Taco Truck Secrets

By Cyrus Farivar, "The Ultimate Taco," May/June 2010

Discover the secret to making the best tacos in town. Plus: Bruce Aidells shares his recipes.

"These are excellent recipes and real crowd pleasers. I've had nothing but rave reviews every time I've made them. Go to a hispanic grocery to find nearly everything you'll need to make these yummy recipes! "

I’ve been visiting Salvador Anaya at El Ojo de Agua since I was a college student at Berkeley, seven years ago, often bringing along friends to try his tacos. And Anaya tells me that since he bought his first truck eight years ago, his business has come a long way. He now owns three trucks and employs a dozen of his family members.

What’s the secret to his success? The biggest secret to great cooking in a taco truck, Anaya explains, is just like cooking anywhere else: fresh ingredients. “I buy everything from the market,” he says with a smile, referring to the daily wholesale produce market near the Port of Oakland.

Anaya learned to cook from his mother in his home state of Michoacán, which is on Mexico’s southwestern Pacific coast. As a nod to his roots Anaya often serves up fish and shrimp tacos. But these are not fish tacos you’d normally find along the beaches of San Diego or Ensenada. The fish is rubbed with mellow Argentinian chiles that don’t overpower the fish’s light taste and then grilled, not fried.

The grill—it’s a griddle, actually—takes up the bulk of the very small back end of the truck, where the serving window is. Just next to that is a package of tortillas, open and ready to be tossed down on the grill. Anaya keeps all his ingredients—meat, vegetables and salsa—in containers within arm’s reach of the grill. Getting tortillas and meat from the countertop to the grill and back again happens in a fluid motion. “He has everything very well organized, so putting it together is very quick,” Aidells said.

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