Thumbs up indeed: This taco truck, parked each night after 5 pm with several others outside a farmacia near Basilio Badillo, Puerto Vallarta’s main drag, had an impressive selection of salsa and gave us our first taste of the “volcano” taco. Here that was an al pastor (roast pork, sliced by hand from a spit) taco with a mound of melty cheese and pico de gallo. Which doesn’t really look like a volcano–which still dot Mexico–but no matter, it was crazy delicious.
Puerto Vallarta enchiladas with griddled fresh flour tortillas, pollo, pink beans, pico and pickled red onions. Along with bowls of salsa and a chopped slaw made of cabbage or lettuce, Puerta Vallarta taco trucks and taquerias often set out bowls of pickled red onions spiked with tiny orange habaneros.
This truck had the largest varieties of fillings (including tongue, tripe and potato) and the largest selection of salsas, from thick habanero to pico to salsa verde and salsa rojo. The customer hides a massive molcajete filled with pickled jalapenos, carrots and onions. They also brought their own seating.
Another view of the same truck. Note the styrofoam tray. Taco trucks in Mexico often use multicolored plastic plates or foam trays but cover them with a small plastic, bag. You eat, remove the bag, then give them bag the plate or tray to reuse.
This truck had the longest line despite offering the fewest salsas. The reason? Their meats: The best carne asada and al pastor on the block.
Most of the time in Puerto Vallarta, we opted to cook, buying produce, meats, cheeses and freshly pressed tortillas from stalls around the main marqueta downtown. Salsa verde was an obsession, along with mangos so ripe you could slip off the skins and pink grapefruit that have ruined me for life. Did we mention it was strawberry season?
Homemade chilaquiles with tomatillo salsa and more of those pink beans, which even tiny bodegas sell in homey tubs precooked (along with rice, salsa, cabbage salad and guacamole.) Note the Valentina hot sauce, made just up the road in Guadalajara. Like the rest of the hot sauces from the region, it’s thick and brick red and made with dried red chiles.
Another Puerto Vallarta meal: This one fresh fennel and grapefruit salad topped with toasted pistachios and cumin seed; poblanos stuffed with shrimp and potato and smothered in spicy red sauce; and enchiladas suizas made with chicken and with mushrooms, chiles and peppers. Not pictured: Four kinds of tequila.
For a week I had the pleasure of staying with my younger sister in Puerto Vallarta, where she’d rented an apartment on a steep hill straight up from Mexico’s rugged western coastline for four, 80-degree weather winter months. (Yes, I was just a few kilometers from where those 22 Carnival Cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in the jungle.)
Puerto Vallarta is a tourist town, and for good reason: It’s insanely beautiful. The Banderas Bay Beaches, palm-dotted mountains, sunsets that put ours to shame, even with that view of Manhattan in the background. Heck, Liz Taylor and Robert Burton shacked up here for a reason back in the 60s. (Kind of–they had two haciendas across the street from each other, connected by a footbridge, worth a peek should you visit.)
But instead of photos of cobblestoned streets and blooming bougainvillea in many colors and blue blue skies and many many margaritas–they’re about buck, at many of those beachside resorts along the boardwalk where tables and chairs sit directly in the sand–I have only photos of food to show you.
Above are some beauty shots of my favorites: Meals made at home and the best of the taco trucks–where everything comes with pink Peruvian beans and often chopped slaw or pickled red onions, a major difference from the toppings you’ll find here, as most of Brooklyn’s Mexicans immigrated in from central regions, not the western coast. They also serve the “volcano” taco, made with meat and an explosion of salsa and cheese, though sadly those were eaten far too quickly for any photo shoot.