Many mistakenly believe that the French tacos are actually Mexican tacos. While some do recognize that French tacos are not the same thing as Mexican tacos, they still believe that French tacos did originate from Mexican cuisine. In this blog post, we’re gonna go over both tacos and find out everything about them.
The Origin Of The Word “Taco”
Corn has been the staple food of Mexicans since long before the Spanish conquered the country. It is believed that the word “taco” comes from “quauhtaqualli” which, in Nahuatl, refers to a variety of corn “tortilla”. Nahuatl is an indigenous language that was spoken by a number of peoples in northern and central Mexico, especially the Aztecs. The Spaniards, unable to pronounce the full word “quauhtaqualli”, called them more simply “tacualli”, which over time became “taco”.
The Original Mexcian Tacos
Delicious and historic, the taco is part of Mexico’s cultural and gastronomic diversity. Either from al pastor, carnitas, longaniza, cochinita, barbecue, birria, roast meat, chicken, chili, nopal with cheese, chapulines, or avocado, among others; the taco has an incredible variety that is for the tastes of all corn lovers. Although its origin is unknown for sure, it is believed that the taco was born as the basis of an Olmec diet thanks to the first vestiges of nixtamalized corn.
What Is A Taco?
A “taco” is simply a corn tortilla in the center of which any type of filling (meat or vegetables) is placed. Tacos are eaten with your fingers.
It’s usual for taqueros (the people who make and sell the tacos) to ask you if you want them to add onions (cebolla) and coriander (cilantro) to the filling. They will provide you with several types of sauce: red sauces (prepared with tomato) and green sauces (made either using small green tomatoes or from avocados). These sauces are usually spicy, but to very different degrees: some are barely spicy, and others can frankly set you on fire… As a precaution, ask the taquero what are the spiciest sauces or taste a little bit before sprinkling your taco. Some taquerías will also offer you vegetables: most of the time, these are cucumber slices and pico de gallo which is a mixture of tomatoes and onions minced with chili pepper (jalapeños) and coriander.
Today, tacos are the most consumed dish by Mexicans, making them one of the most typical dishes in the country.
History Of Mexican Tacos
It is believed that the origin of Mexican tacos began in the Mexican silver mines. This hypothesis about tacos comes from the fact that the first type of taco was the “taco de minero”, which means “miner’s tacos”. Also, have you ever realized that taquitos look like a stick of dynamite? Taquito is a Spanish word that translates to small taco. It is believed that the word taco originally referred to pieces of paper that miners wrapped around gunpowder and used in holes carved into the rock. As you can see, taco is not a secular cultural food, it is relatively new, compared to some other Mexican foods dating back to the Aztec period.
The role of the “taquería” (taquería shop) is also an important part of taco’s history. For many years, taquerías were primarily intended for working-class Mexicans. Many migrant women brought tacos to Mexico City to sell for an income. These women eventually turned Mexico City into a hub for tacos, with many styles and types of tacos that people could taste. It’s probably no surprise that the taco’s true popularity comes from the popular fast-food chain, Taco Bell. Taco Bell founder Glen Bell has created a franchise for people who want to experience tacos but don’t want to travel to Mexico to try one.
The Most Common Tacos Are:
Tacos Al Pastor: It is pork meat marinated in spices. You will easily recognize it in the taquería because the meat is stacked on a spit in such a way that it fits a conical shape (much like kebab meat). Depending on the region of Mexico, taquero can serve you the meat by adding a piece of pineapple (the marriage of the two flavors is a real success).
Tacos De Bistec Or Tacos De Carne Asada: this is beef cut into small pieces
Tacos De Carnitas: this is another meat, except that this one you will not find in a “normal” taquería, and you will not find it in all the states of Mexico. Las carnitas is pork meat cooked in the fat of the same animal. It is very good quality meat and generally not expensive at all. Establishments or posts that sell carnitas often sell only that and are only open during the day. The carnitas of the state of Michoacán is particularly famous.
Tacos De Cochinita: Cochinita is a traditional dish from the state of Yucatán. This is marinated pork. The taste of cochinita is very different from that of Pastor’s variants.
Tacos De Barbacoa: this is a mixture that contains lamb or veal meat.
But also… We find quite common tacos that seem to be much less attractive than those I mentioned earlier: guts, tongue, cheek, lips, brain, eyes
Authentic Mexican Tacos
You may think you’ve tasted authentic tacos, but in reality, you’ve probably eaten something Tex-Mex or made some – panting! – a pack of tacos. Depending on where you live, authentic Mexican tacos can be hard to find in the United States. We had to adapt to the United States and create our own versions of this tasty Mexican dish.
The Ingredients That Makeup Tacos
- Authentic Mexican tacos are made from corn tortillas, not flour
- American tacos are usually hard tacos, while authentic Mexican tacos are soft tacos.
- Authentic Mexican tacos aren’t topped with cheese like most American versions. Instead, they are topped with fresh coriander and finely diced white onions.
- American tacos are topped with lettuce, tomato, and grated cheese
- Authentic Mexican tacos aren’t typically spicy, but if you add homemade salsa, you can make them as spicy as you like.
- American tacos are generally sweet and include store-bought or jarred salsa
- Authentic Mexican tacos are made of simmered, fried, or grilled meat. Grilled meat is marinated overnight with cumin, oregano, paprika, lime, onions, and chili peppers. Cooked meat is lightly seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper.
What Meat For Real Tacos?
American tacos are usually made up of baked chicken or pork. Sometimes they include a baked steak mixed with a commercially purchased tacos seasoning.
Tacos In The United States
The taco arrived in the United States by migrants who traveled to the Los Angeles area in the early 1900s. It was originally considered lower-class street food. Tacos sold in the U.S. as street foods are not traditional Mexican tacos. This is due to the fact that the ingredients available in the United States are not the same as those available in Mexico.
What Is The Actual Meaning Of Taco Tuesday?
First, it’s important that we establish exactly what we mean when we say Taco Tuesday. If anything, Taco Tuesday has become a widespread custom throughout the United States. There are a number of ways for Taco Tuesday to be recognized and participated in.
For some people, Taco Tuesday might simply entail going out and getting tacos, or even just preparing their own. However, from the restaurant marketing perspective, the meaning is a bit narrower.
The offering of taco specials is the crux of Taco Tuesday, for restaurants. This includes both Mexican establishments as well as any other business that serves some form of tacos. Typically, these tacos will come at a lower price on Tuesdays, in comparison to other days of the week.
While Taco Tuesday is prolific all over the United States (and in many other countries), it’s especially popular throughout Southern California. Beach cities in this region have developed a serious fondness for Taco Tuesday specials.
There is no universal standard for how restaurants should approach this particular tradition. Much like Happy Hour, the specific conditions of Taco Tuesday can vary quite a bit from one location to the next. Different specials are likely to be offered at different establishments, and the hours at which the deals are applicable vary as well.
Tacos, a little delicacy that makes you think of kebab and all types of wheat cakes filled with various toppings: minced meat, chicken, frit … However, taco, a recipe of Mexican origin, should not be confused with kebab which is a Turkish specialty. With a little surplus of taste, the history of tacos takes on a new life in France.
These fake tacos triumph by the perfect union of their components: crispy tortilla dough, meat, sauce, and accessories, all at the customer’s choice in various sizes available.
Thus, you can choose between different formats of chicken (breast, cordon bleu, sirloins, nuggets …), merguez sausage, or, for vegetarians, falafel, and complete it to taste with chips, cheeses, bacon or turkey ham, jalapeños … all well bathed in a sauce that unifies and gives juiciness to the whole. The tortilla perfectly wraps all the filling, avoiding -theoretically- scattering and dripping, and ends up cooking on a grill or grill as if it were a panini.
The fame and virality of French tacos – it was a matter of time before becoming cannon fodder for social networks – has led the concept to surpass the mother company to appear on the menu of other restaurants and franchises both inside and outside France.
The use of the term tacos, almost always in the plural, to name this ode to excess has not sat very well with the Mexican community, who accuse it of cultural appropriation and even of desecration or lack of respect for its traditional gastronomy. Beyond how catchy the name may be, French tacos have even less to do with Mexican cuisine than American Tex-Mex.
What Is French Tacos
To say that it is halfway between a French kebab and a Tex-Mex style burrito would be an acceptable definition, but one that does it justice. In just a few years, tacos has become the national fast food of France. It is an effective model, which does not reinvent the wheel of the fast-food sandwich, but actually, a masterclass, as they say there.
A wrap-style wheat tortilla (the only element that would bring it closer to a real taco), the vegetables and proteins of your choice, some fries, and above all, a “cheese sauce”. It is actually a Mornay sauce, a béchamel to which is added a cheese, more often Gruyère, Emmental or Cheddar. According to most of the taco fans I’ve consulted, it’s really this cheese sauce that differentiates the channels from each other.
The Origin Of French Tacos: Who Is The Real Inventor Of French Tacos?
The French tacos was invented by two brothers who ran a butcher shop in Vaulx-en-Velin: Belhout Habib and Nordine Belhout, nicknamed Nordine the butcher.
The idea was based on the famous recipe for Kesret Chahma, a kind of stuffed cake, carefully prepared by the mother of the two Belhout brothers. Originally, this cake represents a consistent dish specially designed for fighters in Algeria. It is a specialty of Maghreb cuisine, which comes from Setif, the commercial capital of Algeria.
The stuffing of this sandwich is called shakshouka, which means “mixture”: a pan-fried blend of peppers, tomatoes, onions, and eggs. Historically, shakshouka is a recipe imported from Palestine by Tunisians. It is a typical Arabic dish of the northern part of the African continent, cooked and served in a pan.
Currently, Belhout Habib has returned to Algeria, while Nordine is the boss of a fast-food restaurant in Vaulx-en-Velin. Halim Laimeche is one of the only witnesses of the creation of French tacos, he is the chef of the restaurant au petit gourmand in Vaulx-en-Velin.
Taco Brands And Franchising
Just like pizza and pancakes, tacos and the majority of snacking products offer nice margin rates compared to the entire restaurant industry. The profitability of tacos and its recent craze with consumers attract many entrepreneurs who are candidates for franchising.
Indisputable king of franchisors, the O’Tacos chain launched in 2007 has about 250 establishments, and serves more than 10 million tacos in France each year.
Less known, the Chamas Tacos chain, launched in 2014 and originally from Grenoble, has 20 establishments in France and Belgium.
The Tacos de Lyon, which is one of the oldest establishments (since 1999) to have popularized the French tacos, offers an approach to tacos a little less industrial, even if it remains standardized. Only 4 Le Tacos de Lyon establishments exist in France, but the franchise is young and should grow rapidly.
With nearly 30 brands in France and Belgium, New School Tacos is one of the most popular franchises despite its young age: the first establishment was created in 2015.
Tacos Avenue was born in 2007 in Grenoble under the first name of “Tacos King” before moving to Montpellier in 2009 where 3 years later a second establishment opened its doors. Tacos Avenue now has nearly 30 establishments, including 1 in Morocco.
Tacos King is a brand that launched late, in 2016, but which is experiencing rapid development with about thirty establishments opened in 2021 and many implementation projects under study.
A troublemaker among tacos franchisors: the Fresh Burritos chain which with its 33 establishments offers a return to the original sources of tacos of Mexican tradition. Fresh Burritos is today the leading Mexican fast-food brand on French soil.
The Basic Recipe For Homemade French Tacos
Compared to the traditional Mexican tacos which are a rather balanced dish, the French tacos is a very consistent and hypercaloric dish! The Mexican taco(s) is composed of various vegetables while the French tacos consist of different fats, such as meat and the various sauces used, namely cheese sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup, and many others.
- olive oil, salt, pepper
- ground beef (200 grams)
- an onion
Place the peeled potatoes, cut, and covered with olive oil on a baking sheet topped with parchment paper. Bake at 220 degrees C for 20 minutes.
- Cheese sauce
- liquid cream (25 cl)
- Emmental (50 grams)
- cheddar (100 grams)
Pour the cream into a container and let boil, pour the Emmental and cheddar. Thicken the sauce and mix afterward.
4 ready-made or homemade wheat bread:
- wheat flour (240 ml)
- baking powder (1.5 teaspoons)
- salt (1 teaspoon)
- table oil (2 teaspoons)
- milk (210 ml)
Mix the ingredients (apart from milk) in a container. Pour the milk little by little, mixing the dough well until a homogeneous consistency is obtained. Knead the dough afterward on a floured surface. Let stand for 20 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 small balls and let stand for 10 minutes on a floured surface. Then spread each ball with a rolling pin. Heat the pan and cook each tortilla until golden.
Place two cakes one a little offset on the other. For the bottom, spread a barbecue sauce, and place the fries, cheese sauce, and minced meat. Fold the edges one by one, squeezing the trim well in the center. Turn the tacos over and to seal them, cook for 3 minutes in a pan or panini machine.
Variants & Variations Of French Tacos
It is now possible to choose from existing sauces, ranging from the spiciest to the sweetest: ketchup, mayonnaise, samurai sauce, Algerian sauce, Moroccan sauce, mustard, pita, chili, honey sauce, curry sauce, barbecue sauce, etc. To stand out from the competition, taco chains are constantly innovating and regularly offering new sauces to accompany tacos.
It is the same for the toppings, it is possible to choose between cold cuts (ham, salami, chorizo), vegetables (pepper, mushroom, olive), cheeses (goats, mozzarella, raclette, cheddar, or Emmental), or eggs.
If the original recipe was minced meat, we can currently find chicken cutlets or Tandoori chicken, fish, sausage, and cordon bleu. Many brands offer to assemble their personalized French tacos with one, two, or even three different meats
Mexican Tacos VS French Tacos
The French tacos has taco only its name: very different from the Mexican taco, the French declination is the perfect combination between a kebab, a burrito, and a panini.
From the galette to the ingredients and even its name, French tacos with the plural “S” pronounced in the plural as in the singular, the French tacos has nothing to do with the traditional recipe of the Mexican taco invented more than 500 years ago.
The French tacos offer a folded cake in a rectangular shape made from wheat flour.
Beyond the cake, it is the ingredients of the two products that make all the difference. The French tacos is topped with fries, raw vegetables, and various meats, all linked by a cheese sauce. Mexican tacos consists of minced meat and vegetables. The only thing in common is that both tacos are eaten by hand without cutlery.
The Mexican taco comes on a tortilla made from corn flour folded on itself and open at its ends.
What some consider an outrage to Mexican gastronomy is the result of extreme francization of this culinary culture on our territory: when the French speak of Mexican food, they are referring amply to the specialties of the Northwest of the United States embodied by Tex-Mex cuisine.
Chili con carne, Caesar salad, Fajitas, Nachos, Mozarella sticks, burritos… These specialties assimilated in France to pure-strain Mexican cuisine are in fact recent North American specialties more or less influenced by Mexican gastronomy.