Went to the county fair yesterday. Took 200 photographs, which I am still sorting through, and ate some fair food. Instead of following my usual fair eating pattern, which is to sample a variety of dishes in all of the major fair food groups (fried salty things, fried sweet things, sweet things that are not fried, and non-nutritive beverages), I decided to narrow things down and pursue a deeper understanding of my single favorite fair food, washing it down with my favorite fair drink. I would eat walking tacos and drink root beer.
A walking taco is a delectable dish that combines tasty flavors with innovative packaging. To make a basic walking taco, open a food truck and make a big tub of taco meat. Then take a snack size bag of Fritos and slice it open. Add a scoop of taco meat, shredded cheese, lettuce and tomato, and top with a glob of sour cream. Hand it to the person who ordered it, along with with a plastic fork and a paper napkin. To eat the walking taco, mix it up very carefully with the fork, lifting the corn chips up from the bottom of the bag and folding them over the rest of the ingredients. The object is to get the chips wet so everything sticks together and you get a little bit of everything in each bite. How much you mix depends on personal taste. Once it is mixed sufficiently, eat it. It is called a walking taco for obvious reasons, although if you want to enjoy a root beer at the same time, sitting down on a bench or at a picnic table is recommended since a walking taco requires two free hands.
Yesterday I confirmed my long-held opinion that there are two basic kinds of walking tacos: the classic American walking taco and Mexican-food-in-a-bag-of-chips. The classic American walking taco is made with ordinary taco meat– browned ground beef simmered in the kind of taco seasoning you buy in the little pouch–and shredded cheddar cheese, and it is often found at food trucks selling other classic American dishes. The Mexican food-in-a-bag-of-chips version is usually sold by vendors specializing in Mexican food, and is made with a wider selection of ingredients. Look for Mexican cheese, choices in meats (I had a superb Mexican walking taco yesterday made with delicious braised pork) and sometimes beans, grilled corn or various salsas among the offered toppings. Delicious, certainly, but purists sometimes prefer the classic version.
- Do not pay too much for a walking taco. The going price for the last few years seems to be $3 for the small size made with a lunchbox size bag of Fritos and $5 for a large made with the larger adult snack size bag.
- Some people squeeze the bag of chips a couple of times before they cut it open. This breaks the chips into smaller pieces and makes the taco easier to mix. I say that mixing a walking taco is an art form and the bigger Fritos hold their flavor better. If you do squeeze, use a light touch. No one wants to eat crumbs. (Squeezing after the taco is assembled is extremely dangerous.)
- There are many variations on the walking taco. Chili can be substituted for the taco meat, creating the walking chili frito or chili pie. Doritos, usually nacho cheese or cool ranch flavored, instead of Fritos make walking nachos. I’ve even seen a walking cheeseburger made with potato chips and ground beef with ketchup as the sauce, but that is going too far. How about BBQ pulled pork with either slaw or ranch dressing and chopped onion on those thick potato chips? Note that Doritos and thick potato chips will have to be squeezed (see above) since they are so much larger than Fritos.
- If you make walking tacos at home, be sure to make your taco meat a little wetter than usual, or offer salsa as an added ingredient. You could even have a make your own walking taco bar at a party. But tasty as all these variations may be, the result will not be the same. The very best walking tacos are the ones you eat at the fair.