San Antonio, Texas- It’s time for the Texas Bucket List Bite of the Week! When it comes to San Antonio traditions, the first things that come to mind might include the Riverwalk, the Alamo and fiesta. When it comes to food, the puffy taco is pretty much part of the culture in these parts.
This week, we’ve found a place with some peculiar tacos that have become a phenomenon here in the Lone Star State. We’re at Henry’s Puffy Tacos.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but … how do I say this? I don’t know. I’m not good at this,” Laila Magallanez said. “It’s not too hard, but just soft, you know? In the middle, especially.”
For many people, a puffy taco is a foreign concept. This leads to lots of questions about what a puffy taco is exactly, and thankfully Imelda Sanchez has the answer we’re looking for.
“A puffy taco is fresh corn dough, or “masa”, we call it,” Imelda said. “It’s just a thick corn dough that when you deep fry it in some hot oil, it’ll puff up. It has this really nice … we form it into a taco shell. So then we stuff it with your choice of filling. Ground beef, chicken, bean and cheese. We have about seven different types of fillings.”
This puffy taco phenomena all started in the 50’s when Imelda’s father, Henry, worked with his oldest brother Ray at Ray’s Drive Inn. The pair experimented with deep fried food, and when they found out what happened to fried up “masa” dough, they had a culinary creation with a kick. It’s so special that Henry’s has a special secret tool to make it happen.
“How we create the shell is we have a patent on the tool that we use to create the shell, so we’re able to create the puffy taco shell quite quickly,” Imelda said.
Henry opened his own restaurant in 1978 and through the years Imelda and her siblings helped out wherever they could. Now, they all run the business together.
“I’m the only girl in my immediate family,” Imelda said. “My father Henry, my mother Alicia and my three brothers. It was great. It was good. Yeah, I guess they treated me like a princess, but I was in everything that they were doing, so …”
With a taco like this on their side, it’s no wonder the family business has been booming.
“It was surprising that, ‘Okay, you know what, this one taco is gonna hit it pretty big,’” Imelda said. “We didn’t think about that. You know? “ Who would?
We headed to the back to make some tacos. It all starts with mixing corn masa, water and salt. Once flattened, it’s time to fry.
So we start with the masa and carefully peel …carefully peel,” Imelda said. “Okay, there you go. That one’s nice and …Nice. Just dip it in. In for the bath. It’s very hot. You’ll see a nice sizzle. This is a tool where you can’t see. Ok, look away. And then there it is! Nice and puffy. Let it sit to cook the bottom of it. There it is!”
To fill it up, our friend Eric gets to the good stuff.
“Starting off with shredded chicken, one of the most popular ordered items we have on the menu,” Imelda said. “Then spicy beef fajita we’re gonna go ahead and go on to. That is one of the ones that made the best taco list. Move on to our toppings. It comes with lettuce and tomato, but you can … this is great with also cheese and guacamole.”
If you’re looking for some terrific Tex-Mex that’s become a tradition here in Texas, Henry’s Puffy Tacos is well worth a stop on the Texas Bucket List.
“It’s the puffiness when it crunches and you get all of the flavors and juices into that corn dough … it just explodes and also melts in your mouth, all the flavors,” Imelda said. “We call it ‘puffy love’. We are pretty proud and we’re pretty happy and excited. We wanna definitely continue this and let everybody know what San Antonio has to offer and that Henry’s Puffy Taco is here to just serve some great food.”