I gotta say, I'm pretty spoiled by the food variety in Los Angeles. You can have authentic Korean food, northern Chinese food, and Mexican food all within several miles of each other. I love it. And now since it's legal to operate a street food cart, there are even more great street food options. Inspired by my latest visit to a taco stand, I decided to make my own interpretation. These tamarind chile braised chicken tacos have an incredibly rich flavor and are paired with a bright and zesty cantaloupe mint salsa. It's not a traditional dish, but that doesn't mean it's not delicious!
Tamarind Chile Braised Chicken Tacos
Tamarind chile braised chicken
- 6 guajillo chiles
- 2 tablespoons oil divided
- 2 lb chicken breast or thighs skinless, boneless
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 6 garlic cloves sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- ¼ cup tamarind paste
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cups chicken stock
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 5 medium tomatillos husks removed
- ½ small red onion
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 cup cilantro
- 2 cups chopped cantaloupe
- ¼ cup chopped mint
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 8 tortillas
- ¼ cup crumbled cotija
- guacamole for serving
- lime wedges for serving
- Soak guajillo chiles in hot water for 30 minutes or until softened. Drain water and remove stems and seeds. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a braising pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and sear on both sides until golden brown. Remove chicken from pot.
- Heat another tablespoon oil in same pot. Add sliced onions and saute until softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic cloves and cherry tomatoes and saute until tomatoes begin to soften, about 4-5 minutes. Add back chicken to pot along with guajillo chiles, cumin, tamarind, paste, cinnamon stick, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, cover pot, and reduce heat to low. Continue to simmer for 25 minutes or until chicken is tender.
- Meanwhile, make cantaloupe mint salsa. In a food processor, pulse tomatillos, red onion, jalapeno, and cilantro until roughly chopped. Alternatively, chop all ingredients by hand. Pour tomatillo mixture into a large bowl and add chopped cantaloupe and mint. Season with juice of 1 lime, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.
- Remove chicken and cinnamon stick from pot. Add brown sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to reduce braising liquid until thickened and reduced by at least half. Remove from stove and pour braising liquid with vegetables and chiles into a blend. Puree until smooth.
- Shred chicken and pour pureed braising liquid. Season once more if needed with salt and pepper and stir to coat.
- Assemble tacos. Top tortillas with tamarind chile braised chicken, salsa, guacamole, and cotija. Serve with lime wedges.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Ready to make some mouthwatering tacos? Let's get started.
In order to make the tamarind chile braised chicken tacos as delicious as possible, we need to first season the braising liquid. By using a combination of chiles, aromatics, tomatoes, spices, and tamarind paste, we achieve just that.
There are so many different chilies you can use but I ultimately chose guajillo. Guajillo peppers have a smoky flavor that compliments that tangy tamarind paste beautifully. If you can't find guajillo, I recommend using pasilla or ancho chile peppers.
Since guajillo peppers are dried, you need to first rehydrate them in hot water. Once softened, remove the stems and seeds.
Next, brown the chicken breast or thighs until golden brown. We only want to sear the outside and not cook it all the way.
Remove the chicken and saute the onions, cooking until softened. Add the garlic and cherry tomatoes, cooking just until the tomatoes begin to soften.
Add back the chicken to the pot along with the remaining braising liquid ingredients. Then, bring the liquid to a simmer and continue to cook the chicken on low heat until tender. You don't want to boil the liquid or the chicken can become tough.
Once tender, remove the chicken from the pot along with the cinnamon stick. Increase the heat, add brown sugar, and reduce that delicious braising liquid. By reducing the liquid, you're concentrating and intensifying the flavors.
Blend the braising liquid and pour it back over the shredded chicken, tossing to coat. Now there's no way that the chicken will not flavorful.
While the braising liquid is reducing, go ahead and make the cantaloupe mint salsa. Pulse the tomatillos, cilantro, jalapeno, and red onion in a food processor until finely chopped but not pureed. You can also chop the ingredients by hand.
Chop the melon into small chunks and fold it in the remaining salsa ingredients. Let the salsa sit for 20 minutes to let the flavors meld. However, I don't suggest making the salsa the day before because the melon will soften from the acidity.
Heat some tortillas, make a batch of guacamole, and assemble the tamarind chile braised chicken tacos with the melon salsa. I like to also sprinkle a little cotija on top and finish with a squeeze of lime.
You know I don't like boring food and these tacos are anything but. The chicken itself is savory, tangy, and juicy all at the same time while the cantaloupe mint salsa is sweet and refreshing. A truly wonderful pairing all wrapped in a tortilla!
For more taco inspiration check out these roasted cauliflower fajitas with romesco salsa!