I’ve been meaning to do a taco post for ages. It’s one of our dinner staples here these days. I’ve made beef tacos that were browned in the wok, then marinated in the jus from the de-glazing, sliced thinly and sauteed in garlic, onion and chilies. I’ve also done pulled pork ones and ground beef ones. All have been awesome and utterly Sino-friendly.
About 3 years ago, we spent some time in Mexico before moving to Shanghai. It was there that I discovered the glories of piping hot soft tacos with spicy shredded beef and fresh salsa. These were tiny little flour tortillas the size of your palm, not the hard shells and certainly not those gargantuan wraps that you find in the supermarkets. They weren’t drowned in sour cream or fake cheddar. They were very simple and very good.
Each little tortilla we found at street stalls had a dollop of something meaty (or beany) on it- maybe sauteed chorizo or shredded chicken or grilled beef or pork or some crispy body part hacked up into bite sized pieces- and was served with a few fresh salsas (verde, roja, fresca), cilantro, lime, maybe some onion. I was partial to the salsa verde but you can’t get fresh tomatillos here. They were magnificent.
What we do here is very similar, or at least as similar as you can get when living in China.
For the tortilla, I tend to use my Xinjiang noodle dough (3 cups flour, 1 cup water, 2 teaspoons salt, mix, knead, rest, roll-out) and roll it out very, very thinly. You could also try this one or this one. The thinness lets it puff up like a chapati in the wok and gives it a soft airiness that is delicious and chewy.
I make my own salsa fresca with cherry tomatoes, cilantro, onion and chilies, marinated a few hours with lime juice (when limes are available) and a bit of crunchy kosher salt. If you can’t get fresh limes, then lemons will do, as will Chinese rice wine vinegar.
Those are the basics.
Their original recipe called for a ton of beef (which was way too much for us to eat as we’re minimal meat eaters) so I adjusted the proportions on the site using their portion converter. I think this ended up being for 2 servings but it’s a lot of food- we each had 2 very filling tacos for dinner and there’s still enough left for the same tomorrow.
Also, I didn’t have most of the spices so, well, I changed pretty much everything.
Adjustments: I used about 4 cloves of garlic (sliced and inserted into the meat for marinating). For spices, I only used a teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground chilies and cinnamon. I also threw in about a teaspoon of salt and a few grindings of black pepper. I marinated it in the dry spice rub overnight in the fridge. I liberally drizzled Worcestershire sauce into the crock pot (maybe a tablespoon or two) and used a few capfuls of red wine vinegar instead of beer. I had no liquid smoke, no hot pepper sauce, no bell peppers, no dried parsley. I threw in 1/3 of an onion and a few hot red chilies, roughly chopped.
Here is the real recipe if you actually want to follow instructions.
- 1-1/4 pounds chuck roast
- 3/4 clove garlic, crushed
- 3/4 teaspoon paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon celery salt
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/8 teaspoon dried tarragon
- 2 tablespoons beer
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
- 1/4 large onion, chopped
- 1/4 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 jalapeno chile peppers, chopped
And here are the real instructions, if you are any good at following them (I’m not)
- Using a sharp knife, poke several 1 inch deep holes in the roast. Insert the garlic slivers into the holes.
- In a small bowl, combine the paprika, celery salt, garlic powder, parsley, ground black pepper, chili powder, cayenne pepper and seasoned salt. Mix together well and rub over the meat.
- In a separate small bowl, combine the beer OR cola, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce and liquid smoke and mix well. Place the roast in a slow cooker and pour this mixture over the meat.
- Add the onion, green bell pepper and jalapeno chile peppers to the slow cooker.
- Cook on low setting for 10 hours, or more, if desired.
I’ll show you what I did.
Let me show you the dough now.
I recommend making it at least a few hours before (if not a day or two before, stored in the fridge, wrapped in a lightly moistened tea towel in a plastic baggie) as it gets the glutens going, making for a chewier, lovelier texture. You can also keep adding to an existing ball of dough by incorporating it into a new batch after it’s been kneaded and rested for a while. Knead the two doughs together and let them rest in the fridge for an hour or so before using.
I’ve been using black wheat, which I recently discovered was in fact triticale, a wheat-rye hybrid. I highly recommend seeking it out if possible. Apparently it has a lovely high protein count too, compared with regular wheat flour. Makes you strong! Roar!
Sometimes, in the import grocery stores, you can get salsa. Often it’s that Old El Paso crap, over-priced with an embarrassing ingredient list. If you’re lucky, La Costena has a decent salsa verde and salsa roja but they’re rare and fleeting.
I’ve taken to making my own these days anyway and don’t miss the bottled stuff at all.
There’s no recipe- just diced onion, tomato (I prefer the baby ones), chillies, cilantro (if you like it), fresh lime juice. If no lime, lemon. If no lemon, hell, try a pomelo. Or rice wine vinegar. You just need a citrusy acidic thing going on for flavour. Chop chop chop and then let them meld together for a while before serving. Pinch of salt, grind of pepper. Easy peasy.