Mexico as well and have to agree with Strangewine. However, I find the number of tortillas per taco are related more to the structure of the tortilla and to the filling used. Machine made corn tortillas are less sturdy so two are generally used. Hand made are a little thicker and can stand up to the fillings a bit better. Meat based tacos (pork, beef, etc) are sturdier and need two tacos, unless using a thicker homemade version.

        So, I guess I'm confirming the "it depends" model.

      2. Gypsy Jan Jan 30, 2011 04:00 PM

        In Rosarito, Baja Norte, the meat serving taco stands (carne asada/adobada/tripa/cabeza, etc.) in my experitence serve up the contents in double corn tortillas, but if you want flour, it is a single wrap.

        The fish taco stands serve up the contents in single tortillas, whether it is corn or flour.

        The taco stands we prefer make corn and flour tortillas on the spot using saran wrap and a tortilla press.

        1. cristina Jan 30, 2011 04:24 PM

          I have lived in Mexico for 30 years and eaten more tacos than I could possibly count. IMHO, the only correct answer you will get, on this or any Mexico-related question, is "it depends".

          One or two tortilla tacos? It depends on where in the country you are, what you've ordered, what the owner has decreed, and so on and so forth. There's no hard-and-fast rule. Trust me, in a country where even federal government rules vary depending on which official you're talking to, it would be impossible to be one-way-or-the-highway about how many tortillas to a taco.

          I am very curious about the masa in a ring method you say that those women use to make tortillas. I've only ever seen them patted out by hand--a little like clapping--or pressed in a wood or metal tortilla press. Wish you could show us a photo.

          Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

          1 Reply
          1. re: cristina
            opinionatedchef Jan 30, 2011 09:38 PM

            cristina, it's just what is called a 'ring mold' in professional kitchens. looks just like a ring made of one strip of thin gauge 1 inch high stainless steel. like a biscuit cutter, but the diameter of a corn tortilla. they push the dough down into it to get a clean edge and then they remver the ring and further flatten the tortilla with their fingers held together. i don't think they pick it up to work it but i will report back if that's wrong. she told me she could make ___(some astonishing number like 200) in an hour. The tortillas go onto the griddle for quick cooking/sealing, and then get stacked and packaged for use throughout the day.

          2. k
            kcward Jan 30, 2011 04:33 PM

            The taquerias I visit in Mexico City vary, though typically only one tortilla with the exception that Tacos al Pastor are ALWAYS served with two (There's a difference in diameter as well, with the latter being about 4 inches rather than 6-9). That said, many of the taquerias I visit serve a plate of filling with tortillas on the side so the choice of one over two is left to the eater. It also seems like they all use a press rather than hand pat them, volume is just way too high. Supposedly, the press didn't exist prior to the revolution in 1910 and abuelitas shun it, though that seems odd to me.

            2 Replies
            1. re: kcward
              susancinsf Jan 31, 2011 05:33 AM

              It has been many years since I lived in Mexico City, and too many years since my last visit, but I remember one tortilla per taco as the norm also.

              Here in Central California, two or even three per order seems to be more the norm, unfortunately, from my point of view. I prefer one tortilla per taco for two reasons: first, I find that it limits the amount of meat, and personally I find that many places load on way too much meat or sometimes (shudder) rice and beans and lettuce and cheese (I'd rather pay less money and have what I consider to be a proper meat to tortilla ratio; and please don't put anything on my taco except meat, chopped onion, cilantro, and perhaps a bit of salsa, though I'd rather add my own salsa to taste).

              Secondly, perhaps more importantly, I find that if there is more than one tortilla, and they are laid on top of each other on the plate, that the one(s) on the bottom can get steamed and soggy from the heat of the one on top, especially if the tortillas are overloaded with fillings. That problem is avoided when the taqueria uses small tortillas and doesn't overlap them or go overboard on the meat.

              1. re: susancinsf
                bbqboy Jan 31, 2011 07:30 AM

                We get a standard 2 here in Southern Oregon, but with enough meat to make 2 tacos out of 1.
                Makes for a fulfilling Taco Tuesday. :)
                Onions and cilantro, self serve salsa, sometimes a squeezed on Guac. Never rice and beans in a tao.

            2. Veggo Jan 30, 2011 04:55 PM

              I lived a year in DF and on and off in the Yucatan for 15 years, and I estimate that only about 10% of the tacos I ate were on doubled-up tortillas.

              1. Soul Vole Jan 30, 2011 10:58 PM

                It's my impression that tortillas are doubled-up as needed. Machine-made tortillas are often quite thin and sometimes come out with holes in them, making doubling-up sometimes a necessity.

                Contrary to kcward's experience, I haven't found doubled tortillas to be de rigueur for al pastor in DF. In fact skimming through my photos I found a case where, at El Borrego Viudo, the relatively soupy cabeza, suadero, and longaniza tacos were doubled but the al pastor was not. It would certainly surprise me to be served doubled tortillas at a place like El Califa or El Bajio, where the tortillas are relatively thicker than typical machine-made tortillas and are quite capable of serving their role without additional support.

                1. Gypsy Jan Jan 31, 2011 01:48 PM

                  Hi opinated chef,

                  I cross-posted your question to Baja Nomad and amongst the responses, here is what Jesse (Chef-Owner) of Tres Virgenes Restaurant in La Paz, Baja Sur, said, "One Tortilla is all you need."

                  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Gypsy Jan
                    opinionatedchef Jan 31, 2011 01:52 PM

                    thank you jan! appreciate it!

                  2. opinionatedchef Jan 31, 2011 02:31 PM

                    This is great to get all your responses!

                    I have a related question:
                    Are tacos eaten much in Guatemala and El Salvador? and do those have a 'norm' with regards to being single or double corn tortilla tacos?
                    Thanks again; much appreciated.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: opinionatedchef
                      b
                      brucesw Feb 1, 2011 06:28 AM

                      I have never been to either country but have eaten at Guate and Salvadoran restaurants in Houston. Guatemalan tacos are rolled and fried, essentially what are called flautas in Mexico. The filling is either shredded beef, chicken or cheese, I think. This is true in Honduras, too, except that the beef would more likely be a seasoned ground beef mixture and they would be topped with shredded cabbage, pickled red onions, grated cheese, crema and the ubiquitous Honduran condiment that is just a mixture of ketchup and mayo.

                      There is however one Guate restaurant here that offers both Mexican and Guatemalan takes on tacos so they are not unknown in Guatemala and may well be widely available. You need to look up and contact rworange on these boards, she is the specialist in Guatemalan dishes.

                      I have never seen tacos on the menu of a pupuseria here; the pupusa is the popular food in El Salvador, that and tamales.

                      Tamales are also much more popular in Guatemala than tacos, I think.

                      1. re: brucesw
                        rworange Feb 2, 2011 12:56 PM

                        Hardly the specialist, just stuck, uh, staying here for a few months ... it is hellishly hot here today, so I'm on the cranky side.

                        As brucesw says, Guatemala marches to a different drummer liguistically. What are called tacos, are flautas. Here are some nice pics and info from Antigua Daily Photo (ADP) .
                        http://antiguadailyphoto.com/2008/09/17/guatemalan-cuisine-tacos/
                        http://antiguadailyphoto.com/2010/11/11/guatemalan-tacos-ftw/

                        As ADP indicates, Mexican food is not wildly popular here. The closest take would be gringas, a mixture of ground beef, onions and cheese. The only one I had really sucked, but it was from a chain. My husband, who is Guatemalan, and some friends were in love with those awful gringas.
                        http://antiguadailyphoto.com/2010/01/02/i-want-gringas-you-want-gringas/

                        The only thing really wrapped in a tortilla is hot dogs and cabage which are called mixtas
                        http://antiguadailyphoto.com/2008/04/20/guatemalan-cuisine-mixtas/

                        Actually, there are also dobladas, which would be the equivalent of a Mexicna fried taco ... but again a different take on it.
                        http://antiguadailyphoto.com/2007/12/19/traditional-guatemalan-christmas-food-dobladas/

                        Guatemalan tortillas are different (and IMO much better) than Mexican tortillas. Being thicker, only one is usually used.

                        While tortillas are actually more important to Guatemalan cuisine than Mexican ... no seriously ... they are more likely to be eaten with each meal rather than as a street snack.
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7580...

                        Street food is just different than Mexico.

                      2. re: opinionatedchef
                        g
                        GabachaYucateca Feb 5, 2011 07:59 AM

                        Of course, no definitive answer on this because I've also not been to either country, but only eaten in El Salvadorean restaurants and in the homes of Guatemalan friends. I don't think they're nearly as ubiquitous in Guate as in Mexico. My husband (Yucatecan) and most other Mexicans of humble means I know simply CANNOT move forward on a meal if they're aren't tortillas and from what I've seen, Guates don't require them. I will ask next time I have the chance though.

                        We also ate El Salvadorean food at two restaurants and the first time, my husband asked for an extra a 6 tortillas because the menu said each dish only came with two. The waitress just looked at him funny but brought us these incredibly thick tortillas, so thick they couldn't even be filled and folded. They reminded me of what the Yucatecans call pim (sorry, don't know the word in Spanish or English) but the waitress said they were typical.

                        As far as the tortilla question, I can't really put a number on which I've encountered more. If I'm thinking about my favorite taquerias' food, they usually have two...but this may just be because they're memorable. Have even had orders of tacos de arrachera where they've come on two and one taco de pastor served on only one taco on the same plate! Always attributed it to the price difference. And I've never seen tacos on two handmade tortillas but much more often seen the ones from tortillerias on two.

                        1. re: GabachaYucateca
                          rworange Feb 6, 2011 07:57 PM

                          If you are talking about Gautemalans living in the US not being as tortilla dependant, it is because the tortillas in the US are not good. My husband didn't eat as many torthillas in the US as when he returned to GT. They are just a whole different thing here.

                      3. e
                        escondido123 Feb 1, 2011 07:49 AM

                        Here in San Diego county, you typically see tortillas doubled up when you go to real Mom and Pop places. The tortillas are generally smaller and thinner than what you see in Anglo restaurants and grocery stores. It was the same when I ate at taco "trucks" in Baja--2 tortillas, but smaller.

                        16 Replies
                        1. re: escondido123
                          b
                          brucesw Feb 1, 2011 06:39 PM

                          Around here (Houston), places that style themselves as Mexico City style taquerias or have DF in the name typically serve tacos on 4" tacos, smaller than most others (and usually $1 each vs. $1.25-50 each). I can't remember ever being asked if I wanted flour instead of corn at those places but at most other taquerias and taco trucks, it's maiz o harina?, cebolla y cilantro o lechuga y tomate? You get two corn tortillas, one flour, but you pay more for tacos made with flour tortillas because they're a little larger. And as others have noted, if thicker, hand-made tortillas are used, then you get only one when you opt for maiz.

                          1. re: escondido123
                            paulj Feb 1, 2011 07:20 PM

                            2 small tortillas are common among the taco truck offerings that I've had. Often they only partly overlap, creating in effect one larger tortilla, and more room for the filling.

                            1. re: paulj
                              pdxgastro Feb 2, 2011 12:11 AM

                              Cheapskates like me slide one of the tortillas out from under its twin and then put half of the filling on it. Ta-da: 2 tacos for the price of 1!

                              1. re: pdxgastro
                                yumyum Feb 2, 2011 09:39 AM

                                I do that too, at my favorite roadside taco stand in Tulum, QR. They make amazing fried shrimp tacos that come served with two small corn torts. I make each into two, primarily so I can have more of the amazing salsa bar offerings -- including pickled veg, red and green salsa, onions, cilantro, limes and avocados. Just have to eat them quickly so they don't fall apart. Cheapskates represent!

                                1. re: yumyum
                                  bbqboy Feb 2, 2011 09:51 AM

                                  exactly. double the salsa is always a good thing.

                                2. re: pdxgastro
                                  viperlush Feb 2, 2011 10:45 AM

                                  That's what I'll do. $4 for a single taco seems kind of high, but $4 for two seems perfect.

                                  1. re: viperlush
                                    bbqboy Feb 2, 2011 10:54 AM

                                    holy jesus. $4.00 for a taco?!? Ours are $1.00 to $2.00 max. No wonder you guys are agitated.
                                    I can get a burrito for $3.75 to $4.00.
                                    Are they lobster and caviar tacos? :)

                                    1. re: bbqboy
                                      opinionatedchef Feb 5, 2011 01:35 PM

                                      re: 'ours'>> where are you?!(btw,i'm in boston area).

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef
                                        bbqboy Feb 5, 2011 06:25 PM

                                        I'm in Southern Oregon in the Rogue Valley, an Agricultural area with Mucho Mexicans. My favorite place, La Tapatia, a Meat market, makes them fresh with with their own machine. They wouldn't have time to hand press them, as the line is usually out the door.
                                        http://i270.photobucket.com/albums/jj...
                                        al pastor on the left, chorizo on the right
                                        pre dressed before one of five different salsas
                                        $1.50, $1.00 on Mondays

                                        1. re: bbqboy
                                          opinionatedchef Feb 5, 2011 10:18 PM

                                          now, bbboy, aren't you long overdue for a visit to your country's epicenter of all things chowdah?! and you wouldn't mind packing an extra carry-on filled with those luscious (and photogenic) items, right? :-}
                                          yum YUMMM!

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef
                                            bbqboy Feb 6, 2011 07:02 AM

                                            I'd ship em to you if I could, chef.
                                            Here's their relleno
                                            http://media.photobucket.com/image/ta...

                                            1. re: bbqboy
                                              opinionatedchef Feb 6, 2011 02:25 PM

                                              oh, BB, you BAD boy, you!!

                                              well, i found your fertile rogue valley on the maps; seems like mostly wine grapes, pears, hay and forage. neat to learn about.

                                              we have a rare trees and shrubs nursery/vendor we've always wanted to visit- Forest Farm in Williamsville, so if we ever make it there, we know where to detour for some great tacos, thanks to you!

                                              1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                bbqboy Feb 6, 2011 07:17 PM

                                                Chef, sounds cool. If you make it,
                                                we can go here
                                                http://siskiyourareplantnursery.com/ ,
                                                see some Shakespeare, and go to new sammy's in addition to your tacos. :)

                                    2. re: viperlush
                                      paulj Feb 2, 2011 11:11 AM

                                      The taco truck ones that I get are small enough that 3 (or more) is a typical order. I like to choose a different filling for each.

                                    3. re: pdxgastro
                                      jgg13 Feb 8, 2011 11:36 AM

                                      For the longest time I thought that's what you were supposed to do. I'd always get annoyed - why don't they just fill the two tacos separately?!!?!?!

                                      Oops.

                                    4. re: paulj
                                      tatamagouche Feb 8, 2011 06:13 AM

                                      Ditto here in Denver, both taquerias and trucks.

                                  2. Passadumkeg Feb 5, 2011 12:14 PM

                                    As stated above, depends on the thickness of the taco and the type of filling.
                                    You may enjoy this blog:
                                    http://tacojournalism.blogspot.com/

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Passadumkeg
                                      opinionatedchef Feb 5, 2011 01:32 PM

                                      keg, awfully thoughtful of you; th you!

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef
                                        Passadumkeg Feb 5, 2011 02:27 PM

                                        My daughter lives in Austin and I taco binge when we visit. Sooo many taco trucks, so little time.
                                        I'm in NM now and burritos rule, as funny as in sounds, the only really good tacos I've found have been at taco trucks in Albuquerque. New Mexican food is a specialty unto its own.

                                        1. re: Passadumkeg
                                          opinionatedchef Feb 6, 2011 03:15 PM

                                          you prob alrdy know this, but we have about 4' of snow still on the ground, just north of boston. maybe you're from portland area? i know no. maine doesn't have much snow now, very odd .Me. coast prob the same.

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef
                                            Passadumkeg Feb 6, 2011 03:24 PM

                                            Nope, Bar Harbor area 4" +. And no tacos!

                                    2. l
                                      lemons Feb 5, 2011 07:49 PM

                                      I live in St. Louis, and the number of taquerias has increased exponentially in recent years as has our Mexican population. Most of the immigrants are, I am told, are from Michoacan. The places that aim for the Spanish-speaking clientele are offering 2-tortilla tacos about 4" in diameter. We are finally getting enough options that one can begin to discriminate in terms of preparation and quality, but the investigations have certainly been pleasant.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: lemons
                                        opinionatedchef Feb 6, 2011 03:19 PM

                                        That's very interesting. I know chicago has a huge mexican population (maybe i read the 2nd largest after L.A.?) but i've never read what industry drew them there. What industry( or other business) in st. louis, do you think?

                                      2. u
                                        Uncle Yabai Feb 6, 2011 09:06 PM

                                        Not directly to your query, but I went to high school with the "Maria" of Ricardo and Maria's. Her name is Heidemarie Harumi Hartung Ashida. May not sound too Mexican, but she certainly is!

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: Uncle Yabai
                                          opinionatedchef Feb 6, 2011 10:22 PM

                                          well if that isn't a mouthful! i guess her dad is japanese.i know the largest population of japanese outside of Japan- is in Brazil, so it doesn't surprise me that they would be in Mexico as well. And Hartung is maybe German; wow the multicultural world of present and future! Personally, from the food standpoint, I am wicked glad that the U.S. is right next to Mexico and not some other countries!

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef
                                            u
                                            Uncle Yabai Feb 6, 2011 11:12 PM

                                            Her mother is Japanese, her father is German.

                                            1. re: Uncle Yabai
                                              opinionatedchef Feb 7, 2011 02:24 PM

                                              So then her maiden name is hartung and she married a japanese man i guess. wow, if she can cook japanese food AND mexican food, i'm just going to have to move in next to her! my 2 fav. cuisines............sigh!

                                              1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                u
                                                Uncle Yabai Feb 7, 2011 03:22 PM

                                                No, I don't think she ever married. That is her name, since the day she was born. In High School, whenever I saw her, I would call her by her full name because I thought it was so distinctive.

                                                1. re: Uncle Yabai
                                                  opinionatedchef Feb 8, 2011 11:29 AM

                                                  well that is so interesting. so in that case, she had a double last name and her mother's name was the last part of the name hartung ashida. well, i congratulate her on her successful and excellent products!

                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                    paulj Feb 8, 2011 12:08 PM

                                                    It is common in Hispanic cultures to have a double last name - from the father and the mothers maiden name. Upon marriage, the wife drops her mother's maiden name, and adds 'de husbands_fathers_last_name' (the 'de' = 'of')

                                                    And if one or more of the last names is prestigious enough it might be retained or included with a '-'.

                                                    1. re: paulj
                                                      opinionatedchef Feb 8, 2011 01:04 PM

                                                      thanks so much for that!

                                        2. Passadumkeg Feb 6, 2011 09:30 PM

                                          Here's an old thread of mine.
                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/582962
                                          If I get down to Bean Town this summer, want to do a CH taco truck tour?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Passadumkeg
                                            opinionatedchef Feb 6, 2011 10:27 PM

                                            would be delighted. but food trucks? i WISH! as the posters said in your linked thread above, it's more like taquerias here, but still alot of fun.have you ever been to that little place in ME>> i think near Portsmouth NH- w/ Mexican food, run by a couple? it was in the globe last yr and i have the article somewhere..........

                                            (btw, did you really mean 3 1/2 hrs from here to Portland? it takes me 2 hrs or just under, and i'm 15 min no. of downtown boston. )

                                          2. x
                                            xhepera May 5, 2011 11:35 AM

                                            Your account of the women making tortillas reminds me of my childhood. We went regularly to a smallish, but very popular, taqueria that employed a staff of several women whose sole job was to pat out tortillas. Always behind the sound of the shouted orders, sizzling grilled meats and various objects being fried was the steady pat-pat-pat-pat of these womens' hands as they turned out these delectable fresh tortillas.

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