Essential T: Taco de la Abuela at Expresión Oaxaqueña

Tacos finally get their due in traditional Oaxacan cuisine

Although some traditional Oaxacan restaurants in Los Angeles turn their noses up at tacos and those misunderstood burritos, all one needs to do is pass a little time in Oaxaca to find several delicious taco traditions in Mexico’s most indigenous state. In the city of Oaxaca, you’ll see tacos de cazuela (casserole tacos), Oaxaca’s regional name for the morning-to-afternoon tacos de guisado, which blend delicious stews with salsa, guacamole, and black beans in a large corn tortilla and resemble an open-ended burrito. Then there are taquerias serving al pastor and a ton of creative alambres (hashes), beef-head tacos, tacos placeros (hot and cold guisados), and many more delights from the taco kingdom.

I’ve known that tacos weren’t as important to Oaxacan cuisine as their more celebrated foods, but Oaxaca is in Mexico–there had to be some tacos. Back in L.A., I had ordered the taco de la abuela at restaurateur Zeferino Garcia’s Expresión Oaxaca more than a year ago, and saw this preparation around some other Oaxacan restaurants as well. But it wasn’t until a pair of trips to Oaxaca last year that I realized that Expresión Oaxaca’s creation is not an Americanized taco. It’s part of Oaxaca’s small but proud taco lexicon, and quite welcome in the taco capital of the U.S: Los Angeles.

Not to mention, it’s a taco “from the grandmother” rolled up in a big, delicious corn tortilla full of beans, guacamole, salsa, onions and cilantro, cabbage, and a selection from Oaxaca’s trinity of meats: tasajo (beef jerky), cecina (pork in adobo), or chorizo.

You might not see tacos in any of Oaxaca’s popular cuisine lists, and there might be a few Oaxacans here and there who’ll quickly distance themselves from such a notion, but on the streets of Oaxaca and here in Oaxacalifornia, the taco is Oaxacan cuisine.

redarrow Expresión Oaxaca, 3301 W. Pico Blvd, Arlington Heights, 323-766-0575