Prickly Pared Down: El Centro’s Lackluster Cactus Taco
Remember Kang and Kodos, the evil space aliens from The Simpsons, with their undulating green tentacles? I was recently reminded of those slimy-looking limbs when sampling the nopal tacos at the new El Centro D.F.
That's cactus, to those of you unfamiliar with Mexican plant terminology.
The muted Army green-colored slices of prickly pear taste much like you might expect: very similar to bland green beans with a slightly waxy chew. The cactus is even cut into a similar shape.
I really, really wanted to like this interesting vegetarian alternative to El Centro's beef tongue or pork shoulder tacos. But no such luck. Though steamed and grilled, the nopales simply can't muster any umph.
Tossed with the slender green strands is corn, tomatoes and chayote, a rather dull Aztec fruit. Even the guajillo chile sauce fails to liven up the party between the house-made tortilla, so it may be necessary to slather the taco with the accompanying refried beans.
The total package fails to impress with its dull presentation and even duller taste. I've never worked with cactus before, but there must be a way to create a more edible dish. Maybe deep-fry the little guys? Char with grill marks? Roast until sweeter? Or maybe just douse in a killer sauce.
How to cleanse my palate of this limp pencil of a vegetable? A slightly hot, slightly sweet Mexican mojito (pictured below), which, thankfully, El Centro provides in copious quantities.
Photos by Stefanie Gans