If you’ve visited Mexico and whilst having a stroll… you, in amazement, spotted an enormous spinning skewer of meat roasting kebab-shop style, wonder no more. We’ve got the story behind what is probably the most popular – and some say most delicious – taco in Mexico… tacos al pastor.
In the 1930s, Lebanese immigrants arriving in Puebla, south central Mexico, were happily making their spit-grilled lamb shawarma, grinning from ear to ear. Until one day, a crafty Mexican decided to swap the meat over to pork and marinate it with his locally produced achiote paste (made from annatto seeds, oregano, cumin and other spices). The taco al pastor was born and the grins continued to grow. Nowadays, vertical “spinning tops” better known as trompos, cook the meat slowly with a rotisserie type flame.
The meat is topped with a fresh pineapple which the “taqueros” (taco bosses) slice along with the thinly carved, succulent pork into freshly made corn tortillas. These lush tacos are then sprinkled with chopped onion & coriander and served with a slice of lime for you to squeeze liberally (as Mexicans like to do). Tacos al pastor have fast become Mexico City’s most famous taco.
As it evolved with the use of other chillies like guajillo, anchos and spices, legendary taquerias like El Fogoncito and El Tizoncito helped boost their popularity as taco parlours opened up around town, then expanded to the rest of the country and now the world.
So next time you visit Mexico watch out from early evening, as the trompos start rolling and tacos al pastor are served until early morning for those heading home after a night out. Yes, just like kebabs, but way tastier. Try them with the salsa “de la casa” and wash them down with your favourite Mexican beer. You won’t be sorry.
Watch out for trials of our own pastor grill being installed in Wahaca Charlotte Street as part of the Year of the Taco.
Photos by Gulliermo Villareal.