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Tacos de Canasta: tradition on wheels

by Yucatan Times
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September 16, 2021.- Of chicharrón, adobo, potato or beans, ‘sudaditos’, fatty and that go well with a green chili salsa crushed with a lot of onion and cilantro, yes sir, we are talking about Tacos de Canasta (basket tacos). Most of us have tried them, but do you know their origin and the secrets that that basket with a blue plastic bottom keeps?


Tlaxcala is the place of origin of the ‘basket tacos’, specifically in the municipality of San Vicente Xiloxochitla is where they were created. In fact , Marcial Balderas is the oldest taco vendor in the town, he started selling Canasta tacos back in the 1950s. And today, in San Vicente Xiloxochitla , 80 percent of the families are dedicated to selling basket tacos, the whole family participates, from the cooking of the different stews, the sauces, the arrangement of the tacos in the basket, until the one who transports them and takes them to the different points of sale.

It is said that they have their origin in the mining regions of Hidalgo and Guanajuato since it was an easy food for the workers to eat, to transport and to keep “hot” entangled in rags. At the time of the Porfiriato, it was considered food for low-income people , peons, farmers, workers, although some time later, during the Mexican Revolution that changed and there was no rich person who resisted them and went to one of the several taquerías that already existed.

Basket tacos
 (Photos: Adobe Stock / Wikimedia)

Nowadays authentic basket tacos are transported on a bicycle, stored in a basket, covered with blue plastic, a large checkered cloth, or brown paper , and next to the basket are two huge jars full of salsa. They don’t shout, they don’t whistle, they don’t sing, they just stand on a corner and we Mexicans know they are there.

Before they were called tacos de la canasta, later the name was modified until what we now know as tacos de canasta, which by the way this wicker basket is made in a municipality next to Nativitas called Santa Colonia Teacalco “, he told us the chef Santacruz Irad, and great diffuser of tlaxcalteca gastronomy.

About the basket

There is no basket that holds a greater gastronomic treasure than the basket of these tacos and organizing the product inside the basket is a true ritual and not just anyone can do it. To begin with, why is the basket mostly covered with blue plastic?

“The first reason is because at that time it was the only plastic that there was and it was the cheapest, and two, it has a logic of being, in kitchen foods we will not find an ingredient of blue color, this tone inhibits the flies. You will see that there are never flies around the tacos de canasta thanks to the blue plastic ”, assures chef Irad.

Basket tacos
 (Photos: Adobe Stock / Wikimedia)

After this sky blue plastic, the next layer that the basket blocks have is a cloth napkin and then the brown paper, “immediately the tacos are arranged in an extraordinary way, since there must be channels through which the oil can drain that you are going to finish cooking the taco , that is, the tortilla is at a corriose point and with this oil it has just been cooked. If we used a common tortilla, the tacos would fall apart with the heat and the fat, but these tacos do not fall apart ever, they always have an ideal consistency ”.

“For that reason, the tortillas must be made from nixtamalized native corn, and if there isn’t a good tortilla, there isn’t a good taco, and a good taco is: the base with an excellent tortilla. , the soul or the essence is the filling and the crown is a rich sauce ”, Chef Irad continued.

 (Photos: Adobe Stock / Wikimedia)

How is the preparation?

The night before the process to prepare the stews begins and the next morning the omelette begins to be filled with these stews. The traditional ones are potato, bean, adobo and pork rinds, although you can also find mole, pipián, cochinita, potato with chorizo, rajas con crema, among others.

“ The pork rinds should never be absent, because the fat in them is what makes it easier to fold the tortillas,” says the chef from Tlaxcala. Always or almost always, the man accommodates his basket of tacos to place them perfectly at the moment they ask him, if the basket is accommodated by someone else, the seller can be confused. “ The way they are arranged is in a found way , so to speak, the round edges go in and the linear edges go out”, he explained.

Basket tacos
(Photos: Adobe Stock / Wikimedia)

Since they are filled , a layer of tacos, another of onion, another layer of tacos, more onion and more tacos, and at the end boiling oil is placed on all the tacos inside the basket.

“In order to sell a taco with a suitable temperature, the idea was created of bathing them with oil so that they would be kept warm , and as a second objective, so that the tacos would finish cooking . For a basket of 1000 tacos approximately half a liter of oil is used ”, shared Irad, guardian of Tlaxcala cuisine.

Followed by this, they are quickly covered with all the layers mentioned above . The sauce to accompany them is traditionally raw or cooked green, prepared with a lot of coriander, a lot of onion and spicy . The salad is displayed in big jars, so customers can serve themselves ” the gastronomic researcher explained.

Bike cleats
 (Photos: Adobe Stock / Wikimedia)

To finish, the basket and the salsas are mounted tightly on the bicycle, and they take their way either to places near Tlaxcala or to Mexico City. Basket tacos do not have an established place, they always find you or you always find them.

Source: Food and Travel

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