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Aug 13, 2013 02:04 PM

Puffy Tacos

Crisp and Puffy Tex-Mex Tacos ~ is there anywhere in Seattle where i can get one? (read the posts by a_brown .. haven't seen a tex-mex place)

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    1. elicia, I have a problem with your apparent premise. I think "tex-mex" mexican is actually ubiquitous in Seattle. It simply is not nearly as well executed here as it is in the southwest. I think a fairly good discussion of "tex-mex" is here:

      Fried items, hard tacos, chips, sour cream, flour tortillas, yellow-to-orange cheese -- if you "haven't seen" this style of "Mexican" food in Seattle, I am amazed.

      Because, sadly, this is a close fit to all the old school mediocre Seattle Mexican names, like Azteca, Mama's, Las Margaritas, Matador, as well as countless stand-alone neighborhood Mexican restaurants all over the area.

      They all offer the standard USA-style shredded beef taco in a fried shell, although if you get your tacos in a combination plate, chances are that the side of the taco facing down will be soggy from other elements on the plate within a few minutes. You'll have better luck ordering your tacos ala carte, or requesting that your tacos not share a plate if you want the shells 100% crisp.

      "Puffy" - idk. But crisp (fried shell) tex-mex tacos are in abundance within the countless mediocre northwest/tex-mex joints from which most of us now seek more authentic truly Mexican alternatives.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Gizmo56

        i saw an article on serious eats..and it looked interesting

        1. re: elicia

          The "puffy" style shell (fried raw tortilla) is a San Antonio thing. I haven't seen any place in Seattle promoting them, but you can probably make a good version at home:

          1. re: Gizmo56

            Is this the flour-tortilla thing locals called a chimichanga here?

            1. re: mrnelso

              No. It is a corn tortilla. The difference is that instead of frying a finished corn tortilla to make a hard taco shell, the tortilla is pressed and then dropped raw directly into the fryer. The corn tortilla pillows with little air pockets in the hot oil for a different texture than you get from making a harder shell by frying cooked tortillas.

        2. re: Gizmo56

          I respectfully disagree with Gizmo56's premise. According to Robb Walsh, Houston-based author of "The Tex-Mex Cookbook,":

          "Tex-Mex had its heyday in the early 20th Century. Its influence was enormous; adding such items as picante sauce, chili con carne, chili dogs, Fritos corn chips and bean dip, nachos and chile con queso among others to the American culinary mainstream."

          Walsh's Tex-Mex cookbook features other recipes such as "Rolled, folded and stacked enchiladas, old-fashioned puffy tacos, sizzling fajitas, truck-stop chili, frozen margaritas, Frito pie," and others. In the post linked below, Walsh goes on to distinguish Tex-Mex from "Cal-Mex,"

          "...characterized by crispy tacos and burritos, is now the dominant strain across the country. Cal-Mex was popularized by taco stands that sprang up in suburban neighborhoods of Los Angeles beginning in the 1950s and 1960s. When Glen Bell combined the Americanized crispy taco with assembly line mass production techniques in the LA suburbs, he gave birth to the chain that now exemplifies Americanized Mexican food–Taco Bell."


          While of course you will find dishes that cross-over between the styles, the awful and ubiquitous Northwest "family mexican restaurant" exempliefed by Azteca, Mama's, etc. hews much closer to the Cal-Mex-style burrito and crispy taco plates than it does to Tex-Mex.

          1. re: equinoise

            I learn so much from Chowhounders! Good stuff.

            1. re: equinoise

              I have no argument with what equinoise is saying here. I think the northwest mexican restaurants are for the most part sad and bland imitations of their SoCal counterparts.

              "Cal-Mex" as equinoise's link says, "is now the dominant strain across the country" of Americanized Mexican food.

              But I also think that the California restaurants (that ours seem modeled after) drew heavily upon Tex-Mex, and that the menus at these restaurants are loaded with Tex-Mex elements as a foundation, along with the crispy tacos, etc. that are the California contribution. Our local ubiquitous "family mexican restaurants" happily serve their take on sizzling fajitas, frozen margaritas, nachos, etc., which are cited by Mr. Walsh as Tex-Mex cuisine.

              I look at "Cal-Mex" more as a west coast variation on Tex-Mex, a subset, than some entirely new and different school of cooking.

              In any case, I still don't know where one might find a puffy taco in our fair city. Seems like a possible niche waiting to be filled.

              1. re: Gizmo56

                Yes, I agree about the puffy taco. More broadly, I think a well-executed Tex-Mex restaurant that serves dishes like those loved and recorded by Walsh, The Homesick Texan, and other acolytes would absolutely kill it here (and likely other places far removed from Texas). Those flavors are so crowd-pleasing. And, Tex-Mex has at this point an identity and history seperate and apart from true Mexican food, if carefully presented, it would disarm and provide cover for even the staunchest critics of gringo-ized Mexican food (myself included). Who wouldn't want a puffy taco and chile con queso every once in a while?