>> Tacos Al Vapor La Morena | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday, 18 October 2021

Tacos Al Vapor La Morena

MÉXICO 🇲🇽
(COLIMA)
The truck parked in front of AutoZone, as seen from across Central Avenue

COVID-19 UPDATE: Ordering and pickup take place at a window by masked employees. There is a table at the truck for eating and a self-service salsa bar.

The tiny state of Colima, halfway down the Pacific coast of México and basically a notch cut from the much more familiar (for Los Angeles, at least) Jalisco, has a small representation in southern California that is mostly focused on ceviches and cocteles. These quick window walk-up mariscos joints in South Central and Boyle Heights serve concoctions slightly different from their neighboring states, and always make sure to include "Colima" in their names.

Even though this last fact is not quite true here, a large "Estilo Tecomán Colima" is emblazoned on the truck's road-facing side just to let everyone know. Permanently stationed in front of an AutoZone on Central Avenue, they also focus on land-based meats and a style of cooking them with steam. Typically, the different meats found above the neck of a cow are popular ingredients for tacos al vapor, all long-steamed overnight in villages and enjoyed early in the morning by vendors with still-steaming metal pots.

Customers sitting to enjoy their meals at the truck

Here in the northwest corner of Florence-Firestone, Tacos La Morena arrives at its location early in the morning with cuts of cabeza, lavio, and cachete. While often "cabeza" refers to cheeks at taqueros around town, the word means head and technically can be one of many parts or a mixture. Lavio is an alternate spelling of labio, meaning lips, and cachete is the actual cheek itself.

Come in the first few hours of opening and you may run into people from Tecomán or surrounding towns in Colima, filling up on tacos al vapor before a day of work. "Me hicieron recordad a mi rancho Tecomán Colima" one happy customer exclaims in his review, the flavors reminding him of his city.

Three tacos de cabeza al vapor

No matter what meat you choose, tacos al vapor ($2 each, above and below) are the type that should not be expected super quickly, after ordering all the tortillas are pressed from masa and grilled fresh. This of course always makes such a difference, especially when the fillings are of such quality. The slow cooked meats like cabeza (above) are added to each tortilla and handed to a customer without any garnishment.

The rest you do yourself at a salsa bar of sorts, onions and cilantro, radishes and limes, and a selection of salsas are all ready to go in a cooler. They do a great job loading up each tortilla and for two bucks it is really a steal. The mixed meat cabeza is largely maciza but still quite fatty from all the good bits. Load these with some of their excellent green, red, or habanero salsas, or a combination. The proprietor may warn you about the heat in the latter if you do not appear to be Straight Outta Colima, but it is not all that bad.

Two tacos de birria and one carne asada

A few hints on both sides of the truck might also lead to orders of tacos de birria de res ($2 each, above), which unlocks a small and completely free cup of consomé (below). Both the tacos and consomé are top notch, even if birria de res is probably not really a thing in Tecomán, the third largest city in Colima.

The bright red broth is full of meatiness if not actual meat, and its oily stains cover everything it comes into contact with. On a cold morning it is better than coffee.

Small cups of consomé de birria

Birria en vaso

One small cup is almost not enough, so larger cups ("basos" on their menu, above) are available for the full birria soup experience, loaded with plenty of meat and tendon. The small size is 16 ounces and $8, double that goes in a large for $12.

Another visit seemed almost mandatory after seeing so many customers with plates of tacos dorados de birria ($2.50, below), which seemed to be the go-to order once morning had finished. While probably not really a thing in Colima, this most Los Angeles of tacos is extremely well done here. Beef birria and the steamed beef head meats for tacos al vapor seem made for each other upon reflection.

Tacos dorados de birria de res

Fresh tortillas are still made for these hard tacos, which definitely comes through in each crunchy bite. They are perfectly crispy on their exteriors, wrapping the juicy birria and a good helping of cheese. This comes oozing out the ends when served and the whole creation tastes even better than it looks.

Throw in their earthy red and green salsas for these tacos if you want, and a healthy squeeze of lime to cut through the richness. When each customer has their own plate of these, a row of bobbing heads makes it look like there is some good live music. But it is the tacos that create the melody here on Central Avenue.

📍 5858 S. Central Avenue, Florence-Firestone, South Los Angeles

🇲🇽🇲🇽🇲🇽

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