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Farmer’s Table: Shrimp Tacos


By Susan Maslowski

Most people are familiar with tacos, a traditional Mexican food. Tacos are made with soft or hard corn or wheat tortillas containing a variety of fillings. They are often garnished with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, salsa, cheese or guacamole. Beef and chicken are the most popular meat fillings, but the earliest tacos contained fish.

Tacos predate the arrival of Europeans in Mexico. There is anthropological evidence that the Indians in the Valley of Mexico ate fish tacos. Later the fish were replaced with insects in the states of Morelos and Guerrero, while locusts and snails were the filling du jour in Puebla and Oaxaca.

According to written, first-person accounts about the Mesoamerican culture and diverse native people living in Mexico, Spanish conquistadors Bernal Diaz del Castillo and Hernan Cortes feasted on tacos.

The name “taco”, according to Jeffrey M. Pilcher, originated in the 18th century. Workers in Mexican silver mines used little explosives to extract the ore. Pieces of paper were wrapped around gunpowder and poked into holes in the rock. They were called “tacos.” Some of the first references to tacos were described as “tacos de minero” or “miner’s tacos.”

There are many types of tacos. Some contain the brain, cheeks, tongue, eyes or lips of a cow or pig. Some are filled with grasshoppers, goat, lamb, pork, cactus or tripe. Tacos filled with caramelized chitterlings soaked in milk, boiled and crisped on the grill are another specialty.

Shrimp tacos, or “tacos de camarones” originated about 50 years ago in Baja California, the long peninsula off the Northwest coast of Mexico. The shrimp are fried or grilled and placed on a flour or corn tortillas. They are served with lettuce and tomatoes topped with a lime/cilantro/mayonnaise dressing.

Last year, Americans ate over 4.5 billion tacos. That is 490,000 miles of tacos, weighing 775 million pounds (or the weight of two Empire State Buildings).

I was inspired to make these shrimp tacos, because I have several clumps of beautiful cilantro that survived the winter. The spicy shrimp topped with the creamy lime cilantro sauce made a delicious meal.

Shrimp Tacos

16 prawns, peeled and deveined

1 clove garlic, minced*

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 corn or flour tortillas

Oil for frying

Shredded lettuce

Diced Tomatoes

Cilantro Lime Sour Cream (recipe follows)

For Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream:

¼ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

¼ teaspoon cumin

Juice and zest from one lime

Salt to taste

Stir all of the ingredients for Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream together in a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

In a bowl, whisk together garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, cayenne pepper and olive oil. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Cook shrimp in oil over medium heat until pink and cooked through (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Use enough oil to coat a small frying pan. Cook tortillas one at a time until soft (about 30 seconds per side). Place tortillas on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Spoon 4 shrimp down the middle of each tortilla. Top with lettuce and tomatoes and top with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream.

Serve immediately.

* I substituted 2 ramps for the minced garlic.

For questions about recipes or other information, contact Susan Maslowski at or go to our websites at and Susan also has a Farmer’s Table Facebook page.


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