If there's a Mexican food more soul-satisfying than milanesa, I want it shot, drawn and delivered to me. I mean, how can you not love it? It's beef that's been dipped in egg and breaded, then deep-fried. It's the Mexican equivalent of chicken-fried steak, but with enough garlic to repel vampires in the next colonia.
Gustavo and Edwin have both partaken of the taco acorazado (acorazado as a noun means “battleship” and as an adjective means “iron-clad”) from Alebrije's food truck in Santa Ana, but I hadn't had the chance, until tonight.
The iron-clad taco features an absolutely enormous tortilla that's
fully four times the thickness of a normal commercial tortilla, with
fluffy, tomato-scented rice, a heaping helping of milanesa, grilled
nopales (Opuntia cactus paddles), griddled onions, sliced tomatoes,
half an avocado, tiny flecks of chile and cotija cheese. It is a
mountain of food, served with a large stack of napkins and a fork.
“¿Qué tipo de jalapeño quiere? ¿A la plancha o en escabeche?” asked the
lady. While I normally love pickled chiles, I went for the grilled
chile and was happier for it: a half-red, half-green chile pressed on
the hot grill until the flesh sweetened and the skin wrinkled with heat.
I asked what salsa would go best on it. “La roja,” she replied, but
then popped open the door to explain the salsas: a tomatillo salsa with
nearly no heat, a red salsa with medium heat (by Mexican standards) and
a green salsa with avocadoes and lots of chiles. “La verde pica mucho,”
she warned–the green one is spicy. Naturally, I took some: a line of
red and a line of green facing each other on the Spanish(-speaking)
The taste? Unbelievable. Rich and meaty from the milanesa, a punch of
nearly green bean-like vegetable from the nopales, sweetness from the
griddled onions, sour from the lime juice I squeezed on it, salty from
the cheese, spicy from the chile and the salsa, umami from the rice.
Once you eat some of the contents, you can try picking up the tortilla
to finish it. I suggest just eating the filling and then eating the
tortilla by itself, because I've never in my entire life had a tortilla
that tasted so perfectly of corn. Not nixtamalized field corn, but
fresh corn. All the grease and juice and sauce drips down onto it and
the tortilla is amazing on its own.
Incidentally, while she recommended the red salsa, I'm going to demur
and say go for the hot green salsa. There are so many huge flavors
going on in that taco that the green really is perfect.
Gustavo says the taco acorazado is a specialty of Cuernavaca.
I frankly wouldn't know Cuernavacan food if I tripped over it, since
I've never been to Cuernavaca, and I'm not sure its authenticity
matters. What matters is that this insane combination of amazing tastes
is available in Santa Ana. The taco acorazado is $4; you could split it
with someone and still call it a light lunch.
Alebrije's parks outside the Northgate Market, on Cubbon St., half a
block west of Main St. in Santa Ana. You can't miss it, the truck is