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People Are Still Talking About Balam’s Surprising Flan Dessert Taco: A Breakdown

10:28 AM PDT on May 10, 2019

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap] tried ALL the tacos at Taco Madness this past Saturday but the one that stood out the most for its creativity was a dessert taco with flan as "the protein" from Balam in Lynwood. It was made in collaboration with Evil Cooks, a pop-up known for featuring a masked luchador making your tacos.

People have been talking about the flan taco by Balam all this week.

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Each of the nine taquerias that were featured at Taco Madness 2019 brought their A-game. Some created special menu items for the festival. We even had an L.A. Taco hot sauce that was part of a collab with El Machete.

Of course, we had big dogs in the taco game like Leo’s, Carnitas El Momo, Sonoratown, and Guerrilla Tacos. Each of them has defined L.A.’s modern taco scene in their own way. Attendees waited in long lines just to get a taste of these powerhouse tacos, showing that they continue to be relevant as ever.

Blama's flan taco. Credit: @GoldLineLA

You might wince at the thought of a dessert taco but Balam pulled it off. They swapped out the tortilla for a hybrid tortilla made of a corn and flour mix. It was almost like a crepe topped with a block of citrus-infused flan covered with polvorones (Mexican cookies), seared coconut candy, orange peel, and mint. It was one of the most creative tacos at event and one of my favorites.

Jonathan Perez’s Macheen also opted for an event-only menu item with a birria de res taco, partly as a response to L.A.’s obsessions with birria de res. The taco started with a 24-hour beef bone broth and added a guajillo demi glace to take it to another level. It was buttery, decadent, and like birria gravy.

Chef Alan Cruz of A's BBQ serving his smoked tacos. All photos by Brian Feinzimer.

At the far end of the event, A’s BBQ and East L.A. BBQ, were serving up their smoked tacos. A’s had a chopped brisket taco and a smoky cochinita pibil while East L.A. had smoked lengua. What these vendors show, more than than anything, is that the taco is left up to the imagination.

This sentiment is reflected in our publisher Alex Blazedale’s comment about the versatility of the taco. “The taco, we always saw it as a platform for expression. That’s why we called the site L.A. Taco. The taco is a canvas that you can put almost anything in it.”

Jonathan Perez is the chef and founder of Macheen.

Blazedale talked to us on the latest L.A. Taco Podcast about the origin of Taco Madness. Back in 2009, he thought it would be fun to start a March Madness-style bracket for tacos. Yuca’s won that year, but there was no live event yet. “Originally what I did was email every food writer that I loved in L.A., including Jonathan Gold,” Blazedale explained. “He participated every single year up until his death.”

What started as a fun idea became a live event that gives L.A. taco lovers a platform to represent their little slice of the city. “That’s kind of what L.A. Taco is all about, representing your neighborhood in L.A.”

If the event proves anything at all, it’s that L.A. believes in the taco. It is a major food group of our city, an agent for change, a unifier, and a canvas for expression. “I don’t think you can get tired of eating tacos,” Blazedale said. “It’s basically, ‘Are you tired of eating?’”

RELATED: Photos: Everything You Missed at Taco Madness 2019

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