Written by Kon-Tiki Taco
Who doesn’t like authentic things? But what distinguishes foods that embody some fundamental, historic truth – and why not try tasty innovations?
The Wall Street Journal broke the burning question wide open in 2015: Are chefs rejecting fusion tacos – think Korean barbecue, soy slaw and kale tucked inside a traditional flour tortilla – for the more traditional and authentic version of what defines a taco?
“Until recently, tacos north of the border were going through what might be called their baroque period,” said the newspaper, itself now a fusion of financial and lifestyle news. The article goes on to describe how chefs in prominent restaurants are making an effort to revisit both the traditional fillings as well as methods for making the tortilla itself.
It’s unclear how many mobile taco catering companies are adopting the old-ways of tortilla making, as it looks painstaking and, ultimately, expensive. It requires making not just the tortillas from scratch, but the actual flour as well (use dried heirloom corn, water and pickling lime, ground between stones, fresh daily). Without question taco caterers are experimenting, successfully, with fusion recipes. Just because the original tacos trace back to the simple meals of silver miners in 1700s Mexico doesn’t mean that 21st century diners can’t enjoy their tacos with Jamaican chicken, grilled shrimp or island style black beans.
Fillings and toppings authenticity is subject to some debate. Does the fact a mobile taco catering company uses tilapia for a filling mean it’s terribly different from whatever seafood is used in Mexico – or do those vary from region to region?
A big part of why tacos have achieved such broad appeal is the fact that they can be adapted to peoples’ tastes. Also, the variety that comes from fusing foods from different continents is part of why they continue to be interesting – it’s possible that no two tacos need ever be alike for those who are willing to be adventurous. Taco cart caterers are popular with event planners because it’s a fairly easy way to satisfy large, diverse crowds.
So if the burning question about fusion vs. authentic tacos is a contentious argument, it might help to consider what some commenters said on a popular food review website:
- “Authentic Mexican is authentic to who? Is it regionally authentic, and to whose standard are you basing this on? Is it the grandma standard, or the restaurant standard from the region?"
- “I find food that my taste buds like to be good. That's my only standard.”
- “'Authentic' and 'good' are not the same. Plenty of bad meals are 'authentic.'”
- “It doesn't have to be authentic to be good. There's a lot of good fusion.”
Clearly, taste is subjective. But isn’t that like saying “thank goodness for variety” – even if it means getting dining advice from a financial newspaper?