The Fry Bread House is one of the few places to get authentic Native American style food in the Valley. Fry bread, as the name implies, is a hand-stretched dough that is deliciously fried in oil until golden. After a minimum of convincing, Vess and I decided to pick something up for a late lunch.
Outside of the small building (that is proudly owned and operated by members of the Tohono O’odham Nation) was an American Indian couple selling a myriad of beautiful trinkets made from beads, silver and turquoise. Seeing this intricate work was reason enough for the visit, but I was hungry! After a too-brief glance at the jewelry offerings, we headed inside.
The smell of deep-frying hit us immediately. I had read many great things about this place. I heard they had a fry bread that was slathered with butter then drizzled with a top-secret chocolate sauce that was to die for. There was no time for sweets today, though! We looked at the menu and made our selections. In minutes, our boxes were packaged by the friendly staff and on our table. The five-minute walk home couldn’t have been short enough. When we finally got to the apartment, we opened our bounty for the first glimpse of what we ordered.
Comparing this thing to a Chalupa would be like comparing Godzilla to a salamander. I could do nothing but laugh devilishly. This was probably going to be the unhealthiest meal I had eaten all year… and I couldn’t be happier. It was huge. It filled the entire inside of the container. I had thought about ordering some of their beans on the side but was so glad I didn’t when I saw the taco football quietly resting on the grease-spotted paper.
I had ordered the green fry bread taco (sometimes called a Navajo taco): A fry bread folded like a taco, filled with shredded spicy green chile beef, cheddar, and lettuce.
Vess had the red fry bread taco: same thing but with red chile beef.
I took a look under the hood.
I have never thought that the interior of a taco or burrito has ever looked particularly attractive. I’ve always thought of tortillas as makeup for burritos, so I wasn’t surprised that the inside wasn’t gunning my engines. I added some of the included hot sauce (I think it was homemade) and was on my way.
The first obstacle was how to handle it. My first plan of attack was to just pick it up and eat it like a taco. Having human hands, the bulk was too much and it was sort of like trying to eat a living fish while it’s flopping around. I took a cue from Vess and decided to use the plastic fork and knife that came in the container.
My first bite was mostly bread. It could easily have been a meal on its own. It was crisp on the outside and chewy and tender on the inside. The taste of fresh bread fried in oil filled my mouth, hovered up to my nose and finally sunk to my belly. I was trying to form words, but failing miserably. Finally I cobbled together a rudimentary phrase.
“I know, babe.” Vess responded with a full mouth. “I would have been happy with just the bread!”
I eagerly took another bite, this time taking in some of the succulent green chile beef. This bite was better than the last. The spicy beef had obviously been stewed for a long time by loving hands. The amount of heat was perfect. My nose started to open up as the heat from the chilis crept on and danced around the back of my throat. I wasn’t just tasting a taco, I was tasting tradition.
After a little nagging, I convinced Vess to let me try some of the red chile beef. I was amazed. It had a completely different flavor. It wasn’t as spicy, but had a deeper, richer flavor. I was immediately torn on which I liked better. Each one had their own deliciously unique qualities.
Vess had already given up as I continued to ravage my poor fry bread taco. I was full as well, but couldn’t stop filling my mouth with the new, almost addictive flavors. All too soon, it was over. I picked the last few remaining shreds of lettuce from the bottom in hopes that they had absorbed some of the flavors of their delicious neighbors. Nothing remained in the styrofoam container but the occasional fork holes caused by overzealousness. I tossed the empty container to the side and immediately flopped onto my back. I was happy we decided to bring the food home. There would have been no walking after a meal like that. We skipped dinner that night, and it wasn’t missed.
I knew from the first bite that we would be going back. I also knew it was dangerous to be living so close to a place like that. My first foray into fry bread territory had been overwhelmingly victorious. I can easily see this as one of the foods that I’ll sorely miss when I move away from Phoenix. I admit it’s probably not the best thing for your body… but it is WAY too good to miss.