The story goes, governor shrimp tacos, or tacos gobernador de camarón, were created in the state of Sinaloa in the early 1990s to surprise governor Francisco Labastida Ochoa, after he told a few friends how much he loved his wife’s shrimp tacos. That bit of information was passed on to the owners of Los Arcos in Mazatlán restaurant, before he headed there to visit.
The chef was given the quest not only try to match the governor’s wife’s tacos, which no one besides the governor had tried, but to beat them. So quite a few taco recipes were developed and tested. When the governor showed up to eat, he liked them so much he named them “tacos gobernador.”
Now, I do not know if that story is entirely true. But, what I do know is, these tacos became so popular you no longer only find them at Los Arcos in Mazatlán. They are all over Sinaloa and beyond. I had them as far away as Los Angeles and Miami. Yet, I saw the most renditions on the 800 mile drive throughout the entire Baja Peninsula.
I felt more than obliged to offer my take on tacos gobernador, since my travels in Baja are featured on “Pati’s Mexican Table” in my new season premiering in a few weeks (you can watch the trailer here). And I am thrilled to share my recipe with you, as we all love these tacos in my home!
So what’s in tacos gobernador? First, a combination of shrimp and cheese makes them a cross between a taco and a quesadilla. A ton of cheese is really essential.
Second, cooked onion that is often accompanied by other vegetables, typically bell peppers and sometimes poblano chiles. If you ask me what I prefer, hands down, not even a second of hesitation, poblano chiles. I absolutely adore them. I feel lukewarm about green bell peppers to put it mildly. So my take has a combination of slivered onions and poblanos with just a bit of tomato.
Third, the seasonings. Some renditions have no sauce, only salt and pepper. Some have a simple to a more seasoned tomato sauce. I go for a seasoned, very thick sauce that is almost a paste, really. It combines tomato paste, La Costeña chipotles in adobo and the W sauce — Worcestershire — or as we call it in Mexico “salsa inglesa.”
There are so many reasons why I like these tacos so much. They end up being a complete meal, they are so easy to prepare, they are irresistibly delicious and messy, the cheese creates an inviting crust as it melts… and they have a great story behind them. I do love a good story.
Governor Shrimp Tacos
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- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 white onion slivered
- 2 poblano chiles stemmed, seeded, slivered
- 5 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 2 ripe Roma tomatoes cored, seeded, slivered
- 3 tablespoons sauce from chipotles in adobo
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
- 1 1/2 pounds (about 11-15) shelled large shrimp cut into large chunks
- 3 cups shredded Oaxaca, mozzarella, asadero or Muenster cheese
- 6 to 8 flour or corn tortillas
- Sliced avocado for garnish
- 1 Chile Manzano sliced and mixed with the juice of a lime, 1/4 red onion and salt to taste
- Heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Once it melts and begins to bubble, add the onion and poblano and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Incorporate the tomatoes, cook for a minute, and as they begin to soften, add the sauce from the chipotles in adobo, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Stir well, cook for another minute, then add the shrimp and cook just until they change color, about 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off heat and scrape into a bowl to prevent the shrimp from overcooking.
- On a preheated comal set over low heat, heat the tortillas on both sides for a minute. Add about 1/2 cup of shredded cheese onto each one. Once the cheese begins to melt, add a generous amount of the shrimp mixture, fold in half and continue heating until cheese has completely melted and the tortillas have begun to lightly brown and create a crust.
- Serve with sliced avocado and Manzano chiles and onion.