Tianguis, a retail line from Tacos Valentina, wants to kick up your home cooking

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Courtesy Tacos Valentina/Tianguis

Kansas City’s culinary pop-up scene is thriving, bringing tasty, esoteric eats to a number of locations that otherwise don’t have food options. If you’ve hit up the Crossroads Arts District or Southwest Boulevard for some drinks, you’ve probably run into Tacos Valentina. They have weekly gigs at popular drink spots, like Big Mood Natural Wines, Alma Mader Brewing, and Casual Animal Brewing, where they sling their street tacos and other favorites. With Tianguis, the new retail line from Tacos Valentina, you can bring home those flavors to use any time you like.

For Tacos Valentina chefs Pablo Muñoz and Kendra Valentine, along with co-owner (and Valentine’s husband) Roger Avila, the move into packaging some of their favorite flavors was a natural evolution. “Once Tacos Valentina started taking off, we started utilizing a commissary kitchen,” Avila says. “We have a few other clients in there, but the amount of space at our disposal made us start brainstorming new ideas. Tianguis was born from those brainstorms.”

Avila was kind enough to walk me through a pronunciation session (it’s “tee-ahn-geese,” and the first two syllables sort of blend into one another), and it refers to a bazaar or open-air market, usually held on a specific day of the week. For the team behind these delicious products, that translates to two main cranches of products.

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Courtesy Tacos Valentina/Tianguis

Avila says, “With Tacos Valentina, we wanted to take a simple form of food and elevate it—making it more elegant but still accessible to everyone. With Tianguis, we want to expand that concept to an even wider market, with simple products that are packed full of flavor.”

Street tacos only use a handful of ingredients, so true aficionados know that salsa is key to taking taste to the next level. That’s why the team’s first releases under the Tianguis banner are jars of salsa. Their first retail product is their Salsa Chilanga, a flavor bomb Avila calls “the king of taco salsas.” If you’ve taken a bite of a Tacos Valentina taco and had that blissful moment—your eyes roll up a bit, your hand reaches toward your mouth because it tastes so good—that’s Salsa Chilanga.

The next salsa that Tianguis plans to release is Salsa Macha, which is a more versatile salsa made of oil, nuts, seeds, and a variety of dried peppers. Salsa Macha has an extremely deep flavor with a bit of creeping heat, and it can top pretty much anything that could use a little spice, from breakfast to tacos to chili.

Tianguis isn’t just a one-trick pony. Their salsas, with their versatility and familiar uses, will probably be their biggest mainstream hit. The other branch Tianguis is putting out there will probably develop their most diehard fanbase, though—esoteric specialty ingredients.

The example that Avila cites as the first specialty ingredient currently in development is Sal de Gusano. You know the tequila bottles with the worm at the bottom? That’s an agave worm, which is actually a moth larva that lives inside agave plants—they fatten themselves up on the agave nectar before going through a metamorphosis. With Sal de Gusano (translation: “worm salt”), the worm is toasted and crushed up with chunky rock salt and dried chile peppers. It’s traditionally served on top of citrus slices alongside glasses of Mezcal.

“We want our products to feel communal and unique,” Avila says. “Sal de Gusano is an out-there ingredient that is best enjoyed with friends. We love for people to try something, then come back and share the experience with us. Food is often part of our strongest memories, and we want to help people form those bonds and connections.” The labels for Tianguis’ products also fit this philosophy. Inspired by old-world wine labels, they will inform and educate—giving adventurous eaters a peek behind the curtain at these classic flavors.

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Courtesy Tacos Valentina/Tianguis

As Tianguis ramps up production, they’ll also start informing people how to best use the things they buy. Avila says they’ll offer tips and recipes on their website and at Tacos Valentina pop-ups, and they are also planning on putting some demo videos online. Avila knows some of the unfamiliar products can be intimidating, so it’s important for the Tianguis team to help educate people on how to feel comfortable using their ingredients.

For now, Tianguis products can be purchased at Tacos Valentina pop-ups, and they also have regular shelf space at Big Mood Natural Wines and Barham Family Farm & General Store. They are working on securing more shelf space at other locations, and Avila says that nationwide shipping through an online store is coming in the next few months.

If you like your tacos spicy, Tianguis is for you. If you like your mezcal with a little bit of Sal de Gusano on the side, Tianguis is for you. If you aren’t sure you like that second one, you’ll be able to find out soon. Tianguis is available at multiple retail locations and at Tacos Valentina pop-ups.

Check Tacos Valentina and more info about their pop-up schedule here.

Categories: Food & Drink