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a woman sitting at a table eating food

We asked Milton, our local guide in Mexico City, how to correctly order a taco from one of the city’s classic street stalls.

This is a great question and actually complex to explain, but I’ll try my best! In Mexico, there are almost 70 different types of corn — which means there’s tons of variety in the products and meals we can make with corn. Mexico’s geographical position makes it difficult to grow corn in certain areas of the country, but tortillas can be found in every single house — if corn can’t be produced there, then we’ll use other products like wheat.

Because Mexico City is in the centre, we have products from all the different regions, making the city a taco paradise with a taqueria on almost every corner! Each taqueria owner tries to do something different to make their tacos stand out above their competitors, making the variety of styles infinite. Some taquerias specialise in a certain part of the cow, or only use pork or lamb; some use different sizes and shapes of tortillas; some use yellow or white tortillas, depending on whether they’re corn or wheat.

But no matter what stand you go to, these are the most important rules:

1. When you’re picking a taco stand, make sure you choose a place that already has customers, so you can be certain the food is fresh and prepared in the moment. You also want to ensure there’s a spot to wash your hands, since your hands will be your “cutlery” — if you ask for a knife and fork, locals will know immediately that you’re a visitor!

2. Once you order, the taqueros (the vendor serving the tacos) will ask you, “¿Con verdura?” (With vegetables?). If you say yes, this means they’ll put onion and coriander on your taco. As well, some vendors will give you the tortilla with a single dish on it, and they’ll have an area where you can add whatever is available (different type of sauces, nopales (cactus), potatoes, beans, lime, sausage, crema fresca, and more).

3. Always ask for “sin salsa” — some street taco vendors assume that every single person on Earth was born to eat Mexican-level spicy cuisine. And if you have a wheat allergy or intolerance, ask for a corn tortilla — most of the time, corn is what you’ll find, but just in case.

4. Once you decide to get into the salsas (sauces), go easy! Put a drop of salsa on your plate first (not on your taco), and never use as a reference point the amount of salsa that the person next to you is using, or you might get in trouble! Also, there’s no rule for red, yellow, or green sauce being spicier than the others — each business has its own standards. If you do get in trouble with too much salsa in your taco, and water isn’t helping, put a bit of salt all over your tongue — some locals say that helps more than anything else.

Whether you’re in the market for a magic love potion, voodoo dolls, hot tamales, pretty piñatas, or exotic flowers, these markets have all bases covered.