Low- and Slow-Smoked BBQ Meats are a Perfect Match for Tacos
For National Taco Day, we’re celebrating the best way we know how: Kansas City BBQ Tacos and ice cold beers.
Tacos — one of the world’s most perfect street foods — have been around in the US since 1905 or so, estimates food historian Jeffrey Pilcher (Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food). Easy to hold and relatively quick to eat, they make the perfect envelope for their ingredients.
First popular among the children of Mexican migrant workers, our earliest tacos evolved from rolled and fried taquitos, served with an avocado sauce. They mimicked standard Mexican fare, but used American ingredients that were readily available: cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce, and diced tomato.
More than 100 years later, it’s that envelope quality that makes tacos so readily adaptable to other combinations of flavors, fares, and foods. Traditionally, in America, a classic taco consists of adobo-seasoned ground or pulled meat (pork, beef, or chicken), beans, lettuce, tomato, and perhaps garnishes of onion, guacamole, sour cream, and/or salsa or hot sauce. Today though, tacos go farther — they’ve moved beyond their origin, creating that perfect three-bite expression that turns heads.
“Tacos are a great platform for flavor,” says Matt Drummond, executive chef at Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar in Boston. “They’re composed dishes: pretty much anything you can put on a piece of china or porcelain, you can put in a taco as well.”
Handheld Culture and Regional Flavors
Anybody who’s ever watched one of Anthony Bourdain’s shows knows that nearly every culture has some version of cheap and easy-to-eat handheld street food. In America, tacos get the regional treatment. Fish tacos, for example, first appeared in Southern California, and continue to be popular across the country, made with a seafood protein from mild tilapia or grilled shrimp to smoked marlin and even grilled octopus.
Tacos don’t have to be relegated to cantinas and food trucks, either. Exotic (and high price) ingredients like Peking duck, for example, pairs five spice and clove seasoning seamlessly with a Mexican mole sauce. Lobster glazed in a foamy butter sauce, spiked with morita chilies, makes a perfect taco.
Here in Kansas City, the flavor is BBQ. “Low and slow” smoked meats (dry rub, no sauce) possess unique regional, cultural flavors and texture that also happen to work perfectly in tacos. The smoke offers an earthy balance to sweet and heat ingredients, while the meat’s tenderness provides the contrast to the crunch of fresh ingredients. Imagine a corn tortilla stuffed with smoked pulled pork, with crispy, sweet, and tangy slaw, cheese, and a drizzle of sriracha lime cream, all rolled up for an explosion of flavor and texture in every bite. And there’s no limit to the proteins either — build your taco with brisket, pulled chicken or pork, or even smoked fish or shrimp.
Here at Crazy Good Eats, our Taco Tuesday BBQ tacos are a lower-cost, high-value handful of flavor. At around $3 – $4 per taco, join us (or take out) for a relaxed and affordable lunch or night out. Sure, the tacos can be messy — but that’s part of the fun.