Taco Chaca in the Sai Ying Hood

A recent feeling of motivation to get to know the dining scene of my own neighborhood (well, for two more weeks…) brought me to this place the other night. Taco Chaca is a cool, hipster-friendly neighborhood taqueria, located on Second Street in Sai Yin Pung, just a few minutes’ walk from my apartment. The place has often been recommended to me as an almost automatic response to my mention of where I live, and with such enthusiasm that it has since the beginning been on my to-eat list. 50’s style, with sheet iron and stainless steel, a few metal tables and chairs, a small kitchen, a big yellow neon sign. A menu featuring a limited selection (nothing crazy) of tacos, burritos, enchiladas and quesadillas, along with classic sides, such as refried beans, and heaping piles of nachos to share. Drinks include the favorite Mexican cinnamon rice drink, the horchata, a Jamaican roselle and lime drink (no idea what this was…), as well as a number of beers and sodas in glass bottles. A pretty vast selection of imported Mexican/American chili sauces (I counted 9, I appreciated this). Not particularly unique, in that one of these places seems to exist in almost every city I’ve ever been to where Californian surfer bros have set foot, but not bad either way.

The first one I tried was the carne asada taco on flour tortilla (46HKD for two). The tortilla was nice and soft. It was warmed up only a tad; I would have preferred it a bit more charred on both sides. The diced beef, imported from the U.S., was actually much more tender and juicier than I was expecting it to be. It was also nicely seasoned, not too salty, and retained most of its meaty flavor. Also added were some pico de gallo (red onion, tomato, cilantro) and a squeeze of fresh guacamole. Although the salsa was very refreshing, not too watery and with the perfect amount of acidity from the citrus, the guac was a bit too iron-y for me and could’ve used a tad more garlic and lime juice to lift its flavors up. Overall the beef was the star of the show. I would definitely recommend going for the “Extra Meat” option (for an additional 10 HKD) on this one, just to fill out that tortilla pouch a bit more.


The next one was my favorite, the Carnitas Taco (42 HKD for two). Juicy and moist barbecued pulled pork, also minimally seasoned, with a bit of fresh pico de gallo. Guacamole was not added in this case, in order to direct the attention to the wonderful smokey and sweet tones of the pork. Again, a bit too little filling for my taste, but this can easily be solved by throwing some more dolla billz at the problem and plumping up your order with an extra dose of protein.


Lastly, I tried the Pollo Quesadillas (48 HKD for 4 and thus, probably the best deal if you’re hungry). Again, pretty simple. Flour tortillas (unfortunately, an hour before close they ran out of corn) encasing a humble yet sufficient portion of minimally seasoned but marinated and grilled chicken chunks, stuck together by a bit of melted cheese and some pico de gallo to freshen things up. Guacamole and sour cream on the side to add according to one’s own preference. In this case the tortillas were actually grilled and charred a bit, making some parts crispy and others chewy, as they should be. Nothing too interesting but not bad for 6 USD.


Overall, it’s a bit difficult for me to settle on how I feel about this place. Having actually had tacos a million times better than this in Mexico for about 1/3rd the price and in California for about 1/2 the price, it feels a tad unfair to reach into my wallet and pull out the amount I could potentially spend on very good quality dim sum to pay for under-heated tortillas, a teaspoon of meat and a salsa of tomato-onion-1 herb. But taquerias are relatively new in Hong Kong, still 99% owned and frequented by homesick Westerns. There are some (Socialito) that decide to throw wagyu beef, pork belly and lobster in there and charge 120 HKD for 2. There are others (Brickhouse) that make their own tortillas in-house and pack them full with rib eye or venison with chipotle harissa and fennel yoghurt. These go for about 90 HKD for 2. So, considering the simplicity of the ingredients and the meager amount of filling, it seems fair to charge around half of what the latter two places charge for their plump “gourmet tacos.” Simple, cheap-by-Hong-Kong-standards, nothing too exciting, but nevertheless a cool neighborhood hangout with some tasty snacks.

     

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