mexican

Gringas

Photos by Adrián Júarez

Photos by Adrián Júarez

"Creo que las gingas de tu país son mas guapas que las nuestras."
"I think the gringas in your country are more beautiful than ours."

It was a dark and stormy night... and we were hungry. But seriously, the first time I tried gringas, it seemed like the world might end. I was in the car with my buddy Noé driving down the street in Nezahualcóyotl, Mexico City on our way to eat dinner when all of a sudden a freak hailstorm, like none anyone there had seen in their lifetime, came out of nowhere. We took refuge underneath a small tree that sat alongside the street and waited for the storm to pass. All of the fallen leaves and twigs from the tree plastered on the car made it look like a taco sprinkled with chopped cilantro. Water and ice flooded the streets; everything was white. Neza York looked more like New York at Christmas than Mexico at the end of Spring.  "Vaya primavera," I said. 

 

When the apocalypse had come and gone, we went out for tacos. But not only tacos, gringas. You have probably heard that gringas means white girls. True. But the word can have another meaning here in CDMX. These are Mexican gringas, and they are gorgeous. Gringas (as a dish) consist of carne al pastor, pineapple chunks and cheese all grilled together in a beautiful, cheesy mass, and sandwiched in-between two toasted flour tortillas. For this post we have the special treat of having a pro taquero show you how it's done.

Shoutout to friend and master photographer Adrián Juárez for illustrating today's post. You can check out more of his work on his website: http://www.adrianjuarezphotography.com/ as well as FB and Instagram @adrianjuarezphotography

And an equally special shoutout to Pizza y Parilla Lily for letting us take photos at their taco post and for making some seriously delicious gringas. 

Night crew at Pizza y Parilla Lily | Ciudad de México  (I was under the impression that we were smiling in this photo, but was obviously mistaken.) 

Night crew at Pizza y Parilla Lily | Ciudad de México (I was under the impression that we were smiling in this photo, but was obviously mistaken.) 

 

HOW IT'S DONE

Start with the carne al pastor and pineapple, see last week's post on tacos al pastor for more info on where to get carne al pastor at home. 

Next add a nice thick layer of cheese on top of the meat on the grill. Mozzarella or Queso Oaxaca can be used (monzzarella was used here). 

Now start to mix and turn the meat on the grill as cheese starts to melt and combine.

When you have an beautiful monument of meat and cheese, toast your tortillas until they start to get a little crispy. Then scoop a generous helping onto the tortillas and then place a second tortillas on top. 

Now you might be saying, hold up, isn't this just a quesadilla? No. No, it is not. The gringa is defined by carne al pastor, pineapple, and cheese, nothing more, nothing less. The quesadilla is a completely different animal in that they could have any number of different kinds of meat inside, they often contain grilled vegetables, the fold of the tortilla is different, the cheese can be different, etc., etc. I don't think a redhead would appreciate you calling her a blonde, or a brunette a redhead. Same thing applies here. Gringas are special. Enjoy them, treasure them, but don't call them quesadillas. 

Serve with Coca-cola Mexicana

Pair with La Vida Contigo, Banda Radial

¡Buen provecho! 

 

 

Tacos al Pastor

Zócalo, Ciudad de Mexico

Zócalo, Ciudad de Mexico

It's been a while guys, I apologize for the extended absence things have been a little crazy. To a certain degree we expect life to give us lemons so we kind of plan on making lemonade at the end of the day, but it doesn't always work out like that. Sometimes life gives you an onion. What am I supposed to do with an onion? A lot more possibilities, but a little bit trickery to figure out. Life recently gave me an onion, so I made tacos with it. Actually, I did even better and went to Mexico City and had master taqueros make tacos with it. 

TACOS

But that's enough kitchen metaphors. Let's talk about tacos. If the only taco options you have ever been given were "soft or crunchy?" please allow me the pleasure of showing you something magical. Real tacos. Real tacos are not just for Tuesdays, they are for any and all days; they are for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and anything inbetween.  And with the limitless varieties of tacos, they are the perfect culinary starting point on your latin journey. Since tacos are kind of a big deal, I'm splitting this up into two posts. Post one (this one) will give you some background on a Mexico City classic: Tacos al Pastor. Post two (next week) will show you how to make them. Listo?

WHAT AM I EATING

Tacos al pastor are one of my all time favorite street foods and consist of seasoned pork topped with pineapple, onion, cilantro and lime. The fresh cilantro, sweet pineapple and crisp, acidic lime are incredibly refreshing and pair perfectly with the savory pork. The pork is traditionally cooked on a vertical spit called a trompo (Spanish for "spinning top") with a pineapple skewered on top, letting the juices drip down onto the slow cooking meat as it spins round and round in a tantalizing taco dance. 

Super Tacos Las Chupa Cabras, Coyoacán CDMX   |  Photo © Pako Escobar

Super Tacos Las Chupa Cabras, Coyoacán CDMX  | Photo © Pako Escobar

The very first time I had tacos al pastor was (of all places) at a fútbol tournament in Jackson, Mississippi. The tacos were served out of a food truck (or more accurately a truck that was serving food) parked alongside one of the fields. They had a three foot portable speaker connected to cell phone blaring bachata and reggetón with the bass on blast and a small chalk board with a menu full of tacos I had never heard of before. I barely spoke Spanish at the time and was new to the taco scene so I asked the taquero what he recommended. "Tacos al pastor, wero" he said. "Dame tres," I responded. I had no idea what I was eating, but I was hooked after the first bite.

WHAT'S IN A NAME

The name is kind of curious, it translates literally as "tacos of the pasture" or "pasture style tacos", which is odd because they are pork tacos and pigs aren't pasture animals. Some believe that the name is tied to the the origin of these tacos, way on the other side of the world in the Middle East.

Kebap El Sultán, Alicante España |   Photo: Roberto Auz

Kebap El Sultán, Alicante España | Photo: Roberto Auz

Hold up. Middle East? I thought we were talking about classic Mexican tacos! Let me explain. So in the Middle East and Europe you will find something called Döner Kebap. Kebap is strikingly similar to tacos al pastor in that it consists of thinly sliced meat cooked on a spinning vertical spit served as a street food. Kebap is almost always lamb or chicken but beef kebap is not unheard of. Pork, however, is not too common for obvious reasons. Kebap is topped with a number of things such as sliced cabbage with carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, etc. and then slathered in white and red salsas, some spicy, some not. It was a favorite of mine while in Spain because it's delicious, fast, cheap and available on most street corners. Ojo, whenever I try to explain Kebap to someone the usual response is "Oh, so it's like a gyro." No. They look similar, but the flavor profiles and cooking methods are worlds apart. Kebap is not a gyro, just like you are not your cousin Jennifer.   

HOW IT GOT TO MEXICO

The generally accepted story is that Middle Eastern migrants to Mexico took the Kebap tradition with them, as it was blended into the Mexican culture the lamb meat was substituted for the more affordable and easily accessible pork meat and tacos arabes were born. Tacos arabes are similar to tacos al pastor in the use of pork cooked on a trompo but instead of a traditional corn or flour tortilla a type of thin peta bread is used, the meat is also seasoned differently and has a distinct taste. Tacos arabes then eventually developed into what we now know as tacos al pastor.

Pizzas y Parilla Lily, Nezahualcóyotl, CDMX |   Photo © Adrian Júarez  

Pizzas y Parilla Lily, Nezahualcóyotl, CDMX | Photo © Adrian Júarez 

HOY EN DIA 

Depending on where you go, tacos al pastor will vary quite a bit. Sometimes the pineapple is just on top of the trompo and not diced in with the meat. Sometimes the pineapple is on the table with the salsas and guacamoles as an option. Sometimes it's cooked in with the meat on a grill and not even on a trompo. There is no one way to make them. They are a reflection of Mexico City: ever changing, ever growing, ever developing. Mexican writer Juan Villoro said it best

"El Distrito Federal y la zona conurbada se han transformado a tal ritmo que el espacio no puede ser visto como una categoría fija. Estamos ante una metrópoli nómada que migra hacia sí misma.
The Federal District (Mexico City) and conurbation have transformed at such a rapid speed that the area cannot fit into any fixed category. We are before a nomadic metropolis that is migrating towards itself." 

Tacos al pastor are kind of like that. They are recognizable, undeniably Mexico City, and ever evolving. Next post I'll show you how to make your own.

¡Hasta pronto!