Tacos al Pastor

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Those pineapple-and-pork tacos served on almost every street corner in every Mexican city? You know them as tacos al pastor, and their origin story is fascinating. This Mexican street food classic has Middle Eastern roots.

Tacos al pastor —thin slices of pork shaved from a giant tower of layered meat rotating on a spit beside an open grill, piled onto one or two soft tortillas and topped with onions, chopped cilantro, a spear or chunks of pineapple, and a dollop of salsa—are to Mexico City what chili is to Cincinnati.

Tacos al pastor are believed to have evolved from culinary traditions that came to Mexico along with the wave of Lebanese immigration that began in the late 19th century and continued into the 1930s. The enormous cone of spiced and marinated meat (known as a trompo, or child’s top, which it resembles) is the pork version of lamb shawarma. Hence the designation al pastor—which, roughly translated, means “shepherd’s style.”

The explanation for the pineapple, however, remains unknown.

You don’t need a spit to make this authentic-tasting tacos al pastor recipe. Grilling the pork over low heat gives the marinade time to caramelize and mingle with the rendering fat. It’s the stuff crispy bits are made of.

Recipe by Yesenia Ruiz
(SERVES 4)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1½ pounds boneless pork tenderloin
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • Salt and pepper
  • Achiote paste
  • Orange and lemon juice to cover
  • Corn oil
  • 8 fresh corn tortillas
  • Fresh pineapple sliced into spears
  • Finely chopped cilantro and onion

MAKE IT

  1. Rub the pork with garlic, salt, pepper, and achiote paste, and then marinate it in the juices for at least two hours or overnight.
  2. Two hours before making tacos, remove the pork from the marinade and freeze the meat to facilitate slicing.
  3. When you’re ready to cook, cut the pork into the thinnest possible slices.
  4. Coat a cast-iron skillet with a thin layer of corn oil, bring up the heat to high, and fry the meat until slightly crispy on the edges.
  5. Warm the corn tortillas on a flat griddle, and then scoop a generous portion of the meat into the center of a single tortilla (or a stack of two). Top the filling with a slice of pineapple and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and onion. Fold. Serve immediately, with salsa.

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August 10, 2018 |

2 thoughts on “Tacos al Pastor

  1. Dominic Evans says:

    Great article, I’m going to try and make some now I’ll let you know how I get on.

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