Country: Costa Rica, Mexico
Notes: When cooking meat, it is important to know how often the muscle was used by the animal. A good way to think about it is that the more the muscle is used, the better it will taste but the tougher it will be. If a muscle is not used very often it’s going to be very tender but doesn’t have the same taste as muscles that are used more often. The tongue has a lot of flavor because all a cow does is eat grass all day! So, very gentle and moist cooking is the way to go to make it super tender. The most popular way to cook it is to place it in seasoned liquid with aromatics and then simmer it on low until tender. In Mexico, the most popular way to eat it is to shred it up and put it in a taco.
Here in Costa Rica, another popular way to cook a classic dish is to make Lengua en salsa: tender beef tongue in a savory tomato-based sauce. For us here at Alma, we have mixed the two popular ways to serve it together, taking the Costa Rican version and making it into a taco and topping it with escabeche.
Preparation: Beef tongue is slow-cooked in broth with aromatics until tender. The tongue is then diced and cooked on the plancha until it gets a brown color for extra flavor and then it seasoned with cumin salt. Tomato sauce is spread on a fresh tortilla and the tongue is placed on top. Finally, a garnish of escabeche is put on top of each taco.
Story: The flautas, also called flautines, is a Mexican dish. They are tacos made of rolled golden corn tortilla. Its name derives from the great similarity that these have with the musical instrument (the flute) of the same name to be rigid (crisp) and thin. They can have different fillings such as shredded meat, picadillo, potatoes, beans and cheese, among others. They are served accompanied by any sauce, lemon, lettuce or cabbage, with tomato, and sometimes sour cream. We use a filling of shredded chicken cooked with achiote and tomato.
Preparations: Chicken Tinga is rolled in a golden corn tortilla and then fried. Black bean mole is put onto the plate and two crispy tacos are placed on top. Finally, it’s topped off with sour cream and cabbage salad.
Story: In contemporary Mexico, Tacos Barbacoa generally refers to meats, whole sheep or whole goats slow-cooked over an open fire, or more traditionally, in a hole dug in the ground covered with maguey leaves, although the interpretation is loose, and in the present day, they may refer to meat steamed until tender. This meat is known for its high fat content and strong flavor, often accompanied with onions and cilantro. In Northern Mexico, it is also sometimes made from beef head, but more often it is prepared from goat meat (cabrito). In Central Mexico, the meat of choice is lamb, and in the Yucatan, their traditional version, cochinita pibil (pit-style pork), is prepared with pork.
Our version here at Alma is marinated in an Adobo made from Guajio and Chipotle chiles and then slow roasted in the oven.
Preparation: Local goat is marinated in the Adobo sauce over night and then slow roasted in the oven until very tender. When this is done, some of the mixture is placed on fresh tortillas and garnished with radish, avocado puree, green onion and cilantro.
Story: Tacos de pescado (“fish tacos”) originated in Baja California in Mexico, where they consist of grilled or fried fish, lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo, and a sour cream or citrus/mayonnaise sauce, all placed on top of a corn or flour tortilla. They are often found at street vendors, and they have many regional variations. Our variation includes tempura batter to make our fried fish, shrimp or cauliflower very crispy on the outside. Tempura batter is actually a Japanese recipe that results in one of the lightest crispy batters you can use.
Preparation: Fish, shrimp or cauliflower is dipped into tempura batter and then fried until very crispy. This is placed on a flour tortilla and then topped with fresh cabbage and chipotle aioli.
Story: The “Arrachera” is the name given in Mexico to a particular cut of beef which is packed with flavor but needs to be cooked delicately to make tender. It can also be called entraña in Guatemala and Argentina, entrécula in Spain, skirt steak in the United States and onglet in France. In its raw form it is a very fibrous and innervated meat, so you must make it tender by the way you cut it after it is cooked or by using a marinate for the meat, which consists of seasoning the meat with certain spices and ingredients such as vinegar. This will make it softer while giving it a better flavor.
Encebollado in its simplest definition means a technique of cooking with onions. It can also be the name of a number of dishes. Maybe the most popular example of this would be Encebollado as the name of a fish stew in Ecuador where it is the national dish. For us here at Alma this means that our Arrachera cut of meat and onions are cooked together to order for our tacos.
Preparation: Thin slices of Arrachera and onions are cooked on the plancha until tender and then mixed with salsa verde. The mixture is then placed on a corn tortillas and topped off with queso Bagaces.