by Lazarus Lynch
Tacos are indefinitely the ultimate Mexican street food. The messiness, the meatiness, and the crunchiness of any taco are just some of the noteworthy things that come to mind when I think about the perfect taco. In my New York City hometown, there are a plethora of family-owned taco food trucks, and street vendors serving up hundreds of tacos each day. I've had my share of late-night tacos when I get the munchies, and I've taken notes on what makes great tacos great tacos.
This Cinco de Mayo, I've attempted to answer the question of what makes for the perfect taco. I get it, building a taco isn't rocket science, yet, few seem to do it right these days. I'm sure there are many who would disagree with me, but having my fair share of tacos, I've come to the conclusion that perhaps building a taco isn't as simple as one thinks.
What Is a Taco?
Though tacos are universally loved, its origins are largely unknown. Taco expert Jeffrey M. Pilcher explains that a taco "... dates from the 18th century and the silver mines in Mexico, because in those mines the word “taco” referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore," according to an online article in Smithsonianmag.com. That sort of helps us, but generally speaking, tacos are native to Mexico, and a popularized street food that's made its way around the globe.
A modern take interpretation on the taco is essentially a tortilla (fried or steamed) filled with assorted mixtures of meat, beans, rice, cheese, herbs, and salsa. Many tacos also include sour cream and guacamole. If you really want to break it down and get technical, a taco is a corn tortilla filled with "stuff." Tacos come in all sizes and kinds, but the best are the ones done right.
The Right Tortilla: The shell/tortilla/or vessel is arguably the most important part of every taco. The tortilla is the package that must perfectly encase every part of the filling. Traditionally, yellow or white corn tortillas are used for tacos and are often steamed or fried. Steaming or warming the tortillas allows them to be more pliable and prevents them from cracking when folded. Different varieties of corn tortillas have different textures; some being more dominant in corn flavor and dryer (typically yellow corn tortillas) while others are more neutral and moist in flavor (typically white corn tortillas). Sometimes, two tortillas are necessary to support a taco depending on how the portion and wetness of the filling.
I love a fried corn tortilla taco shell for its crunchy quality. If you use taco pre-cooked taco shells, I suggest placing them in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 10 minutes to warm them before filling. The heat will awaken the corn flavor.
The Filling: The second most important aspect of the taco is the filling. Typically the filling would consist of a protein (beans, poultry, meat or fish), rice, and some medley of toppings. It's important that the filling is not overstuffed. Filling overload will result in a sloppy taco that could only be eaten with a knife and fork. Using a combination of meat and beans are classic and adds richness to the taco.
Use Acid & Herbs: My favorite part of a taco is the acidic punch you get from biting into a pickled red onion, or a tangy salsa with bright citrusy notes running throughout. I love pickled items (radish, fennel, onions, grated carrots, etc.) to add both texture and acidity to the taco. The acid also works well to balance the sometimes overwhelming flavors of the filling. Using herbs such as cilantro (or coriander leaves) as a beautiful freshness to the taco. If one has aversions to cilantro, parsley is a great substitute.
The Toppings: The toppings are sort of like the decorations you put on Christmas tree once it's all set up and ready to go. The toppings should vary in texture, flavor, spice, and temperature. Toppings usually consists of something creamy like cheese, sour cream or greek yogurt, avocado slices or guacamole, something spicy and tangy like salsas, tomatoes, or tomatillos, and something crunchy like iceberg lettuce. I like to have guest assemble their own tacos and serve themselves toppings as desired. Toppings are best when stored at appropriate temperatures to give great contrast between the filling and tortilla.
Remember TEAM TEXTURE is everything! Use the right tortilla(s), don't overstuff, and have your acid, herb, and toppings game on lock. Now that you have some tips for making a great taco this Cinco de Mayo, get yo taco game on!
Try two of my taco recipes below:
Jerk Chicken Caribbean Tacos
Margarita Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/where-did-the-taco-come-from-81228162/#SVro2XSpBWr3iOij.99
Photographer and Beat Maker, Fabian Blache a.k.a. Sohlobeats, Mastering Chill Style of Sound and Imagery
by Lazarus Lynch
A few weeks ago, the New Orleans based photographer and beat-maker, Fabian Blache (also known by his Instagram handle, @sohlobeats) took his first trip to New York City. I caught up with him venturing some of the city's culture hubs: Chinatown, Little Italy, and K-Town. Despite the fact that we had only met virtually through Instagram, it wasn't long before he pulled out his camera and started to capture every and anything he found to be interesting, including me. His curiosity and keenness to capture the interconnectedness of life around him fascinated me. I sat down with Sohlobeats to learn more about his process, this is what he told me:
LL How would you describe your artistic aesthetic?
SOHLOBEATS You know, when I first started photography, I played around with different styles. I took a photography class, and I used friends as models; I was just trying to figure out my style. But I always knew I wanted to capture the every day moments — things people don’t really notice. I like the more modern look of photography and I also like taking pictures of people, whether they realize it or don’t realize it. I like getting people in their environment. I prefer doing it [photography] in the urban environment. Growing up in kind of a city, Baton Rouge… I’ve always wanted to capture people in that.
My style is more so minimal. It has minimal characteristics of people in the urban environment.
LL On your feed you have portraits, landscape, drone photography, and now food photography. What are the stories you love to tell the most through your photography?
SOHLOBEATS The most, I would say people living their every day life. I don’t want to take pictures of famous people, or wealthy and rich people… I’m not really big on taking pictures of fancy cars [they’re nice], but my essential is catching a person [persons] experiencing something. I like catching day-to-day normal moments.
Recently, I put up a picture of a spot in Chinatown. It’s a window shot and I’m standing outside and you can see me snapping the picture in the shot, which I do like. You could see these ladies behind the window working. One of them looks tired [the younger girl]. and the older lady looks more energetic and happy. It’s kinda funny because here you have this younger person in a traditional environment, but she doesn’t look excited whereas the older lady does. I love showing things of that nature. If I can snap a shot and it shows some kind of social challenge, then that’s what I really want to show. I’m not trying to throw it in your face, but if you look hard enough, you’ll be like, “Wait a minute. Look at this.”
I’m more so concerned with: did you see it and really think about it, or did you just double-tap and scroll past?
LL I’m just curious, how important is it to you to have people leave comments or like your work on social media?
SOHLOBEATS I never expected the amount of feedback and connections that I do get, currently. I would like to get more, yes, but I’m still on the journey getting there, it’s growing every month so that’s good. I really do appreciate comments, but I’m not really searching for comments. I’m more so concerned with: did you see it and really think about it, or did you just double-tap and scroll past? Are you really seeing what I’m showing you here? I’m really about the mood. I want you to feel it and pick up on the mood of my pictures and tones on the page, rather than saying, “Oh this is great.” There are times when people have said, “Your work is amazing,” or “I love your tonal player.” That stuff stands out to me so much because it’s like wow, you got it. You saw what I’m doing here and it resonated with you. I really appreciate that.
But at least I’ve found my style of sound and imagery. The ultimate goal is for them to come together, for them to compliment each other.
LL Who inspires you?
SOHLOBEATS I definitely would say my biggest influencer on my photography is a guy that goes by TAKU, who also does photography and beat-making. I like how he takes these simple moments, whether it be people in transit, taxi drivers, people walking the streets. He’s the ultimate street photographer and just shows you the world with a unique tone set, and minimal way.
LL As an artist, what do you hope to do through your work?
SOHLOBEATS The ultimate goal, I do go by the name Sohlobeats… I’ve been working more and more on mastering my chill style. I have found my style, now it’s just about enhancing it and getting it better and better. It’s still like that with pictures; there’s always room to improve. But at least I’ve found my style of sound and imagery. The ultimate goal is for them to come together, for them to compliment each other. I want you to not only hear my sounds and chill beats, but I want you to see and feel that mood. It’s all about creating that chill mood, and even though it’s chill, it’s still showing you the world through people… I’m just taking my time and trying to master the craft.
LL Favorite fried chicken spot in NOLA?
SOHLOBEATS We Dat Chicken & Shrimp!!
You can follow Sohlobeats on Instagram.