Mex masters spice it up
THERE was a time in Australia when the pie man was an institution and inner- city streets resounded to the cries of muffi n men, vendors with coffee urns kept hot over charcoal and others hawking such delicacies as pig’s trotters, saveloys, dim sims, fresh prawns and oysters in bottles.
Of course, those days have long gone and, unlike our Asian neighbours and many other parts of the world, except for our charity sausage sizzles, Australia has in recent decades not been big on street food.
But times are a- changing. Rapidly, it seems, all driven by today’s ubiquitous social media.
There’s now even a website, www. wherethetruck. at that shows a multitude of pop- up street kitchens and vans around the country with details of where and when they’re serving.
Combine this with the trendiest of trendy food – Mexican – and you have Hobart’s Taco Taco, Chris Quinn and Matt Hidding’s colourful kitchen van which, depending on the night, you’ll fi nd on the parking aprons of Freedom Furniture ( from about 6pm) or Bob and Tom’s Garage ( from about 7.30pm) on the corner of Hampden and Sandy Bay roads, in Battery Point.
In addition to cushions for the upturned milk crate seating, real Cholula, jalapeno and habanera chilli sauces and Mexican soft drinks, what they provide are cheap, fresh, quick and delicious soft- shell tacos fi lled with pulled pork, chicken marinated in achiote/ annatto paste and black beans, all with a variety of accompanying fi llings and dressings.
Since neither has been to Mexico, they resist using the word “authentic”, preferring instead to describe their food as “light, simple and tasty”.
But their tacos, especially the one with black beans, are as good, if not quite as spicy hot, as any I enjoyed earlier this year on the streets of Mexico City.
Best of all, you can taste real corn in every bite, from the imported Mexican corn masa they use to hand- make their shells.
Forget corn chips and supermarket tortillas, these are the real thing and at just $ 5 each they are also fantastic value.
Most importantly, as the ultimate conclusion to the decades- long trend towards the cheaper, more relaxed democratisation of Australian dining, eating at Taco Taco is fun.
As it is too at such other local taco vans/ stands as Cocina de Mama, which has done a few irregular pop- up gigs around town, Lucky Loco’s, which debuted at this year’s Taste Festival and appears regularly around the events/ festival circuit, and Olli- Bella which will next be presenting its excellent Cal/ Mex tacos at Dark MoFo.
And, while enforcing strict commercial food preparation and kitchen requirements, the Hobart City Council is to be congratulated for sensibly taking a more enlightened approach to where and how in public our food is served.
Look around the city and there is any number of suitable public spaces that could be enlivened by a food, fruit and vegie, coffee, roasted chestnuts or fl ower van.
With a bit of luck, Taco Taco and the others might just be the fi rst.