Friday, May 02, 2008

The real flavor of Mexico

When it comes to food, if there is one thing about Mexico that stands out it has to be their tacos! Traditionally they are sold right out along the street in busy colonial cities but luckily they are sold almost everywhere including right out along the highway if you keep a sharp eye out. Better than just a great taco if the whole experience of watching it made. Unlike the greasy shell thing we are used to seeing here in the U.S. what you get in Mexico is something you need to see/experience. If it were possible I would love to be able to describe the flavor that causes ones taste buds to stand up and dance the Mexican hat dance when biting into one of these south of the border delicacies.

The first thing you need to learn is they are not called tacos. They are better known as Al pastor. I remember the first evening when my son Will, Jon and I accompanied with Steffan our cameraman took a stroll around Oaxaca late in the evening to get out of the hotel for a bite to eat. Along a busy street we found a place with some stools next to some glass cases filled with wonderful looking food. What stood out most prominently was the vertical stack of meat being cooked by a blow torch flame and the smell was out of this world! We all hung out and ate as much as our bellies would take. (Steffan's belly held a lot more than ours but that's ok since he paid. Thanks Steffan.)

Al pastor (Spanish; "Shepherd style"), also known as Tacos al pastor, is a dish developed in Puebla, Mexico, likely as a result of the adoption of the Shawarma spit-grilled meat brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico.

Usually pork, it is marinated during one or two days with a blend of different spices and herbs (such as adobo), and then slowly cooked on a vertical rotisserie called a Trompo (lit: spinning top), often with a pineapple on top. When ready, the meat is then thinly sliced off the spit with a large knife. It can be served with small tortillas, onions, pineapple, cilantro and lime. It is also a common ingredient in tacos, burritos, and tortas.

Tacos al pastor, are one of the most popular tacos served in taquerias both in Mexico and US Latino neighborhoods. In some places of Northern Mexico, such as Nuevo Leon, these are usually called Tacos de Trompo, if served on maize flour tortillas and gringas if they are served on wheat flour tortillas and cheese.

Unrelated to tacos but interesting to me was the fact that not once did anyone dealing with food ever touch money with their bare hands. The truth is I would like to see more of that here in the U.S.

3 comments: said...

We have a similar delicacy, actually invent here in Halifax in 1979. It's called a Donair and it is now available across Canada. It is made of spiced beef and is served as a wrap in Lebanese bread; it's topped with tomatoes, onions and a special creamy sauce.
Very, very addictive!

Gary Faules said...

Yep, that's the same stuff alright.

I read it's likely as a result of the adoption of the Shawarma spit-grilled meat brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico. Having derived from the Shawarma, it is also similar to the Greek gyros and the Turkish döner kebap, the latter perhaps where all ultimately have their origins.

Gary said...

I was going to make a similar comment. Here in Toronto there is a large Persian population. While the Donair is beef based, shawarma is often made of chicken. It is great with humus and babaganouch (sp?)