By: Nick Dybel
An extensive analysis of why hard shell tacos reign supreme over their soft and flimsy counterparts.
Tacos are arguably the most popular Mexican meal in the United States, being prepared in a variety of ways that vary between regions and cultures. Similar to a snowflake, no one taco is exactly alike, but there is one component that separates a taco into two distinct categories: the shell.
The soft shell is considered the more culturally relevant of the two, as one would mostly see small tortillas if they ventured south of the border. The hard shell is more popular within the United States, although both forms are extremely common..
Although the odds are stacked against the hard shell in the battle for meat-holding supremacy, it still comes out victorious after the facts are hashed out.
First, hard shell tacos cause little mess (when eaten correctly) and allow for a smooth cleaning process after the meal concludes. The sturdy walls of a hard shell seal in the juices of the meat, beans, and salsa, making sure none of it ends up on the plate.
Your plate can go straight into the dishwasher when hard shell tacos are on the menu and it is likely that dust will be the only residue on one’s fingers when properly consumed. Waiters and busboys let out an internal sigh of relief when a customer orders hard shell tacos, knowing the aftermath of their meal will hardly be noticable.
Hard shell tacos also bring a unique aspect to the flavor department, with crunchiness and saltiness being a bonus you just can’t get from soft tortillas. The hardened shell brings a nice contrast to to the softness of the meat while the salt compliments the savory flavor.
One may become reminiscent of nachos while munching on a hard shell taco, due to their similar components. In fact, hard shell tacos are simply a loose variation of nachos, which many consider a perk.
Another benefit is that hard shells can be made in various widths and lengths, so they can fit as many ingredients as one could possibly desire. Whether it be compact, tall, or roomy, shells are versatile in their structure.
Convenience is a crucial element of the hard shell taco, much unlike it’s softer foe. Some shells are wide enough to stand by themselves on a plate, while a tortilla spills open the second it is set down.
One pitfall of being a tortilla fan is the spiraling debate of corn vs. flour, a conversation carried out similarly to this one.
By committing to the shell, the soft taco debate becomes irrelevant. Say goodbye to panic attacks while in line at Rubios because you can’t decide just how soft you want your shell, and say hello to the comfort that manifests in two walls of a fried tortilla.
Tacos are a meal enjoyed universally, with influence in both the U.S. and Latin American countries. The meal’s diversity is what has cemented its status as a cultural icon, whether the ingredients are wrapped in corn, flour, or fried tortilla.
That being said, next time you notice yourself or a loved one eating a hard shell taco, remind yourself that you are in good company.