I’ve written a lot about the months I’ve been in Mexico City because it’s an amazing place, and I wish I could find a way to go back for a long time. The experience remains one of the best of my life. My memories range from clear as a cloudless day to hazy, like the hot steam rising from the comal of a taquero. I wish I could travel back in time to that time when my nights were spent running from restaurant to restaurant, soaking up the city’s booming scene and my days were filled with some of the best food most elaborate street food I have ever seen.
If you’ve never been there: go there. Mexico City street food is on another level. The flavors of a quesadilla – freshly fried, still piping hot – in a busy corner can rival those of a mole in one of the world’s top-rated restaurants. I have long bristled at the idea that only a gourmet restaurant with starched tablecloths is worthy of stars. Mexico City’s street food is excellent – and evolving to get better every day.
This recipe for tacos stuffed with esquites, black beans and takis is a tribute to my memories of Mexico City’s greatest street food hits.
Tacos, of course, are a street food favorite, so I started there. But then I thought I could fill them with other street food classics.
Esquites – grilled corn, cut on the cob then cooked with butter and spices before being covered in mayonnaise and chili flakes – are sold in carts and stalls near busy intersections and along the monumental plazas of the city. Vendors pick the sweet corn from massive vats, then customers decide how they want the hot kernels dressed. I love them in every way: buttery and warm in the cooler months, with a touch of Tajin. Or, mixed with creamy mayonnaise in warmer months. This extra fat fortifies them, smoothing out each tooth-like core to catch the glow of the sun.
Takis, cylindrical chips coated in salty red chili powder, are sold in convenience stores and hung on the shelves of chip vendors in parks and along major roads. There are plenty of other crisps in this category – Doritos, flavored Fritos among them – but Takis provide the heat. I decided to top these tacos with some mashed takis to add some crunch and spice. I found them at my local Safeway, but if you’re having trouble finding them, any other flavored chip will do. Don’t skip the black beans. Lightly simmered and mashed until creamy, they add weight to these otherwise quite light summer tacos.
Esquites tacos with black beans and crushed takis
From Washington Post writer G. Daniela Galarza.
Inspired by the Mexican street corn snack known as esquites, these tacos get extra flavor and texture from black beans and crunchy takis (or any other spicy chips). First, the corn is grilled (or charred in a pan) before being tossed with mayonnaise or cream, cotija cheese, chili peppers, lime and salt. Corn tortillas are a natural choice, but use any tortilla you like. A final touch of crushed Takis chips adds another layer of spice.
Corn on the cob is ideal when in season, but you can use frozen (thawed) or canned (drained) and popped corn instead.
If you prefer to use your own cooked beans, substitute 1 1/2 cups cooked beans of your choice, drained. If you’re using home-cooked beans and they have great flavor, there’s no need to re-cook them. Simply crush and serve.
Out of tortillas? Serve it as a bowl of beans and corn, perhaps with fries on the side if you have them.
No takis? Fritos, Doritos or any other crispy chip will work.
1 tablespoon olive oil, lard, or bacon grease, plus more as needed
1 clove garlic, minced or finely grated
1 can (15 ounces) black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 tablespoon sazon seasoning mix or other spicy seasoning mix
1/4 cup water, more as needed
3 large ears of corn, preferably white, shelled
8 small tortillas (5 to 6 inches), preferably corn
2 tablespoons mayonnaise or Mexican cream
1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese or other white cheese, such as feta
1/2 jalapeño peppers, chopped and seeded, if desired
Juice of 1/2 lime, plus more if needed
1/2 cup takis, lightly crushed, for serving (optional)
Fresh coriander leaves, for garnish (optional)
Lime wedges, for serving (optional)
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil or lard until shimmering. Add garlic and stir until very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in beans, tomato paste and sazón. Add the water, bring to a rapid boil and cook for 1 minute, adding more water if needed to prevent the beans from drying out. Remove from the heat and, using a fork, mash the beans until smooth. Cover and keep warm.
Heat a grill over medium heat, about 400 degrees, or heat a cast iron skillet over high heat, and grill or sear the corn on the cob until lightly charred all around, about 10 minutes total. Cool on the grill or in the pan until cool enough to handle. Wrap the tortillas in the foil and place them near the corn, to warm them up. (You can instead heat the tortillas in a lightly greased skillet or steam them in a damp cloth in the microwave for 1 minute.)
In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, cheese, jalapeño and lime juice. Cut the corn on the cob into slices and mix it with the mayonnaise mixture. Taste and season with salt and additional lime juice, if desired.
To serve, place 2 warm tortillas on each plate. Spread a circle of black beans on each tortilla and top with corn mixture. Garnish with the takis and coriander leaves, if using, and serve with the lime wedges on the side, if using.
Nutritional information per serving (2 tacos) | Calories: 426; Total fat: 15 g; Saturated fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 16mg; Sodium: 903mg; Carbohydrates: 63g; Dietary fiber: 13g; Sugar: 4g; Protein: 15g.
This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.