The taco guerrillas

It is not yet noon, but a queue has already formed in front of one of the Parisian counters of O’Tacos, the French sandwich giant with more than 300 establishments. Among the customers, clusters of very young teenagers, but also a few somewhat lost forties. And there is something. Here, the tortilla can be folded into just about any ingredient: cordon-bleu, merguez sausage and even raclette cheese. These culinary collisions cause great damage to the palate, even if the taste of the taco is invariably drowned in a mysterious “cheese sauce”, integrating a good dose of cheddar. O’Tacos, which does not do gourmet lace, even offers a “gigataco”, the size of an infant, integrating more than 2.5 kg of meat.

Recognized cooks, self-taught cooks for love of Mexico, owners of microscopic eateries: all are fighting for a return to the roots of the taco

This caloric bomb corresponds to the image that we have, in France, of the taco: a pancake of wheat flour, thick as a mattress, to compose oneself and which outrages the purists. “I could never eat this stuff! », protests Enrique Casarrubias. The chef has joined the guerrillas who are striving to restore the nobility to the emblematic dish of Mexican street food. Because, for several years, the resistance has been organized. Recognized cooks, self-taught cooks who went into the kitchen for love of Mexico, owners of microscopic eateries: all are fighting, with means that are often derisory compared to those of the chains, for a return to the roots of the taco. And concoct tasty nuggets sold 3 or 4 euros each.

At the El Cartel del taco restaurant, where they serve, among other things, suadero tacos (left) with beef chuck, onion, coriander and lime, in Paris, on October 29.

The course of Enrique Casarrubias is particular. Born in southern Mexico, he refined his cooking techniques in France with Jean-François Piège and Akrame Benallal, before taking charge of a restaurant in Paris, near the Champs-Elysées, where rare decorative elements (cactus, terracotta furniture) evoke its origins. Mexico is also discreet on the menu of this starred restaurant: beef tataki, gnocchi, black pudding… Only the virtuoso use of peppers recalls its roots.

But this stocky and good-natured cook has not forgotten the time when he went, as a kid, to the markets to sell tacos. “My mom was a widow, and to help my family, I got up at 5 a.m. to prepare them. » As he recalls, “French tacos” are very distant (and somewhat degenerate) cousins ​​to the Mexican originals: “It’s a bit like a ham and butter in which we would put 3 kg of ham, fresh cream and fries”, he squeals. The original taco, which he started to prepare again for curious gourmands during confinement, is very different.

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