from Texas Monthly

Defining ‘Guisado’ Is Just as Messy as the Dish Itself

While the term is most commonly translated as “stew,” it’s not wholly accurate. Guisados are more of a feeling than anything else.

By José R. Ralat

Tacos de guisado are—first and foremost—rule breakers. They so strongly resist identification that an umbrella category had to be created for them. The taqueros who make them don’t care for restrictions. Tacos de guisado are the morning tacos that lead into midday. They’re eaten by blue-collar workers and corporate yes-men, especially in Mexico City. “They’re practically the national breakfast food,” says Alejandro Escalante, author of La Tacopedia: Encyclopedia of the Taco and Acridofagia y Otros Insectosand co-owner of La Casa de los Tacos in Mexico City’s Coyoacán neighborhood. They’re hefty and hearty and lovely. They’re also a source of confusion. 

The trouble begins with the literal English translation of “guisado.” The word means “stew.” But just like “cold” can refer to more than temperature, “guisado” has more nuance than Google Translate is willing to offer. Even in the Phaidon edition of Escalante’s Tacopedia, the chapter on guisados is poorly translated to Stewed Tacos. Finding a completely accurate definition of guisado is a purist’s nightmare.

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