The highest rated eatery on Yelp within 5 miles from me is a taco truck with an unassuming exterior. This food establishment has a perfect 5 stars rating with over 150 reviews. This is higher than any other restaurants in Washington DC area that are featured on covers of food magazines or boast famed chefs.
El Chilango looks like a generic working-class Mexican taco truck, painted white with classic Mexican signs in green and red and, obviously, with the ubiquitous sombrero logo.
The truck is always parked one and half block away from my home. I had seen it many times, but unfortunately was skeptical of its food. It looked like any other ordinary taco truck that you find at a construction sites. It took 5 star rating on Yelp to ignite my foodie curiosity; I had to try its food!
El Chilango serves traditional Mexican street tacos. Taco meats are spiced to perfection, served over double corn tortillas garnished with cilantro and onions. Wedges of lime, cucumber and radish are also served on the side. Each of these simple tacos cost $2, cash only. It’s amazing to see this small mobile place with one flat iron grill and couple of people is able to outdo all the fancy food establishments.
Drinks are bottled and canned sodas. Since we are eating Mexican, I urge you to try Mexican Jarritos soda over other regulars.
I can’t believe that I dismissed this hidden gem just because of its looks, and needed cadre of strangers screaming at me before I explored this diamond in the rough. Often good food is simple, served without much glitter or fanfare.
Posted in: Food Culture - Travel and Food | Tags: Best Rated in DC, Best Tacos Arlington, Best Tacos DC, Mexican food
Written by Chonti Maria Ramirez VerHanes Valenzuela Sauder on October 1, 2010
Mommy showed me how to make taquitos when I was 12, however I never actually fried them until I was 16 year old. It takes time to learn to cook with oil and Mommy didn’t want the house to burn down. These are the perfect finger foods for dinner, parties and late night snacks. I just made them for my best friend’s baby shower and they were a huge hit. My husband was so upset that there were none left for him. So, I made more the following day.
Like most things, taquitos are best eaten as soon as they come out of the frying pan. I recommend paring them with Chonti’s Famous Crack Salsa, sour cream, guacamole, beans and basically anything you can scope.
First you will have to boil the chicken for 1 hour. Place the chicken in large pot with water and add the seasonings listed. Once it’s done take the chicken out and let it cool. When the chicken is cool shred it.
Second, after the vegetable oil has been heated in frying pan. Take corn tortilla and place shredded chicken down the middle. Roll it up and put a toothpick through it. If the corn tortilla doesn’t want to roll put it in the microwave for 10 seconds to loosen it, than place the chicken in it and roll.
The first couple you do will burn, it happens. Turn the temperature down until you get the right degree. You will cook the taquito on both sides for couple of minutes. You want it to be a nice golden brown. Place everything on a plate lined with paper napkins to drain the oil.
You are done. Let me know how it cooks. Be sure to have some windows open just in case.
Mother and Child based on Photo by Catnipstudio
Posted in: Cooking | Tags: chicken taquitos, learning to cook taquitos, Mexican food, Traditional Taquitos
I usually don’t make recipes that I see on the TV. After watching Alton Brown making fish taco (recipe here) in Good Eats, I jumped right in to construct similar fish tacos made from pan grilled fish doused in cilantro. I love cilantro and usually don’t like authentic fried fish in fish tacos. Alton used a classic flavors by adding garlic and lime to cilantro marinade, while adding a optional shot of tequila to intensify the flavors.
Tilapia, a neutral fish with a bland flavors is perfect for cilantrofic fish taco. Also, it was the only fish left in my freezer.For one pound of tilapia fillets, I added marinade made from following ingredients.
Blend all the ingredients to paste. Marinade tilapia in it for few minutes to hours. Feel free to change the amount ingredients slightly based on what you want from that meal.
Heat a pan (cast iron pan here). Add some oil and cook fish for just a couple of minutes on each side. The fish surface will change to golden brown color with slight charring. You will know fish is done when you see translucent fish just changes to an opaque color and gets flaky texture. One of the important things to remember is fish cooks very fast and overcooked fish is chewy and not at all appetizing.
The grilled fish was flavorful enough to eat by itself. I may use it sometime as entrée. All I need to make sure is that I don’t invite the cilantro haters for dinner. The hate or love of cilantro is linked to our genes. In 1930s, scientists in DuPont lab discovered that some of the scientists found infused dust of chemical, phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) bitter tasting while others didn’t notice the bitterness. Now phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) is used as a gold standard in testing genetic variation in taste (more here). Scientists have identified a potential chemical for the pleasant cilantro aroma, 2-dodecenal but yet have to show the chemical behind the soapy smell. (more here)
Contrary to what I expected, I found making tortillas was the most difficult task in this entrée. I added flour and water in 2 to 1 ratio with 2 tablespoon fat per cup of flour. I also realized that it’s difficult to roll out perfectly circular tortillas, rolled tortillas stick to surface even being dusted with flour, and it’s cooked on a high heat within 30 second, each side. Sorry Alton, your recommendation of 4 minutes per side resulted in crispy tortilla/pita chips for my hummus. It’s amazing how seemingly simple things like making a perfect tortilla can be most challenging – well – a good topic for a separate future post.
I made fresh Mexican fresh cream, known as crema, or white sauce for fish taco by making yogurt out of cream in a yogurt maker (see my saffron yogurt post). I seasoned it by adding a pinch (or few) of cumin/coriander, cayenne pepper and salt. If you don’t have a yogurt maker, add a teaspoon of yogurt in a cup of cream, mix and store in warm place for 1 hour. If you really don’t feel like making cream yogurt, get a cup of Greek yogurt and add the seasonings. Also, chipotle chili in adobo sauce like the ones I used for making chipotle chile verde would go well with the sauce. Sadly, I didn’t have it when I was making fish tacos.
I love guacamole in my tacos. I used avocadoes, lime, onion, and tomatoes. Instead of the regular salt, I used Himalayan pink salt (also known as black salt) because of its tangy pungent flavor. Honestly, I am not sure if the pink salt added any flavors, but it didn’t ruin the guacamole an we all guest loved its taste.
Guacamole is easy to make and best when made fresh. If you are expecting guests, you could do time consuming steps, such as chopping onions, tomatoes cilantro and garlic etc, ahead of time. Wait and add (and mash) avocados, lime juice and salt just before eating.
The crunchy cabbage
I find crunch from vegetables like cabbage an integral part of fish taco experience. A silky texture of soft tortilla, flaky fish texture, and creaminess of sauce/guacamole is balanced with a perfect crunch. I immersed shredded cabbage in lukewarm water, and added a pinch of salt, few pinches of lime zest and freckles of black pepper. After immersing in water for a few minutes, throw out the water. I found adding these simple steps and ingredients made it more flavorful and brought out its bright color.
The Fish Taco assembly
Get flour tortillas (1), add white sauce (2), scoop of guacamole (3), grilled fish (4), shredded cabbage (5), more white sauce (6), fold and eat (7).
Posted in: Cooking | Tags: 2-dodecenal, cabbage for fish tacos, cilantro lime marinade, Cilantro Tilapia, crema from scratch, Fish, Fresh guacamole making tip, gene and cilantro, gene and taste, guacamole, Himalayan pink salt, How to make grilled fish tacos, How to make soft tortillas, How to make taco from scratch, Mexican food, Mexican fresh cream, pan grilled fish tacos, phenylthiocarbamide
Two days ago, I finally unwrapped a slow cooker that I had received as gift more than four years ago. Slow cooking chili verde seemed like ideal meal to serve my visiting family – something new yet familiar to their palate.
Chili verde literally translates into green chilies and used to describe Mexican (or rather Mexican American) slow cooked pork stew containing green chilies and tomatillos. Tomatillos look like green tomatoes but have meatier white filling inside them and are usually sold within dry papery husk. I find tomatillos have slightly tang sweet aromatic flavor. You should try it to get more sense of its flavor. For this recipe, I wanted to get fresh tomatillos, but couldn’t find more than handful of them after raiding three grocery stores around DC. So I decided to also use canned verde salsa made with tomatillos. However, since most people were not used to tangy flavor of tomatillos and hotness of green chilies, this is how I improvised my chili verde.
First thing I did was to substituted green chili with store bought canned Goya chipotles en adobo. Chipotle en adobo is smoked jalapeno chilies made in tomato sauce, which is spiced with paprika, onions, and other spices. I used chipotle instead of other green chilies because it has distinctive smoky flavor, goes well with slow-cooked meat, mildly hot and most importantly because I love its flavor. So let it be chipotle chili verde!
Other changes were adding grilled red onions, grilled bell peppers and raw chopped tomatoes . I wanted to get a fresh vegetables into my chili verde. To grill, I put my vegetables/aromatics in bread loaf pan and put inside oven set to broiler for a few minutes until I saw some vegetables were charred.
I started with big chunk of boneless pork shoulder also known as pork butt for my chili verde. Fat should be on top so that once it starts cooking, it will start to drizzle down and moisten the rest of meat.
I started by rubbing chipotles en adobo, salt, cumin and garlic to the pork.
I mixed grilled (broiled) vegetables, verde salsa, and lime juice with its lime zest.
Cooked the mixture in high setting in slow cooker for six to eight hours. I placed the slow cooker below the stove fan in order to use the kitchen exhaust fan.
After eight hours, I removed my cook chili verde. As you can notice that I added pieces of zucchini mid way through my cooking.
The chili verde sauce was spicy hot, mild tangy with smoky flavors. It was very satisfying!
The slow cooked meat itself was soft and fell readily apart. Surprisingly it was not that spicy. It was great because it allowed me to share my chili verde with a five year old member of our family and other adults who couldn’t stomach the hotness.
The best way to eat was definitely over basmati rice – just like a spicy chipotle chili verde rice bowl.
Posted in: Cooking | Tags: canned tomatillos, chipotles en adobo, Goya chipotle adobo, Mexican food, pork chili verde, slow cooker chili verde, smoked jalapeno chilies, tomatillos
Out of sense of adventure and to quell my curiosity, I picked a can of Goya black beans 10 years ago. Since it had just two ingredients, black beans and salt, I cautiously tasted the frijoles negros right out of the can to determine spices and other aromatics to add. I was taken aback by its rich meaty mushroomy flavors and instantly fell in love with those minimally cooked black beans.
Canned black beans have been part of my staple diet since then. Often known as turtle beans or Cuban beans, these black beans are easy to make, tasty, cheap, and universally liked. You can eat it right out of the can; it’s relatively healthy, and can be served with enthusiasm to a few vegetarians friend I have. One of my favorite vegetarian meals is, rice and black beans served with fresh tomato salsa on side.
Black beans are kidney shaped shiny black colored beans found rarely outside its native United States, Mexico, Cuba and some parts of Central America. Black beans are traditional staple diet in those regions, where it is served as a side dish as well as in burritos, enchiladas, soups, and salads.
During my last trip to a grocery store while I was mindlessly putting cans of Goya black beans in my shopping cart, I noticed bags of dried black beans. How difficult would it be to make these dried black beans? I can custom cook my black beans and add my own culinary signature to it. So I decided to buy a bag of dry black bean and a can of black bean for comparison.
This is how I cooked dried black beans.
Look over the dried black beans to find any foreign substances such as small stones. Wash them.
Soak overnight 1 part black bean to 3 parts filtered water. You will find by next day, black beans will expand at least twice the initial volume and the water will be dark. Usually, 1 cup of dried black beans yields 2.5 cups of cooked black beans.
Throw or keep the excess water?
Beans consist of complex carbohydrates that humans digestive enzyme can’t convert to absorbable sugars, and are passed on to the lower intestine, where the resident bacteria digest them by producing carbon dioxide, which leads to the embarrassing bean related flatulence.
The soaked water contains some of these water soluble carbohydrates. Thus, throwing out the soaked water will help making beans less flatulence prone. For the same reason, Goya also recommends discarding the soaking water. However, the soaked water also contains vitamins, minerals, colorful antioxidant and other nutrients. Instead of discarding soaked water to reduce flatulence, try cooking longer to break those complex carbohydrates or sprouting the beans so that germination consumes the complex carbohydrates.
Add 1 part bean to 2.5 parts water for cooking.
Cook uncovered in medium heat for ½ hour. Add about 1 teaspoon salt for every cup of soaked bean.
Black beans should be cooked by 45 minutes.
My taste comparison showed that canned black beans are softer, saltier, and lighter in color with smoky flavors. Goya canned beans may have got the smoky flavor by roasting or toasting its beans before cooking. The canned black beans may have looked lighter in color because Goya may have used usual method of reducing flatulence in beans by boiling them in excess water, throwing out the water and cooking again in the fresh water. Please note it often results in loss of natural nutrients.
Overall, I was happy with the taste of my homemade black beans and amazed by all small subtle customization I could do to make them healthier and tastier.
Posted in: Cooking - Food | Tags: bean flatulence, black beans, canned black beans, cuban beans, dried black beans, Goya black beans, Mexican food, turtle beans