Tacos are a super controversial food! From the American-style “taco” with ground beef and taco seasoning, to Native American tacos, to the myriad of authentic Mexican tacos found in all regions of the country, there are a zillion modifications. Studies have recently lauded the redeeming nutritional value of Mexican tacos al pastor , but no one can accuse a Costa Rican taco of having any sort of health benefits.
I distinctly remember eating my first Costa Rican taco when I studied abroad for the first time in San Ramón de Alajuela. A new tica friend and I were walking from downtown to our houses (I somehow ended up at the house that was a mile and a half from the town center, so I did a LOT of walking.) My friend Gwen stopped at a little window to order food, and she asked me if I wanted a taco . What I got was a tortilla with shredded beef inside, rolled and deep fried. It was then covered with shredded cabbage and french fries, both of which were drizzled with ketchup and mayonnaise. We ate everything with two toothpicks. It was phenomenal- a $2 heart attack to eat while you walk home from work.
All sarcasm aside, I LOVE an authentic Costa Rican taco. Until recently, I couldn’t seem to replicate the flavor of Costa Rica here at home. I finally did it-and here’s the recipe.
Yields: 8 tacos
- 16 ounces shredded beef, prepared as indicated by this recipe
- 12 pack of Mission Yellow Corn tortillas (you can use other ones, but these are the only ones approved by my tico husband!)
- 1 Package of frozen, thin cut french fries
- Vegetable oil
- 1 head of cabbage
- A frying pan or deep stock pot for frying
- Paper towels
- 2 plastic baggies
- Using a cheese grater or food processor, shred the cabbage and set aside.
- The true Costa Rican taco is drizzled with ketchup and mayo from a squeeze bottle with a thin tip. I don’t know why, but drizzling the condiments on the taco this way totally changes the flavor. I don’t keep my condiments in squeeze bottles, so I just add about 1/4 cup of each condiment in the corner of a plastic sandwich baggie and cut the tip off. I prepare this before making the rest of the tacos.
- In a frying pan (I used a deep stock pot) place enough oil to cover the tacos and heat to 365 degree Fahrenheit. (Tip: I don’t have a thermometer for frying. I have an electric stove that I place on high until the oil is bubbling. I then take a small-ish piece of tortilla and throw it into the hot oil to see how it acts. If it cooks super fast or burns, the oil is too hot. If it doesn’t fry up in about a minute, the oil is not hot enough.)
- Heat 8 tortillas in the microwave for a few seconds to soften. Place a tortilla on a flat work surface. Add 1-2 ounces of shredded beef to the top of the tortilla and roll it up. I place one or two toothpicks through the entire thing in order to hold it together during the frying process. Set aside.
5. Before frying the tacos I place a plate with a paper towel nearby to absorb excess oil. Place the tacos in the pan, two at a time, and fry until golden brown. As you pull the out with kitchen tongs, tilt the taco vertically- a lot of oil will drip out, and that is good.
6. Once the tacos are fried, you can plate them and cover them with the cabbage. Set aside.
7. Fry the french fries in the same oil as the tacos. I fry them when frozen to increase the crispness. You can also bake them in the over according to package directions- but again, I only got tico approval when I actually deep fried them.
8. Cover the taco and cabbage with french fries, and drizzle with condiments.
9. Serve immediately- preferable with a Coca-Cola or nice cold Imperial!