Countless sandwiches are native to America, but the Navajo Taco is a Native American sandwich in the strictest sense of the word. Made by piling New Mexican taco fixings onto traditional Navajo frybread, this scrumptious sandwich is a specialty of Arizona, so on a recent trip to Phoenix, I stopped by The Fry Bread House to do some firsthand research.
My first question, of course, is why a Navajo Taco — also called an Indian Taco — is considered a sandwich rather than a taco. The crucial distinction is that tacos are made with tortillas and sandwiches are made with bread — in this case, Navajo fry bread, which tastes like a cross between a thick fried pita and funnel cake without the sugar. Indian tacos are typically filled with beans, ground beef, or a combination of both; I opted for refried beans, flavored with strips of New Mexico green chiles. Salivating yet? For the juicy details and a recipe, read more.
The taco arrives swaddled in paper, tidily tied up at the top. But undo the paper, and the enormous sandwich spills open to reveal a bouncy cushion of fry bread about the size of a frisbee, coated with smooth red salsa, beans and onions, iceberg lettuce, and shredded cheddar cheese.
I thought about eating it with a knife and fork, but I'm glad I didn't, because the fry bread only gets tastier when folded around the filling, deliciously deflated of air as it soaks up the saucy mess. In this case, the toppings weren't anything special: I kind of wished the cheddar cheese were melted, and I added a healthy helping of hot sauce.
But the main selling point is the fresh-from-the-pan fry bread, and it did not disappoint. I devoured the whole enormous lunch in spite of my promise to myself that I wouldn't.
For the tacos: Makes 6 4-inch round tacos.
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 cup refried beans
6 round fry bread pieces, recipe follows
1/2 pound cheddar cheese, grated
1 head lettuce, shredded
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 (3-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
For the fry bread:
2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry milk solids
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lard, cut into 1/2-inch bits, plus 1 pound lard, for deep frying
For the tacos:
Makes 6 4-inch round tacos.