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“Tacos can reach greatness”

Tacos in and of themselves can be magnificently complete. I experienced it during my stay in Mexico.

Like naengmyeon (Korean cold noodles) with its subtle broth, sushi with its perfect simplicity and balance, and a meaty cut of steak with its crispy crust and juicy core, a well-made taco can also overwhelm you with its perfection.

This is why I was disappointed to see that tacos in Seoul were only considered something “interesting” or some “novelty” item. It made me want to start Taquería Villa Guerrero so that I could prove that tacos too can be a complete and potent dish. Serving authentic, high-quality tacos to our customers thus became our mission even before the formal establishment of Taquería Villa Guerrero.

Also, we had always had great respect and admiration for the pride with which local Mexican taquerías (taco restaurants) and their taqueros (taco chefs) sold their products every day, which were very well-recognized for their incredibly high-quality preparation despite the limited range of their offerings.

프리투라스 로이

<Taqueria I used to work for in Mexico City. The place only open for only about 4 hours, sells 400-ish Tacos, Carnitas Tacos only>

 

Just like the best local Mexican taquerías, at Villa Guerrero, our objective is to serve limited kinds of tacos at their absolute finest, instead of serving many different kinds of decent tacos, so that even Mexicans in Mexico would consider our tacos magnificent.

**This is NOT to say that we’ve already reached that level of mastery. The important point is that we always strive to make GREAT tacos, even though we’ve only just begun to take baby steps.

What is a taco?
What is a taco? Actually, it is whatever you choose to eat so long as you wrap it in a tortilla. However, to discuss in more basic terms, let’s say that it is a dish comprising a tortilla + fillings + salsa.

So,
‪#‎taco‬ = tortilla + contenido (fillings) + salsa & verduras (veggies)
The above equation should roughly describe what a taco is.

‪#‎Tortillas‬
Tortilla is the foundation of a taco. With regard to tortillas, we at Villa Guerrero actually don’t have much to say, because we unfortunately use flour tortillas that we are not entirely satisfied with. For us, the ideal tortillas would be fresh, fluffy corn tortillas made daily at a local tortillería. In Mexico, there are such tortillerías everywhere so this would never be an issue, but in Korea the situation is obviously very different.
So with a bit of shame and apologies to our customers, we use flour tortillas for our tacos, even though we are not 100% happy with them. We have a lot of respect and envy for other restaurants that make great corn tortillas in house.

‪#‎Fillings‬
If the tortillas are the foundation, the filings are the bride, prima donna, main event, and lead protagonist. This is also the part that we at Villa Guerrero currently are most focused on. The fillings are so important that the names of taco dishes are often determined by the types of fillings they have inside. The cooking method and the type of meat used together give rise to names such as carnita tacos, chorizo tacos, al pastor tacos, etc… The possibilities are endless.

At the same time, in Korea, the fillings are most often neglected. In fact, in Mexico, you would almost never find tacos that are just called “chicken tacos” or “pork tacos.” The fillings are that important!

In Mexico, the standard used to separate great taquerías from the rest is the way they prepare their fillings (as discussed, the tortillas in Mexico are awesome wherever you choose to go, because everyone uses fresh, tasty corn tortillas supplied daily from local tortillerías—in Mexico, there is just no need to worry about tortillas (jealous…)).

Thus, when you say in Mexico that a place is well-known for their carnita tacos, you are effectively saying that it is a place that makes their carnita fillings very well. We at Villa Guerrero primarily use carnita and chorizo fillings.

‪#‎Salsa‬ & verduras
The salsa and verduras (which means “veggies”, and in tacos, they are mostly diced onions and cilantros). This is clearly an important element. However, because the lead protagonist for any taco is its filling, the salsa and verduras are really there to complement. If the fillings are obviously great, the salsa and the verduras are meant to provide support. To come up with a hasty analogy, it is like steak sauce for a solid cut of steak, soy sauce for sushi, and a little bit of vinegar and mustard for naengmyeon.

That’s why typical Mexican style tacos almost never come with (and sometimes even drenched in…) ingredients like cheese sauce or sour cream, which can totally alter the nature of the dish. You wouldn’t want to put ketchup on a fine piece of steak, teriyaki sauce on fresh, savory sushi, or instant ramen seasoning in naengmyeon.

Importantly, we are NOT here to diss those kinds of tacos. We at Villa Guerrero also like and respect such tacos. Seriously…we too eat them often…

…but they are just different! Anyway, tacos that properly reflect what we wrote above (at excessive length) CAN be great! We will continue to strive and brainstorm for new ways to serve great tacos to our customers…and with that, we will conclude this post in a hurry (a customer came in!).

Lee Jung-su, Taquero, Villa Guerrero