The Hippo


Jul 21, 2019








Tons of tacos

Get your fill of tacos for only $2 each during the sixth annual Hippo de Mayo Taco Challenge on Thursday, May 5, from 4 to 9 p.m. More than 45 eateries in Manchester’s downtown and millyard welcome thousands of guests to enjoy specially created tacos like a choco taco, Chinese chicken taco, chorizo and duck taco, maple smoked pork taco, beef brisket barbacoa and fish taco. Once you have found the taco creation that suits your taste buds spectacularly, visit to vote by selecting your favorite from a drop-down menu. The judges’ choice winner (chosen by a panel of Hippo staff foodies) will be awarded $2,000 for their charity of choice. See last week’s story at for more.
A few places where you can find authentic tacos
Consuelo’s Taqueria, 36 Amherst St., Manchester, 622-1134,
El Rincon Zacatecano Taqueria, 10 Lake Ave, Manchester, 232-4530, see Facebook
Sabroso food truck, 315 Lake Ave, Manchester, 461-1182,
La Carreta Mexican Restaurant, four locations, in Manchester, Nashua and Derry; see
El Colima Mexican Restaurant, 116 W Pearl St., Nashua, 889-8226,
Taco Beyondo, 53 Henniker St., Hillsborough, 464-5986,
Taqueria La Guadalupana, 917 Valley St., Manchester, 232-3348,

Tacos tradicionales
Original Mexican tacos are not what you think

By Ryan Lessard

 Hold the lettuce, cheese and sour cream. Hard shells? No thank you. They have no place on traditional tacos.

Hello cilantro, goodbye sour cream
The chef and owner of Taco Beyondo in Hillsborough, Adam Mosher is relatively late to the taco game, and the classically trained upscale chef knows how to make tacos with unusual things like lobster, mango, soy sauce, kale or even eggs.
“The sky’s the limit. … I could probably make a taco out of anything,” Mosher said.
But he also knows what to do if anyone walks into his taco place and asks for a traditional street taco.
“Typically a street taco would just have a little chopped onion, maybe a little cilantro and some hot sauce on there as well as some highly seasoned protein on … the corn tortilla,” Mosher said. “Double-wrapped is a must.”
Maricela Cortes at El Rincon Zacatecano Taqueria in Manchester echoes this.
“The best part of a taco to give it more flavor is cilantro and onion and spicy sauce,” Cortes said.
Mosher, who graduated from the New England Culinary Institute with a focus on classical French cuisine, learned how to make authentic tacos from Mexican housekeeping staff while working as a chef for wealthy families in Colorado. So he knows that things Americans take for granted as taco staples, like cheese and iceberg lettuce, are actually not parts of the traditional taco.
“It’s definitely an Americanized thing,” Mosher said.
Daniel Chávez, a UNH professor of Spanish and Latin American studies, grew up in Mexico. He says sour cream is also an American addition to the taco.
“We do not use sour cream, chopped lettuce or cabbage,” Chávez said.

A brief history of tacos
The taco’s origin starts with tortillas, going as far back as the indigenous people in what is today Latin America.
“The tortilla was the bread at the table of the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican peoples,” Chávez said.
It was made from plentiful corn and used as an edible delivery device for food.
“It comes with the easiness of putting things on it,” Chávez said.
They would use meat from game or raised animals and chopped nopales cactus plants.
Even today, tortillas are a common household snack with very little added.
“One of the big pleasures for kids is to get some freshly made, still-hot tortillas and just put some grains of salt, maybe a drop of lemon and that would be a burrita de lemon, burrita de sal or a taco de sal, which I guess is the most elementary form of taco. A salt taco,” Chávez said.
Some parts of Mexico, like Oaxaca or Guerrero, still offer an ancient variety of traditional taco using ingredients most Americans would find unsettling.
“Where they keep very close to indigenous traditions, they have tacos with jumiles, which is a form of cricket that are toasted on top of a … hot plate,” Chávez said. “Or you can have your maguey worm tacos, [which] you will find in very fine restaurants. At very high-cuisine Mexican restaurants, I can get that. The taste of that is close to shrimp, between shrimp and chicken. … It’s very traditional.”
Most agree the popularity of the American hard shell taco was probably due to the novelty when modern food manufacturing processes made it widely available, but that popularity appears to be on the decline as the original soft tortillas make a comeback.
Chávez thinks the hard shell was inspired by deep fried tacos called durados, which were eaten mostly at parties and special occasions.
“It’s not the everyday taco we eat,” Chávez said.
Cow head and other meats
The main variety in authentic tacos has to do with the type of meat you want and the way it’s prepared. 
Chávez says the primary modern varieties of taco include tacos de carnitas (pork shoulder), tacos de asada (grilled meat, usually beef), tacos adobada (meat, usually pork, marinated in red chilli sauce and cut in strips) and tacos de cabeza (cow head). 
The cheeks and tongues of cow heads are usually incorporated into the tacos de cabeza. The original barbacoa (from which the word barbecue derives) was made with cow head but most American barbacoa tacos are made with any kind of spicy, shredded, slow-braised beef.
Other authentic varieties include tacos de pollo (chicken), de pescado (fish) and de chicharrón. Chicharrón is fried pork belly.
Regional variation
Different parts of Mexico may offer slightly different taco assemblies, according to Chávez. For instance, fish tacos are more of a coastal novelty. But while on a passenger train ride, he noticed an interesting pattern with the types of tortillas being offered.
“When you ask for a taco in Guadalajara, Mexico, or in Colima, if you want, or also in maybe in Acapulco … when you’re asking for a taco, it will be on corn,” Chávez said. “If you want it on flour, you have to specifically ask for it.”
That’s true for most of west and southeast Mexico. But that changes the farther northwest you go up through Sinaloa.
“Starting in the [southern] third of Sinaloa and all the way up to the border with the United States, flour tortillas will become more common or even dominant. If you don’t clarify that you want a corn tortilla, they will give you a flour tortilla taco,” Chávez said. “I would think that producing wheat became more common in the northern areas and flour tortillas made more sense.” 

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