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What is in the guac at (most) taco shops? [moved from San Diego board]

I've started to notice that guac at taco shops (examples including Mexico Viejo and Eriberto's in Oside), is not typical, "fresh" avocado that you could get at, say, Rubio's. This guac is smoother, and seems less avocado-ey than normal guac. What is this? Are they putting mayo or sour cream in there? I'm really hoping it's not mayo.

 
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  1. Don't ask questions like this. Someone might answer.

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    1. Based on a article I just read in Bon Appetit it seems the main differences are half as many avocados per portion made with the rest of the portion made from tomatillos and adding water to make it a smoother consistency while also being cheaper to make.

      4 Replies
      1. re: polldeldiablo

        In San Diego...I would bet the filler is sour cream. GAH.

        1. re: polldeldiablo

          Last time I lived in SD, there was one taco shop on Washington, between Mission Hills and Hillcrest, that added so much water and so many chopped onions, plus a smattering of chopped tomatoes, that it seemed there was barely any avocado at all.

          1. re: polldeldiablo

            a quick google of "guacamole taquero" or "taco shop guacamole" yields a wealth of recipes which one might hope is what you encounter in a taco shop guac, in a best-case scenario.

            But, per BC's comment, if you look at guac brands from places like costco (calavo or sabra), i am sure pre-made institutional-sized 5 gallon buckets of guac are delivered via the Trucko de Sysco method to SD taco shops every day.

            1. re: Stiflers_Mom

              Actually it's frozen and cryovaced. Same difference.

          2. do you really, really want to know?

              1. Green slime

                Avocado are to green slime as ground beef are to pink slime.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Yup, green baby food, bad color and texture.

                2. Frozen avocado, either pitted and peeled halves or fully pre-made guac, sold agressively to restaurants by Calavo. It's pure avo but basically flavorless.

                  1. To make matters worse many places have "guacamole mexican style" and "guacamole american style". I assume the latter has far less avocado in it and more crema. Or it is all corn syrup and corn oil and food coloring haha.

                    1. I've been in many San Diego restaurant kitchens, but I never saw guacamole made from anything but fresh avocados and the traditional seasonings. Avocados literally grow on trees here.
                      If your taco shop's guac is questionable, I'd suggest finding a new taco shop. Lots of shops, including many low priced restaurants, make real, fresh guac.

                      45 Replies
                      1. re: Idyllwild

                        Consider the examples cited by the OP ...

                        1. re: Idyllwild

                          Idyllwild, I'll have to disagree. An awful lot of local taco shops are using a generic frozen product. It's not inexpensive, but it's got a great shelf life and it doesn't oxidize.

                          One think no one has mentioned yet is the variety of avocados used. We're used to the distinctive rich, buttery flavor of the Haas avocados. Fuertes, Bacons and the others *do* do have a different flavor profile and even a different consistency. What the OP is seeing could simply be frozen non-Haas avos. And I'm, like, 99% sure it's not being cut with mayo and probably not crema.

                          I'm off to the avocado capital of the world in the morning. Wonder how many ways to serve avocado I'll find :-O

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            I'm curious, where is the avocado capital of the world? I'm assuming you don't mean Fallbrook.

                            1. re: polldeldiablo

                              From Wiki..
                              'Fallbrook is known for its avocado groves and claims the title "Avocado Capital of the World." '

                            2. re: Idyllwild

                              Most taco shops around town don't use halved avocados mashed up as their guac..too expensive and why when they can buy that 'trucko de Sysco' stuff that is cheaper and stays green on your food.

                              Sad..

                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                Trucko de Sysco, thanks for the laugh! Good one.

                                1. re: coll

                                  coll. .
                                  Such an honor to have you on the SD board..

                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                    I left my heart in San Diego......the only place I would consider moving someday.

                                2. re: Beach Chick

                                  Hey!

                                  Good things come from Sysco. Says so right on the truck:

                                   
                                    1. re: Fake Name

                                      Well, it's good enough for Mexican Fiesta and Craft & Commerce!

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Nothing really wrong with Sysco- but some of the choices are better than others.

                                        Cuisine = Art
                                        Restaurant = Business

                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                          Hey, believe you me, you're preaching to the choir here.

                                          In fact, I would say it takes greater genius and skill to turn Sysco into good grub than to take gourmet this or organic that or fresh this into good grub, no?

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            Dunno- if one buys frozen teriyaki chicken breasts, one is unlikely, regardless of talent, to create a quality dish.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                No.

                                                But one cannot retroactively create quality ingredients from crap.

                                                Maybe it can be tasty, but ...

                                                Case in point- our friend in exile, Josh, objects to mass-produced commodity beef. I do recognize his valid points- it's nasty stuff. One can buy commodity beef from Sysco, and maybe make a tasty meal from it- but it's still commodity beef.

                                                1. re: Fake Name

                                                  Still waiting for Super Sergio's to add a grass-fed CAB to their menu...

                                                  1. re: Fake Name

                                                    When I am cooking, I am not trying to create "quality ingredients".

                                                    I am trying to create, as you say, "a tasty meal" and if that meant using "crap" then so be it.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      But even with great cooking skills there is very little you can do to try to make real great tasting food. If for examples the tomatoes you are using are low quality what ever you will do at the end you will never be able to create a similar great tasting dish if you would have used high quality tomatoes. And that's the case with all ingredients.Low quality ingredients will give low quality dishes, you might be able to "mask" some of the low quality of the ingredients but in the end it is still a crappy tasting dish you are creating.

                                                      1. re: honkman

                                                        That's simply not true.

                                                        A talented chef, or cook, can and should be able to make great tasting food out of mediocre, or even "low quality" ingredients.

                                                        Let me preface what I am about to say that "great tasting" is a matter of personal preference, so what's great tasting to you, may not be to me, and vice versa. Of course, what's great tasting to you sometimes may also be great tasting to me. Etc.

                                                        Ok, so with that out of the way, let's consider the Filet-O-Fish. Generally, one would have to agree that it's not made with "high quality" (whatever that may mean) ingredients, but for many people (myself included) it "tastes great".

                                                        One also has to keep in mind that the terms "low" and "high" are relative, right? So, let's take In N Out burgers. I would say the ingredients are not "low quality" but if you, say, compared In N Out ingredients to those from Burger Lounge one could make a colorable argument that the ingredients at In N Out are "low" (or certainly "lower") than those from Burger Lounge, right? Not saying it's a fact that that's true, but that you certainly could make a colorable argument for that case. So, if we can at least pretend to agree on that premise, I personally would say that In N Out is still a better tasting burger (with "low" quality ingredients) than the one from Burger Lounge (with "high" quality ingredients), and even without a point of comparison, it also "tastes great" in absolute terms.

                                                        Going back for a minute to the example you brought up: low quality tomatoes. Of course, if the *same* person were using either low or high quality tomatoes to make a dish, then of course one would rightfully conclude that the dish made with the higher quality tomatoes would taste better (ceteris paribus, i.e., same dish, all other ingredients and seasonings are the same, same technique, etc.)

                                                        But the discussion here isn't whether "high quality" ingredients will produce a better dish than "low quality" ingredients when channeled through the hands of the *same* person -- because I think we can all agree that in that case, of course, as I said up above, the dish with the "high quality" ingredients should taste better, ceteris paribus.

                                                        No, the fulcrum of our discussion here is whether one can make a "tasty dish" using "low quality" (whatever that term means) ingredients and undoubtedly one *can* because in my opinion a talented enough cook or chef should be able to turn lemons into tasty lemonade.

                                                        In other words, it matters less to some degree the quality of your ingredients, and more the quality of the chef (or cook). Quality ingredients, in and of themselves, are neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for a great tasting dish. A quality chef, on the other hand, is a necessary condition (and in some cases a sufficient one as well).

                                                        I'll give you another example that might underscore the point I am trying to make (and then I'll stop boring you). I like to track cars. Some people who first start tracking cars tend to have this notion that to get a "fast" track time you need a really fast car (say a 911 GT3) or a track-ready car (e.g.,Lotus Exige). Well, that's simply not true. An experienced and seasoned driver can get a fast lap time with a spec Miata, that's easily 1/5 of the cost of the 911, with less than half the HP and torque, and less sticky rubber. Of course the same driver will get a faster time with the GT3 than the Miata but again that's not our discussion point; rather, it's that the Miata in the hands of a good driver will do a faster (or "better tasting") lap time than the GT3 driven by a newbie.

                                                        If you start off with the premise that only quality ingredients can lead to a tasty dish then you've artificially limited the universe of your culinary enjoyment. Because, you know what, I can make a fine tasty meal out of some instant ramen, a poached egg from an industrial farm, and some week-old bok choy clinging to its last days of emerald existence.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          I agree that a talented chef can turn low quality ingredients such as the offals of animals into flavorful dishes but keep in mind that turning low quality ingredients into tasty dishes do not infer the cook is talented e.g. all Chinese fast food/inexpensive Cantonese restaurants. Kung pao beef usually uses old beef that has gone bad and tough, they proceed to add baking soda to the beef to tenderize it and add lots of hot peppers and salt to mask the bad smell and taste of the old beef. That doesn't make them a talented chef in my opinion.

                                                          1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                            ... all Chinese fast food/inexpensive Cantonese restaurants. Kung pao beef usually uses old beef that has gone bad and tough, they proceed to add baking soda to the beef to tenderize it and add lots of hot peppers and salt to mask the bad smell and taste of the old beef. That doesn't make them a talented chef in my opinion. No?

                                                            _____________________________

                                                            Not sure I agree with the abosluteness of that statement, but even if it were true, you don't consider that talent? Isn't it a skill to "mask" away the bad qualities of food to make it taste better?

                                                            In fact, I would say that that chef that uses the "old beef" to make a tasty Kung Pao Beef is more talented than a chef who uses "young beef" (is that the right term?) to make a tasty Kung Pao Beef.

                                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                                            and there were an awful lot of wives and mothers who managed to make great-tasting meals out of whatever cheap, nasty cut they could afford, with whatever vegetables were left in the cellar.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              I guess we have to agree to disagree. Obviously it is hard to discuss what is a "tasty" or "great tasting" dish as there is no objective way to measure it. And yes, a talented chef can make out of low quality ingredients a decent tasting dish but not a great tasting dish. Your example with In'n'Out and BL burger illustrates it - hugh differences in quality of ingredients and as a consequence a BL burger is much better tasting than an In'n'Out one and I would never consider an In'n'Out burger as anything beyond mediocre tasting in "absolute terms". (And Filet-O-Fish is just nasty tasting stuff). Overall I think a less talented chef with better quality ingredients will create a better tasting dish than a higher talented one with low quality ingredients. And I think that is the main difference in our opinions that for me that the quality of ingredients play a bigger role in the final outcome of the dish than you. Talent of the chef also plays a big role but as long there is a "certain" level of talent (which again is impossible to define objectively) the quality of ingredients is more important than the talent of the chef. If a talented chef could "save" any low quality ingredients why are they ever using high quality ingredient - it would increase the profit of the restaurant - the main reason is that low quality ingredients can't be "masked" enough to make great tasting dishes and sell good enough.

                                                              Polldeldiablo - offal is not in general a low quality ingredient, it is just less accepted in the US (which is completely different discussion). It is rather easy to make a great tasting dish out of offal as long as it is high quality.

                                                              1. re: honkman

                                                                If a talented chef could "save" any low quality ingredients why are they ever using high quality ingredient - it would increase the profit of the restaurant - the main reason is that low quality ingredients can't be "masked" enough to make great tasting dishes and sell good enough.
                                                                _________________________

                                                                Marketing.

                                                                If you weren't told a piece of lettuce was "organic" or "farm fresh" or that the tomatoes in your dish were "heirloom" would you really know. Honestly.

                                                                By your logic, as well, there could have been no tasty dishes prior to the advent of such things as "grass fed" or "organic" or "natural" or whatever terms you want to ascribe to "quality ingredients".

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                  "If you weren't told a piece of lettuce was "organic" or "farm fresh" or that the tomatoes in your dish were "heirloom" would you really know. Honestly" - Quality isn't always automatically associated with these phrases but if you can't taste the difference between for example "low quality" tomatoes or beans and a great heirloom tomato or bean (e.g. from Ranch Gordo) I fell sorry for you. Same for the differences between grassfed and grain fed meat. Nobody needs to tell me which is which - the quality difference is easy to taste.

                                                                  "By your logic, as well, there could have been no tasty dishes prior to the advent of such things as "grass fed" or "organic" or "natural" or whatever terms you want to ascribe to "quality ingredients". - You are aware that quality of ingredients over the last century has in many cases dropped dramatically thanks to industrial farming and meat production. (There are so many papers, book about that topic if you want to read about it). I would argue that it was easier to get high quality ingredients 50-60 years ago than today but obviously you had to eat much more locally and seasonally.

                                                                  1. re: honkman

                                                                    If one made chili, and didn't tell you the beans were organic and heirloom, you can discern that they are just from having them in your mouth and chewing them? If so, more power to you.

                                                                    Over the last 50-60 years I would argue just the converse. Given the advances in government regulation of the environment and food inspection, it is probably easier to find and buy "quality ingredients" (whatever that term may mean).

                                                                    But like you say, we're just going to have to agree to disagree.

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                      "If one made chili, and didn't tell you the beans were organic and heirloom, you can discern that they are just from having them in your mouth and chewing them? If so, more power to you." - Now I am really curious - what kind of heirloom beans have you used in chilies ? The more I explore heirloom beans I am surprised how distinct and different they taste and it is no problem to distinguish them in a chili.

                                                                      "Over the last 50-60 years I would argue just the converse. Given the advances in government regulation of the environment and food inspection, it is probably easier to find and buy "quality ingredients" (whatever that term may mean)." - Food safety and constistency might have improved but the "average" taste of ingredients you buy in supermarket not so much which is not surprising since it has now often to travel around half of the world and this has a lot of consequences for example that you have to pick most produce when it is not ripe etc.

                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                        Try some produce (organic or not) with some crappy olive oil on it.

                                                                        Have a cheese plate (even a quesadilla!) with easy-melt cheese on it.

                                                                        Wait- my favorite- a Caprese salad with crappy tomatoes and flavorless "mozzarella".

                                                                        These are dishes even the best chef cannot make "good" without quality ingredients. Tomatoes grown to be served ripe, not bred to keep in boxes for weeks, with skin as thick as an armadillo's for maximum shelf life.

                                                                        How about a pizza with crust made from quality scratch ingredients rather than bulk-processed, pre-made, pre-portioned dough?

                                                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                                                          >>Try some produce (organic or not) with some crappy olive oil on it.

                                                                          Never have, but maybe I will someday.

                                                                          >>Have a cheese plate (even a quesadilla!) with easy-melt cheese on it.

                                                                          Don't like cheese. But will eat it on pizza, and aside from the variety, rarely does the quality (i.e., regular v. artisan) cheese make a pronounced difference to me.

                                                                          >>How about a pizza with crust made from quality scratch ingredients rather than bulk-processed, pre-made, pre-portioned dough?

                                                                          Funny you should mention this example. We actually did it once at a restaurant I worked at, and the customers could not tell the difference. Not a single one complained when we swapped out our in-house pizza dough with commercially bought ones.

                                                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                      This whole discussion is based on personal preferences and while a lot of people can't tell the difference with inferior ingredients used, I personally no matter what I eat or where I eat, always try said items individually without any sauces that may cover up the natural flavor of the ingredients. Example being if I eat a seafood sandwich with a garlic aioli and brioche bun, I would take a small piece of each part, put it in my mouth and proceed to consume the sauce covering said item then eat the item individually. Before I ever try anything like this I try to cleanse my palette as easily as possible to get the best effect without wasting time. Now of course to most people this sounds ridiculous but this is how I try new food.

                                                                      Everyone has their own preferences such as my friend in Portland, Oregon who talks about how good the coffee and craft beer is there and yet he drinks Starbucks and Sam Adams(nothing against Sam Adams). It all comes down to people's preferences in not just food but also their personalities which delves away from Chowhound territory.

                                                                      I guess it comes down to that old adage 'To each their own'.

                                                                    3. re: honkman

                                                                      OMG...Are you frigging serious?

                                                                      '(And Filet-O-Fish is just nasty tasting stuff)'

                                                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                        "OMG...Are you frigging serious?" - Try eating some real fish sandwich and you will be surprised how good it can taste compared to the Filet-O-Fish .

                                                                        1. re: honkman

                                                                          I gotta say Honkman, I feel a little badly for anyone who dares make you a meal using "subpar" ingredients.

                                                                          1. re: Violatp

                                                                            I feel badly for anyone who has to make a meal, any meal, for honkman.

                                                                            1. re: Violatp

                                                                              Cooking for me is very simple as I am also aware that there are financial limitations for everybody and in addition most people confuse high quality ingredient with high end ingredients. I actually prefer to cook with less used (and often cheaper) ingredients might it be produce or meat. Also if you use high quality (and high cost) ingredients, as for example certain meat cuts, you don't have to use large amounts. (I find for example meat heavy dishes often rather boring and one dimensional). And most importantly I much more prefer that somebody is cooking with any quality ingridients than just buying fast food or convenience food.

                                                                            2. re: honkman

                                                                              I eat fresh fish sandwiches all over the world...including Montebello and Berlin but what does that have to do with my love for the beloved FoF.

                                                                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                I find the taste of the fish in the FoF very artifical compared to a real fish sandwich

                                                                                1. re: honkman

                                                                                  Yes, but most of the patrons at ipsedikit's pizza place can't tell the difference.

                                                                                  So, there you are.

                                                                                  1. re: honkman

                                                                                    It is inapt to compare a FoF to a fish sandwich (good or bad).

                                                                                    The FoF is a category all unto itself. Nothing even comes close to it.

                                                                    4. re: Fake Name

                                                                      But, you can get any quality level of product from Sysco. Assuming that all Sysco product is crap is not accurate. It all depends on who is in the kitchen and what thet're ordering. If the chef orders crap that's what they get. If the chef orders the ggod stuff, that's what they get. You'd be surprised at how many restaurants that profess to adhere to slow food principles actually have a Sysco truck pulling up out back precisely because Sysco can deliver what they need to produce meals at that level.

                                                        2. re: Beach Chick

                                                          My own eyes tell me that's not true. Through my jobs, I entered literally hundreds of kitchens in San Diego County, from dive bars and hole in the wall taco shops through private clubs and pricey hotels, and saw fresh guacamole made from real avocados almost daily. If a taco shop doesn't serve decent guacamole, there's one down the street that does. Nobody should suffer sub-par guac in San Diego, IMO.

                                                          1. re: Idyllwild

                                                            Well, the problem might be people's standards for ingredients/preparation. Take Starbucks for example, customers can't tell the difference because they laden their cup with 1/2 coffee, 1/4 sugar, 1/4 milk or cream. If the customer has a lower standard, then there won't be a demand for higher quality resulting in restaurants not bothering to make it fresh or in the case of Starbucks, properly roast beans since the majority of their customers can't tell the difference or just don't care.

                                                            That being said, I've also personally seen a number of cooks buying a suspiciously 'taco shop' group of ingredients at my local Pancho villa and see them buying lots of tomatillos, avocadoes, onions, tomatoes and cilantro(lots being like 30-50 of each) so I do agree that there are at least a few taco shops or Mexican restaurants that take pride in their guac/salsas.

                                                      2. I have no clue. I live in Oceanside very close to three or four "Taco Shops" and all have become Sh%&. Best Guac I have ever had is from H&B Guac Shack at the Hillcrest farmers market...I think they do others too.

                                                        1. I've been in Restaurant Depot and witnessed a cook buying bulk frozen halves. It was pretty obvious from the other ingredients on his cart that it was a Mexican restaurant. Probably accounts for the watery, grainy consistency of the guacamole.

                                                          1. Many times there's "Guacatillo". Tomatillo salsa with avo, they sell it at the carneceria, I make it all the time.

                                                            I know no one is talking about the green stuff in bottles that you see on "Taquitos" in gringo-mex restaurants.

                                                            1. At the El Napolito market/restaurant in Encinitas, they list the ingredients in their prepared guacamole and salsas. Their guacamole has sour cream. They supply some other markets in the region.

                                                              1. It might be similar to what they sell as "Guacamole Salsa" at Pancho Villa. It's runny, probably made with Sysco avocados, and I can't stop eating it. I can't remember the exact ingredients, but there is no filler like mayo or crema in it. Just avocados, cilantro, probably onion and lime. And from the other comments, it sounds like it is probably watered down. But I don't care, I can't get enough of it.
                                                                Some of the taco shop guacs taste off to me, though, like the avocados were over the hill.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: NParker

                                                                  I'm reviving an old thread here. I too am curious about this "guac". I want the neon green stuff and am not looking for recommendations on the bougie fresh stuff. Can anyone confirm it's generic Sysco stuff? Perhaps you can get the same stufff at Smart and Final or something?

                                                                  And would anyone happen to have a recipe for the red hot sauce?

                                                                  I'd like to recreate that dirty, 3am, Mex fast food experience as closely as possible at home. Neon guac, grey carne asada and all.

                                                                  1. re: dphm1

                                                                    Calavo makes it, Sysco probably puts their name on it as they do with almost everything they sell. Not sure if they make a retail size, it's sold in one or two pound bags, frozen.

                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                      Yes, Calvo sells various versions of guacamole retail in smaller sizes, usually in the frozen aisles.

                                                                2. I'm looking for a 24-hour taco shop so I can
                                                                  Guac Around the Clock.

                                                                  1. Semi- important, tangential poll here. Do you pronounce it:

                                                                    1) "gwak"
                                                                    2) "wak"
                                                                    3) only " wak-ah-mo-lay", never the abbreviated form
                                                                    4) interchangeable pronunciations, depending on context/listener

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: globocity

                                                                      It depends on whether I am speaking Spanish or not.