There are many reasons to seek out the tacos at Tacos Oscar, a roving taqueria run by Oscar Michel and Jake Weiss.
Any great taco begins with the tortillas, and here they are handmade and pressed to order. The two former line cooks from Oakland's Boot & Shoe Service also excel at fillings, which run the gamut from more traditional options like carnitas to less conventional combinations like Peruvian bean, nopal salad, roasted tomato salsa, cotija, and queso fresco.
But the taco we're highlighting is much simpler than either of these — and the secret to its success is in the perfectly fried egg.
The Story Behind Tacos Oscar
Since Oscar and Jake started setting up their serape blanket-draped card tables all over Oakland — street corners, parties, gallery openings, bars, coffee shops — in 2014, they have earned a reputation for serving some of the best, most innovative tacos in the city. Here, according to Oscar, is how they got their start.
My first event was at a friend's music studio opening in West Oakland. We worked at Urban Ore together and I always talked about wanting to make tacos with hand-pressed tortillas and fried eggs, just like I had growing up.
"Quit talking about it and be about it!" he said.
He proposed a date, offered to pay for half of my gear (which I still use for street pop-ups and catering events) and for all of the food, so that I could make tacos and give them out to attendees for free. That night I made almost $700 in just tips alone! Not a bad way to start a little food venture in West Oakland.
The Tacos Oscar Instagram is a great way to check out where they'll be next; you can usually find them at Starline Social Club (corner of Grand Ave and MLK, Jr. Way) on the second and fourth Monday nights of each month.
How to Make a Perfect Fried Egg, Tacos Oscar-Style
According to Jake Weiss, the other half of Tacos Oscar, a properly fried egg is all about texture and crust. And, he says, the secret to texture and crust is a thick cast iron pan. Here's how to do it.
- Get the pan pretty good and hot for a few minutes, not on high high heat, but maybe medium-high heat.
- After a minute or so, add enough oil to the pan to coat the bottom and let that get going for about 30 to 60 seconds. The egg shouldn't be swimming in oil — just enough to get some color on the bottom without it burning.
- Crack that egg, season with salt and fresh pepper, and let it do its thing. If the pan is hot enough, it won't stick, and the egg white should be cooked, with a totally runny yolk, after about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
- Use a thin spatula to remove it from the pan, place on a tortilla, add some chile oil, pickled onions, maybe some cheese, and crush that thing.
Fried Egg Taco with Toasted Chile Oil
For the toasted chile oil:
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 scant teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
3 dried guajillo chiles
2 dried aji amarillo chiles
1 dried pasilla chiles
1 1/2 cups olive oil, plus more for frying chiles
2 dried chiles de arbol
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
For each taco:
1 small corn tortilla
1 large egg
Neutral cooking oil
Pickled red onions
Crumbled cotija or other Mexican cheese
Make the oil: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F.
Toast the coriander, cumin, and mustard seed in a small frying pan over medium heat until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes; set aside to cool.
Place the guajillo, aji, and pasilla chiles on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until slightly darkened but not burnt, checking every few minutes because these chiles go from toasted to burnt very quickly. Set aside to cool and firm up.
Coat the bottom of a frying pan with a thin film of olive oil and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the arbol chiles and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and almost brown. Remove from the pan to cool and reserve the oil.
Finely grind the toasted, cooled spices in a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a small saucepan. Grind all the dried toasted, roasted, and fried chiles in the mortar and pestle together until finely ground. Transfer to the saucepan with the spices.
Place the garlic, a pinch of salt, and some of the residual oil leftover from the arbol chiles in the mortar and pestle and grind into a paste. Transfer this paste to the saucepan. (You can substitute garlic powder for raw garlic to increase the shelf life, since the raw garlic will eventually turn bitter and spoil).
Add the 1 1/2 cups olive oil, a couple pinches of salt, and remaining arbol chile oil to the saucepan. Heat on low heat and stir after 5 minutes. Once it becomes just barely hot and fragrant, turn off the heat and set aside to steep for 30 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, then cool completely.
Make the tacos: Gather the condiments and have them ready for quick assembly.
Toast your tortillas until heated through and just a little charred in places. My favorite method is directly on the burners of my stove. Keep them wrapped in a towel until ready to assemble.
Fry the eggs in the oil to desired doneness. Top each tortilla with a fried egg and serve with the toasted chile oil and condiments.
- Food processor: The toasted chile oil can be made in a food processor instead of with a mortar and pestle. Simply add the spices, chile, garlic, and salt to the bowl of the processor, along with about half the oil. Pulse until the garlic and chiles are ground to a rough paste. Add the rest of the oil and pulse some more until blended. (It won't be a smooth paste.)
- Chile substitutes: Substituting the chiles is totally fine! We usually work with whatever dried chiles we have on hand. We tend to use less of the spicier ones, but you can totally play around with this recipe. This chile oil has a good balance of toasted chile flavor with a nice, not-too-overwhelming hum of heat. If you like things hotter, use a few more chiles de arbol or another hotter dried chile.
- Storage: Once cool, store the toasted chile oil in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. It's especially good with eggs, winter squash, sweet potatoes, cauliflower. Pretty much anything!
Recipes from the Road are recipes gathered from our travels near and far. When you're there, when you come home, a recipe is always the best souvenir. This month we're visiting Oakland; see our full Bite-Sized Guide here, including two more recipes.