A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 04, 2006
Puffy Tacos

Puffy tacos are a San Antonio specialty, tacos that fluff up. A puffy taco is even the mascot of a San Antonio minor league baseball team. It’s said that the “puffy taco” was invented at Henry’s Puffy Tacos in San Antonio in 1978, but author Robb Walsh claims that they were called “crispy tacos” and served in Austin in the 1950s.

Austin Chronicle

After years of worshipping at the altar of authentic Mexican food, Austinites are rediscovering Tex-Mex, too. As noted in these pages (see The Puffy Taco Invasion, April 30) Tex-Mex traditions like San Antonio’s puffy tacos are now the rage in Austin. Of course, the truth is, what we call puffy tacos are as old as the hills. In fact, it was El Matamoros on East Avenue that introduced “crispy tacos” – which are made the same way as puffy tacos – to Austin back in the 1950s.

LBJ and Lady Bird celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at El Matamoros, which was the swankiest Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin at the time. El Mat was owned by the Lopez family, who still operate the Old Mexico restaurant in Corpus Christi. The puffy taco tradition is still alive down there. In fact, their “Crazy Taco,” a puffy taco shell piled high with ground meat, tomatoes, and chopped iceberg, and subsequently drenched in queso, is a classic of the genre. 

Texas Dining
Henry’s Puffy Tacos - San Antonio
Truly Entertaining, Curiously Appetizing
by Randy Lankford

Henry’s Puffy Tacos
815 Bandera Rd.
San Antonio, TX 78228
(210) 432-7341
Lopez took his idea one step further and decided to create a mascot for the business his father Henry had started in 1978. “When I contacted the Missions and suggested it back in 1989, their marketing guy was from Denver. I don’t think he knew what a puffy taco was. He suggested we use a burrito or an enchilada. He clearly didn’t get it.”

Jaime can’t pinpoint the origin of the family’s secret recipe. “My uncles made them at their restaurants in California and my grandmother made them too. I can’t really say who started it, but it’s been in the family for generations.” While Henry’s filling is standard taco fare, the dough used to make the shell puffs up when cooked giving the dish a cloud-like appearance, making it look more like pastry than an entree.

Food Network
Puffy Tacos Recipe courtesy Diana Barrios
Show:  FoodNation With Bobby Flay
Episode:  Lancaster County

3 cups corn tortilla mix
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 1/4 cups warm water

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. When the dough is consistent begin rolling dough balls about the size of a ping pong ball. Using a tortilla press that is lined in a thick plastic, press out the dough. You use the plastic (it can be a ziploc bag that has been cut) so that the dough does not stick to the tortilla press. Meanwhile have a deep pot filled with cooking oil approximately 2 inches high and heated to 250 degrees. Drop the flat tortilla in the hot oil and using a metal spatula repeatedly douse with the oil. You will see that it will begin to puff up. Flip it over and using the spatula make an indention in the middle of the tortilla to forma taco shape. Remove from oil and allow to drain. Fill with ground meat, shredded chicken, guacamole, bean and cheese or your favorite filling. Top with shredded lettuce and diced tomato.

Caution; Be very careful when making these. Make sure there is proper ventilation and do not allow the oil to get too hot. Also, if you can’t get your hands on a tortilla press then use a clean counter. You will still need the plastic so that the dough does not stick to the counter. Place your dough ball on the plastic and cover with more plastic and then using something heavy to press it out.

6 February 1975, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. J13:
We’ve had letters and phone calls requesting the recipe for the Guadalajera Taco served at Consuelo’s Mexican restaurants in San Diego.

Dorothy Bales, president of Consuelo’s, sent in the recipe. And a test showed the taco to be as delicious and attractive as readers had indicated. This taco is made with flour rather than corn tortillas. When fried, the tortillas become fluffy and crisp and the tacos are so large that one can serve as a meal in itself.

20 June 1978, San Antonio (TX) Light, “Teka Molina...Terrific!,” pg. 7-A, cols. 1-3:
Teka Molino has been a successful, tradition in Old San Antonio since 1937.
They serve over 25 types of tacos: flour tortilla tacos, crisp tacos, soft tacos, and ever popular puffy tacos.

13 May 1979, Washington (DC) Post, pg. SM36:
Among this official graffiti is a full encyclopedia of Tex-Mex dishes—burritos, enchiladas, tamales, quesadillas, chimichangas, taquitos, chalupas—and a few less prevalent dishes. There is, for instance, the chili-flavored tripe soup called menudo, and tacos are either the usual crisp ones or more unusual soft, puffy tacos, the shells reminiscent of Indian puffed bread.

17 May 1992, New York (NY) Times, “A Taste of San Antonio,” pg SMA40:
At RAY’S DRIVE INN, 822 West 19th Street (512-432-7171), an order of puffy tacos and lemonade is $4.50.
Some people in San Antonio have never been to the west side of town, because it’s poor, and poverty makes them uncomfortable. Some of the finest establishments in San Antonio are here, chief among them Las Brisas, on West Commerce Street, the place where the mariachi musicians comes to eat between gigs. Or Ray’s Drive Inn, “Home of the Original Puffy Taco,” at the corner of 19th and Guadalupe. What’s a puffy taco? It’s a deep-fried corn cake split in the center and filled like a taco only the corn cake is fatter. Like a gordita, but, well...I’m not sure I know. Just try it.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Saturday, November 04, 2006 • Permalink