A type of taco existed thousands of years ago in the form of corn masa wrapped around small fish in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico, where various pre-Columbian civilizations existed.
The term “taco” dates to the 18th century, used by miners. In mines, a taco refers to a lit plug of gunpowder wrapped in paper inserted in holes of the rock face to extract ore. They also folded tortillas around meat with hot sauce.
At Viva Mexico in Miami, tacos are made to order using corn tortillas heated on a small griddle-grill.
The no-frills place is owned by Andres Tovar, who was born in Cuernavaca to parents from the state of Michoacán in western Mexico. The tacos here are in that style, using parts of the pig — ears, stomach, tongue, skin and leg meat — boiled together in a huge pot so that everything tastes porky but has a different texture, soft but with varying degrees of slipperiness, chewiness and gelatinous skin.
There’s also Michoacán carnitas with all the pig parts cooked in lard. Tacos come with tomatillo-based salsa verde, mild or blended with green chiles, and spicy salsa rojo made with potent red chile de arbol, mild dried guajillo chiles and tomato.
Or get fried beef tripe, shredded chicken breast or steak for fillings. Guacamole comes with crispy chicharrones. On Fridays and Saturdays the chicharrones are soft, cooked in salsa verde.
After several tacos washed down with rice horchata, walk across the street and indulge in sweet Nicaraguan-style baked goods, including cake by the slice.
Telva Sweet Bakery, open just a few months, is run by Telva Vindell from Managua and her daughter Joceline, who was born in Miami.
The specialties are picos (pastry triangles) stuffed with salty cheese and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar; a cantaloupe and condensed milk gelatin ring; sweet bread resembling a lattice pie filled with pineapple jam; and moist vanilla cake iced in merengue with various fillings such as coconut, dulce de leche, chocolate and pineapple.
There’s also vanilla cake with strawberry filling and buttercream frosting, caramel tres leches cake, guava cheesecake, banana bread and sponge cake rolled up with dulce de leche and almonds soaked in sweet syrup and frosted called brazo gitano (Gypsy’s arm) that is as sweet as the owners.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.