By Serena Maria Daniels @thrillist.com
The taco is deceptively simple by reputation: tortilla, filling, and perhaps some garnishes or salsa on top. But the reality is that so much goes into the preparation for the myriad fillings of the ubiquitous taco that to dismiss this handheld meal as no more than street food is a huge disservice. Mexican food is a UNESCO-designated cultural treasure, and in the taco category, these vessels of masa, meat or meat-like proteins and spice are widely varied.
But it’s also easy to get lost among all the options to stuff in tortillas and fall back on the basics. Which is fine, but if you’re not exploring the wide-world of taco fillings, you’re doing your palate a disservice. To give you the knowledge you need to live your best taco life, we enlisted the expertise of Steven Alvarez, an assistant English professor at St. John’s University in Queens who came to fame when he started teaching a taco literacy course at the University of Kentucky. We discussed the origins and mythology behind some of the most popular tacos around and came to the conclusion that it could very well take years of study to tell the stories of every taco imaginable. In the meantime, here’s a handy guide to the taco fillings you’re most likely to come across.