Tacos Lalo Los Originales Tacos al Vapor: The Legend of La Rumorosa
Tacos Lalo set up in the town of La Rumorosa in 1973 with a specially tricked out cart that held all his plastic condiment jars in place--a set up that was copied by later contenders to the title of best tacos al vapor in the north.
Tacos al vapor are not as common in Baja California as they are in other parts of Mexico, especially D.F where they rule the streets from sunrise until the mid-afternoon. In the state of Mexico, D.F., and around the capital region they are called tacos de canasta, or basket tacos. Traditionally, they are naturally steamed in a basket, and wrapped and covered with a towel. In reality the vendors in D.F. are more likely to use a box with duct tape or some other such insulating vessel. They're also known as tacos sudados, or sweaty tacos, and tacos al vapor, or steamed tacos. These are regional names.
Tacos Lalo is known for a singular steamed taco of shredded beef, beans, and potatoes cooked in a campfire-style blue pot covered with a towel until all these ingredients seep into the soul of the tortilla, and the tortilla itself becomes fused with the well-seasoned filling.
There are a few rival stands near Tacos Lalo that are usually empty, and merely gain a few customers here and there too weary to wait in the line at Lalo's. You walk over to give them a try thinking you're slick, and you can do better, but all you do is repeat acts of futility, like retirees trying to hit it big in Laughlin.
There's also a stand in Mexicali claiming to have the Tacos Lalo recipe and to be some sort of outpost, but I doubt Lalo would stand for such a farce--they are bland, and forgettable.
The dish is finished with inelegant cuts of fresh onion that add a bit of crunch, and dull iceberg lettuce that finds restitution as an essential soupy filler within the taco, and finally a medium spicy red salsa that blends all the elements inside the tortilla while melding with the oily surface of this fabled street food taco. The taste carries you away, and may trigger pleasant day dreams. If this were the only taco al vapor in Mexico, that'd be fine.
Unless you're being chased by Robert Davi, there's not a sane reason to miss the opportunity to eat at Tacos Lalo. In Baja, the first thing that comes up when you mention La Rumorosa isn't the road, nor the muttering of soft winds, but " do you know the famous tacos al vapor of La Rumorosa?" I guess some rumors are worth spreading.
Tacos Lalo is located in the town of La Rumorosa on the Tecate-Mexicali--Mexicali-Tecate Carretera Federal 2 on the south side of the highway, west of the winding pass. It's open for breakfast and lunch in to the late afternoon.
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