Eat This

Anatomy of a 'Crazy' Mexican Snack Food: Tostilocos, a Primer

Tostilocos are, among other things, an expression of the true unbridled passion Latinos share for a good snack. Your mouth cannot hold all the flavors that are going on all at once here, and that is on purpose. There's a reason this snack's name means "crazy chips" in Spanish.

Street vendors have been hacking into bags of tortilla chips and adding all manner of fruits, nuts and sweet and salty toppers for at least a generation in Mexico. These and several epic snacks can be found at walk-up counters in Hispanic neighborhoods all over DFW. 

These antojitos, or street food, are some of the most colorful snacks on the block; they are a fist in the air in the war against blandness. They can also be a lot to handle for a first-timer, so here's what you're getting yourself into if you're game to try the most interesting and challenging snack hack from south of the border.

You can find these critters everywhere from Fort Worth, as pictured above from Chamoy on West Seminary Drive, to Balch Springs and dozens of places in between. But once you order these bad boys, you could then be facing up to seven more quick decisions, assuming you're given the choice for anything other than "con todo."

Here's a tostilocos breakdown: 

 — Mexican yam bean or Mexican turnip. This is one of the dominant flavors, and, despite the unappetizing nature of its name in English, that's actually a good thing. It's mildly sweet, almost like an apple, with a consistency similar to a potato. 

Cucumber — Another cool, fresh flavor that works well with the jicama. The cucumber and the jicama take up most of the space in what ends up being a bag whose tensile strength is tested to its elastic limit by topping overload. 

Japanese peanuts — Don't break your teeth on these mofos, but the big crunch does add something.

Sauce options: Chamoy, Clamato, lemon/lime juice — The simple answer here is yes, yes and yes. Don't worry about the fact that the bag will soon spring a leak out of one corner or another, projecting a spicy red stain waiting to happen. You didn't come here for clean food; you came to get down.

Pickled pork skins — This is the one most folks admit it's OK to do without, but don't be a wuss. They're chewy and salty, and with the spice from the Chamoy and whatever salsas the eatery has lying around, it adds a necessary bit of fat and salt.

Tamarindo candies — Another sweet bit, these are chewy little pellets that look like something you'd find in trail mix. Come to think of it, that's not a bad idea. 

When everything is sufficiently drenched, the juxtaposition of sweet and salt comes on about four different levels and crunchiness of the nuts looms large.

Pro tip: Use a fork to find a chip, which are now on the bottom of that mess in your hands. Load it with jicama and cucumber, soaked in sauce, and get two or three of those slithery pork skins on there, too. For every pork skin, add one tamarindo. It becomes like a cold, even snackier version of nachos.

In fact, if white people had named them, it's fair to say tostilocos would just be known as "cold nachos."
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Matt Martinez is a DFW-lifer who handles the Observer's editorial social media channels when he's not waxing cynical in our news, food and music verticals. Rest assured, he hates your favorite team. Matt studied journalism at the University of Texas and then again, for some reason, at UNT. He has written for the Austin Chronicle, the Denton Record-Chronicle and currently writes sports for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Contact: Matthew Martinez