Last week I was watching a video of a farmer whose corn crop was infected with what looked like enlarged, black corn kernels, but were actually a delicacy I had never heard of—huitlacoche (wheat-la-co-chey).
Huitlacoche has a few names in English: corn smut, corn fungus, Mexican truffle. It’s a delicacy that’s usually found in quesadillas, but can also be used in soups or other dishes like tamales.
If you’re Latin American, this is absolutely nothing new. But I hadn’t had the pleasure of trying it, so I decided to hunt down a place in Long Beach that sells a dish with huitlacoche and ended up at Los Reyes Del Taco Sabroso.
This family-owned restaurant on East Anaheim Street will celebrate its 10-year anniversary this September (be on the lookout for celebration announcements in the near future) and not only had huitlacoche quesadillas, they also had flor de calabaza (pumpkin flower) quesadillas, which I also hadn’t tried.
I rallied a couple of coworkers, Laura and Thomas, and we went down there to grab their quesadillas and three tacos: carne asada, al pastor and pollo.
And while the huitlacoche spurred this adventure, the highlight of the meal turned out to be the flor de calabaza quesadillas, which were light, tangy, and juicy. The pumpkin flower was cooked through and played well with sautéed onions, fresh iceberg lettuce, cotija cheese, sour cream, and melted Monterey jack and mozzarella cheese. The quesadilla had depth of flavor and while our group split the foot-long quesadilla, I could’ve easily eaten the whole thing myself.
The huitlacoche quesadilla had a similar anatomy and was generously stuffed. When you took a piece of huitlacoche between your fingers and squished it, it would pop like a bean.
It took on the flavor of the onions it was sautéed with, so to me, it tasted like a sweet cooked onion. I tried a piece by itself, I even took off the paper-thin casing of the kernel and tried the black, mushy inside, but I still tasted onion.
And let me be clear—that wasn’t a bad thing. The cheese gave the quesadilla a nice saltiness and the restaurant’s red salsa (spicy) and green salsa (mild) paired well. It was dense, so my 1/3 portion of the quesadilla was the perfect amount for me to enjoy.
Both the huitlacoche and the pumpkin flower are available year-round and bought fresh by the restaurant from farmers’ markets and suppliers. That means the huitlacoche flavor may change, depending on which variety of corn it grows on.
The quesadillas’ tortillas were lightly fried and made out of corn flour, not wheat flour, which is a great option for gluten-sensitive diners. And if the cheese is removed, both quesadillas would be vegan.
All three tacos were good, with a liberal amount of meat packed onto the tortilla, and the taco platter came with pickled carrots, onions and lime wedges.
The restaurant had an extensive menu including burritos, sopes, ceviches, tortas and breakfast items, which I’ll be sure to sample next time.
Los Reyes Del Taco Sabroso is at 2345 East Anaheim Street.
Have you been to Los Reyes Del Taco Sabroso? Is there another spot I should try or another delicacy I should seek out? Send me your favorite dishes and places around town, to help me figure out where I should go next, at [email protected].