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Brain is a Terrible Thing to Waste

We had some excellent barbacoa y sesos tacos at Gerardo’s on Saturday morning. You don’t see brain in the tacos much anymore. Meat packers stopped shipping brains after mad cow disease made everybody so nervioso about eating them. The only place you see them anymore is in carnecerias where they make old fashioned […]

S.A. Puffy Tacos vs. H-town Puffy Tacos

“Everybody in San Antonio makes puffy tacos the same way,” Ray Lopez at Henry’s Puffy Tacos told me. You make tortillas out of raw masa and throw them in the deep fryer in a form to keep their shape. The resulting taco shell has a bubbly, crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside texture that Tex-Mex fans in the Alamo City love. Puffy tacos are also popular in the Valley, in Austin, and elsewhere. But in Houston, puffy tacos are something entirely different.
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Cooking Up Some New Food Trucks

California-style taco truck with skylights

This deluxe “California Style” mobile catering center is being assembled on a 1999 rebuilt panel truck. It features a quilted stainless kitchen with glass cold cases on the outside–the cantilevered skylights are distinctive of the “California” style. The finished product will cost $45,000. To build the same food truck on a brand new chassis would run you about $90,000, Daniel Rodriguez of Rodriguez Brothers Catering Trucks estimated. The company designs, custom builds, and repairs food trucks in their Garrow Street garage on Houston’s East Side.

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UPDATE: The Making of El Real's Puffy Tacos

Chicken Puffy Tacos at El Real

Back in August of last year I posted this item about the Tex-Mex puffy taco. We were building the menu of El Real Tex-Mex Cafe at the time. In the process we sampled a great many puffy tacos in hopes of perfecting our own. It took a whole lot of trial and error, but when we opened we had our puffy taco ready. If you haven’t tried it yet, I invite you to check it out and tell me who it rates compared to the greats.

The puffy tacos at Sammy’s Mexican Restaurant in La Vernia are the best I’ve had in awhile. They were a lot sturdier than most. As you are probably aware, the biggest problem with puffy tacos is the lack of structural integrity.

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Houston's Airline Flea Market/Mercado

Fruit stand at the Airline Flea Market in Houton

The “Flea Markets” on Airline Drive in North Houston form a giant mercado that draws some 50,000 Latino shoppers every weekend. Each flea market has its own taquerias and food stands.

Agua Fresca de Tamarindo

De Buey Y Vaca is the most famous taqueria. (Buey y vaca means ox and cow, or steer and cow.) My favorite dish there was the barbacoa soup. Barbacoa soup belongs in the family of menudo, posole, and caldo de res. It’s a weekend breakfast soup eaten with a squeeze of lime, chopped onions and cilantro and a stack of tortillas. If you like barbacoa, this stuff will knock your socks off.

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The Tex-Mex Grill: Barbacoa de Borrego

From the Houston Press Eating Our Words blog:

This recipe originally appeared during the rodeo barbecue cook-off. It’s complicated, but the results are spectacular.

Borrego actually means mutton in Spanish, but for some reason, Anglos are more comfortable translating it to “lamb.” Which is odd when you think about it, since Anglos are usually squeamish about eating veal, suckling pig, tiny cabritos and other baby animals.

Mutton used to be a traditional meat in Texas barbecue and is still found at a few African-American barbecue joints such as Ruthie’s in Navasota and Sam’s in Austin. So call this “Mexican mutton barbecue” if you like.The smoky-flavored, falling-off-the-bone tender meat this recipe yields is even tastier than the the stewed goat dish called birria.

Mexican barbacoa is still made in a smoker by a few Tejano barbecue enthusiasts, but commercial pit barbacoa is all but extinct in Texas. Vera’s in Brownsville is one of the last restaurants in the state to use a real pit to make barbacoa. In the old days, Mexican ranch hands used to wrap cow heads up in canvas or maguey leaves and bury them in the coals. (In the movie Giant, Elizabeth Taylor faints when they unwrap the package and show her the head.) But health departments frown on such traditional barbacoa these days.
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Houston's Top 10 Taco Trucks


From the March 2007 feature Las Fabulosas Taco Trucks in the Houston Press.

#1 Jarro Café Trailerimg_3285
In front of Jarro Café
1521 Gessner
What to get: Don’t miss the steak (bifstek) taco made with thin-sliced Angus sirloin. Also recommended: the Campechana (beef and chorizo), cochinita pibil (slow-cooked pork) and beef-and-mushroom tacos. Flour tortillas are available for a little extra. Don’t miss the salsa bar. The dark-green jalapeño-and-cilantro salsa may be the mildest; the dried chile salsa is complex and picante. Only the most dedicated chile-heads should attempt to ingest the incendiary orange chile de árbol sauce and the rip-your-lips-off neon green serrano slurry. The food is a little cheaper and a little faster at the taco trailer, but they have the same tacos inside the air-conditioned restaurant, where you also get chips, ice water, knives and forks and an expanded menu.

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