In early March 2020, just a week before the pandemic shut down the world, a good buddy of mine came out to Los Angeles to help me do something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
That is, to eat my way through LA to find the best taco. I have no idea how that would even be possible seeing he was here only for a week. And had we eaten at a different taqueria every thirty minutes, and forgone sleeping, I am pretty sure we’d barely have made a dent. But still, we tried. In our food adventure, we sampled some very delicious fare. But nowhere in any of those joints did I come across a mulita, the thing we are going to get to KNOWvember.
What’s a mulita, you ask? Good question. I only learned about them today when my daughter called me to say hello. Now that I think about it, I think she was really calling to brag about this thing she described as "a street taco quesadilla thing." Intrigued? I was. I needed to And learn more.
“You have my attention," I told her, "tell me more. In fact, take a picture of it and then send me a text describing it to me.” (I had to go because I was already late to an interview I set up with someone for KNOWvember.) She here’s the text exchange, written after she ate it.
“In simple words," writes Maricruz Avalos on her food blog, "this street food is a Mexican version of a grilled cheese sandwich where the bread is replaced by tortillas. It resembles a quesadilla as it uses tortillas and cheese, but is also a taco since there’s meat in the inside, and salsas.”
Now, I love grilled cheese sandwiches. I love tortillas, cheese and meat. And salsa! So why has this thing been hidden from me? Why haven't I tried one yet? With just a little digging around on the internet, I found plenty of recipes of this delicious Mexican street food that became famous only in Los Angeles. I’m not sure when this happened or how I missed it, but apparently I was too focused on tacos.
Mulita is a Spanish word that literally means “little mule,” which I thought was a burrito. On her site La Piña en la Cocina, Sonia Mendez Garcia thinks the food got the name “because they are packed on each side of the tortillas.” They come all different ways because there is no one way to make them. As Mona Holmes learned while traveling around LA to find the perfect mulita, she writes “all are not equal.”
Some are birria style, or vegetarian. Some are complex with layers of cheesy goodness, while others more simple. As I’m learning, the mulita is a typical menu staple on taco trucks and authentic restaurants. But I am sure I can make it at home. The ingredients include things you could easily find in my refrigerator.
Like my daughter described in her text it’s tortillas: Carne Asada (or chicken, pork, fish, or veggies); Cheese (a good melting cheese like Monterey Jack, Oaxaca, Chihuahua, or even Mozzarella should do); chopped onions and cilantro; and maybe some refried beans and Crèma Mexicana to make it more filling. Knowing me, I’m pretty sure I will add grilled onions and chilis into the mix.
Construction of the mulita is key. As Holmes notes it “requires proper balance with a layer of marinated meat, and the right amount of Monterey Jack cheese, while carefully placed between a lightly griddled tortilla. After customizing the spice levels with handmade salsas, the right mulita will maintain its structure after one bite.”
Just writing about mulitas, I am now craving one. I can no longer live vicariously through my daughter, who is lucky enough to live down the street from a taco truck. In my pantry is a five-pound bag of Maseca, a particular flour that is perfect for making homemade tortillas. I think it’s time to open it up and make some homemade tortillas for my homemade mulitas.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”