Is the American eating public ready for mayo in their tacos, and cilantro in their fast food?
The name of the thing put me on my guard. What the hell does “Pacific shrimp” mean? When I was a kid, “Gulf shrimp” meant something–wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. But nowadays, nearly all shrimp we’re exposed to are farmed in filthy and chemical-laden conditions along the Pacific coast of Thailand, so it’s hard to get too excited about “Pacific shrimp.”
Upon first opening the smallish Pacific shrimp taco, no crustaceans are visible at all.
Lately, there’s been a fad for Baha-style fish tacos, so one might presume this was the immediate inspiration for the Taco Bell Pacific shrimp taco, which baits the trap, figuratively speaking, with whitefish, and then substitutes shrimp, while still partaking of the hoopla surrounding fish tacos.
Indeed, the Pacific shrimp taco is something of an upscale adventure for Taco Bell. The tacos go for $3.69 plus tax, totalling $4.02 apiece at the Union Square branch, which is a lot to pay for a taco. The ad emphasizes the quantity of shrimp, rather than size, nevertheless, my first question was, “How do they fit six shrimp inside a taco?” As you might have guessed, the shrimp are about the size of a baby’s thumb. Thankfully, they taste fresh. But to find out how they taste, I had to wipe a tidal wave of mayonnaise-based sauce off the crustaceans.
Really, ensconced in their floppy flour tortilla, with huge amounts of mayo, the thing tasted very fast-foody, but not as bad as I feared. Still, the real message here is that Taco Bell is trying out two very aggressive experiments. One is adding mayo to the taco, rather than their pallid, plastic-sleeved sauces. Will mayo–indispensible to hamburger-based fast food chains–help goose up the sale of tacos, for an American audience that simply can’t get enough fat?
The other message was even weirder. As I tried to plow through the entire taco (I managed to get down half of it before throwing the other half away), I detected an odd flavor in the greenery. Dissecting the thing more carefully, I discovered what it was. Cilantro! Have you ever heard of cilantro in American fast food? It’s an idea that might catch on.
Finally, one small shrimp rolls out, smothered in mayo, looking nothing like the big plump pink beauties shown in the commercial.