Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tacos de Canasta,Watts,CA-Sweaty Tacos with a Salvadorian Twist

Tacos de canasta are still so rare in Los Angeles that you gotta pull over anytime you see the sign. Consider it a civic duty. These basket tacos, given their name by the way they are traditional steamed, in a basket, tacos wrapped in a towel on the way to the stand. There are many names for these throughout Mexico: tacos al vapor(steamed), tacos sudados(sweaty), tacos mineros(miners), and tacos de canasta(basket) as they are most commonly known. In Baja they are called tacos varios(various).

When I came across Aida's stand on Alameda St. between E.110th and E.111th in Watts, I didn't exactly find what I was looking for. Watts has become a hotbed on Latino street food due to the increasing Mexican and Central-American presence. Aida is from El Salvador where there are no tacos, except at a Mexican restaurant, nor are there tacos de canasta.

But Aida's husband is Mexican, from Michoacan, and the recipes for the tacos come from his family.

In addition to some salsas out on her table is a tub of fresh curtido, the Salvadorian pickled cabbage that is a standard topping for pupusas. Aida's curtido is outstanding, not the overly vinegary kind that's been sitting on a table all day at many of the Salvadorian restaurants we see, but crisp and clean. She said it was to put on the tacos. OK!

Her red and green salsas were nice, solid, at this point I was quite interested in this new Mexican and Salvadorian taco de canasta combo.

A local Mexicana came by and displayed her take on these tacos. In Michoacan, enchiladas resemble red stained tacos de canasta covered by shredded lettuce,pickled vegetables and white cheese. So, she completely covered her tacos with curtido and then smothered the plate with salsa. I don't know if Aida will stay in business if that woman comes back.

The tacos themselves were pretty good. The bean and cheese was the best, followed by a potato and chorizo. The chorizo taco isn't usually a filling for these kinds of tacos, and was the typical store bought variety here, which isn't worth getting.

But the steaming is on the mark. Another restaurant in Highland Park claims tacos de canasta but just splashes the tacos in some grease to give it that sweaty feel. Aida's are naturally steamed.

Mexican-Salvadorian restaurants are common in the MacArthur Park area, but this is something different.

Tacos de Canasta
Alameda St. between E.110th and E. 111th
in front of Mercado Tires #2 on the west side of the street
weekends only,mornings till early afternoon


glutster said...

I finally had some of these during my last visit to Mexico City. They grew on me really quick, something about soft tortillas and heavily spiced fillings all brought together by that extra chunky salsa verde.

nice find Bill.

Food GPS said...

I got my hopes up after seeing "tacos de canasta." I really enjoyed them at that booth near the zocalo in Mexico City. I kind of like the "fusion" idea, since that seems like such an L.A. thing, but my next trip to South L.A. will probably involve carnitas instead.

streetgourmetla said...

Glutster-Tacos de canasta in DF are must eat foods. Glad you you hit them up!

FoodGPS-These are good, but no where near that place on 5 de Febrero near the Zocalo.That place is an institution.

Gastronomer said...

"Sweaty tacos" -- I can't say that's a tasty name, but your description makes it sound much more appetizing!