MECATO COLOMBIA 哥倫比亞小吃在台
websites: Quantum Tacos Facebook website: Mecato Colombia
Pricing: $ (NT$150/ person)
Visit reviewed: 9/10/2017
I HAVE POSSIBLY FOUND THE BEST TACOS IN TAIPEI RIGHT NOW and you'll never guess where. Forget all you thought you knew about Mexican food in Taiwan and get yourself to the outdoor food court at Maji Square.
Hidden in plain sight among the jumble of stalls of oyster vermicelli, burgers, poutine and Indian food are TWO food stalls you must try if you've been craving something better than the landscape of "It's good for Taiwan" Mexican food.
If you are on my blog today for night market finds, beef noodles soups and dumplings, then scroll through my previous posts for a moment while we talk about this.
But if you've lived in Taipei longer than a year and/or eaten your fair share of Mexican food fails, I'm talking to you right now.
I didn't even realize what the name of the shop was, my eyes just went from TACOS on the sign straight to "al pastor," "carnitas," and "chorizo." The photos of the tacos looked promising, the person manning the shop didn't look like a bored Taiwanese worker, and the price of NT$150 for 2 tacos or NT$200 for 3 tacos was reasonable.
After peppering the guy at the stand with a flurry of questions, I decided to get a plate of 3. Regrettably the carnitas wasn't ready yet, but I could get al pastor chicken and al pastor pork. He said it would take 5-10 minutes, so I would wait in anticipation by making another circle around the food court. A small price to pay for the promise of legit street tacos.
I made my way back to Mecato Colombia which had drawn my attention with their bright and festive sign, flanked by the yellow, blue and red stripes from the Colombian flag, and more importantly photos of their empanadas. Because I figured I would kill two birds with one stone and try them both out and empanadas with tacos sounded pretty good.
I asked which ones were best and settled on the Traditional Chicken and the chicken and mushroom, which the owner said also had cheese. Sounded good to me. There's also pork, salami and Hawaiian empanada on the menu at Mecato (Is Hawaiian a real thing for empanadas? Or is that just for Taiwan????), as well as arepas, drinks and obless, which looked like Colombian tortas and cookies.
I think I made the owners a little bit nervous with all my questions and by concentratedly eyeing them getting the fryer ready for the handmade empanadas, so went back to look for my tacos.
I have seen (and eaten) A LOT of tacos in Taipei (and around the world!) and the way the tacos look dictate a lot about how they are going to taste. And these tacos al pastor from four month old Quantum Tacos were definitely in the right direction.
First, they had corn tortillas. Second, they were sprinkled with diced onions and cilantro, and ONLY onions and cilantro. Third, there was a proper meat to tortilla ratio, enough meat that when you rolled up the taco that you could see the meat coming out of the edges. (And the fact that the corn tortilla was thin and pliable enough to roll up, you couldn't imagine what a rarity that even is in Taiwan!)
And the taste? HEAVENLY.
I did not realize how much I wanted to eat a taco until my mouth was chewing the tender bits of spit -roasted pork and fat mixed with the punch of the bits of onion and cilantro, and I forgot that I was even in Taipei. That I didn't even have to think, this is good for Taipei. I thought this is good PERIOD.
The al pastor had enough flavor from the tomato (which gives it its reddish color) * and spices to not need any extra hot sauce. But if you like it with a bigger kick, they did have a bottle of Cholula and housemade hot sauce on hand. All these details because the food was being made by someone who knows what it's supposed to taste like.
Sam, who was from Mexico, said that when he started, he didn't know how to cook these recipes, which are from the owner who is Taiwanese but had lived in Mexico for over 20 years. But after learning, he could adjust to taste when he was cooking it day to day because (let's say it again) he knows what it's supposed to taste like. And that makes a difference.
Also, I noticed when I picked up my food that there were two business cards on the counter and realized the owner of Quantum Tacos was ALSO the owner of Teotihuacan Restaurant, which I had just found on the internets a few days before when I was researching to revamp my list of Mexican restaurants. I had never heard of it before then and now it all clicked IRL.
When I realized my empanadas were ready so I had to put down my taco (you can see the bite I took above) to pick them up. They were golden, fist sized puffs with braided edges and I knew that I was probably the only person in the food court filled with Taiwanese families, eating both tacos and empanadas right then. And they were MISSING OUT.
The chicken and mushroom empanada (NT$55) was deliriously cheesy, so much that they should put the word "cheese" in the description so people can know they are basically getting a fried cheese and chicken savory doughnut. The crust was flaky and the center cheesy, I didn't even mind that I didn't taste any mushroom. I seriously could not believe my luck, that the taco and empanada universe finally expanded to include Taipei.
The chicken and potato empanada (NT$50) was also delicious, and reminded me of a croquette since it had the diced potato, but with the bonus of the fried crust around it. I am typing this up right now and thinking about if I should go back tomorrow for more.
If you're looking for somewhere air conditioned to dine, you can also try the Argentinian Gaucho at the end of Maji Square, but while their grilled meats are good, their empanadas are no where near as good as the ones from Mecato Colombia. And their menu overall is definitely more expensive.
But seriously, who would have ever thought a food hall in Taipei would have Mexican, Colombian AND Argentinian food in one place? Is this the first you've heard about these spots? Do these photos make you excited? Where else have I been missing out on?? Leave a comment and some love, so I know you're reading! :)
PS sorry, let me also know the photos are turning up blurry? Blogger is having some issues for me, but I didn't want to wait to share.. so I will try to replace the photos later, but my eyes sometimes are also seeing blurry because i'm on my phone wayyy too much.
*per feedback in the comments, please note that traditional al pastor DOES NOT have tomatoes but chilis and spices, but the chef behind quantum tacos made that personal adjustment.