Anytime I try a new taco stand, I always try the Tacos al Pastor. To me, they are a good indicator of the overall quality of the tacos there. There are some restaurants in Mexico which are dedicated entirely to this style of taco and in Mexico City it is practically an institution. However, nearly every time I order one of these someone asks me what a Pastor taco is and why it is called that instead of “pork taco”.
Let’s dive right in and learn more.
First of all, “al Pastor” means “sheperd style” and many sources cite that its origins come from Lebanese immigrants who arrived in Mexico during the 1960’s and with them came the Shawarma. Today, tacos al pastor are made from pork shaved from a spit much like a Shawarma sandwich, a Gyro or a Doner Kebap.
After marinating the meat, it is cooked on a rotisserie with a pineapple on top. The pineapple provides a very sweet flavor which can be nice alongside some strong cilantro or salsa. The marinades are the real unknown factor as you go from stand to stand. Different regions in Mexico have different recipes for their pastor marinades and these recipes also vary at each restaurant or stand. These recipe secrets are highly guarded and they also make each taco pastor unique and a reason to come back to that establishment.
These tacos are also often called “tacos de trompo” named after the trompo which is the cylinder that the meat rotates on while slicing it off. Also, when you see a gringa offered on a menu, this is similar to a pastor, but instead it is served on a wheat tortilla with cheese. I ordered a gringa once in Puebla on accident and it was one of the greatest things I have ever tasted.
So there we have just one example of a mezcla of different cultures (Middle East meets Mexico) which results in a very delicious treat. We’ll come back and talk more about tacos al pastor and I will let you in on a little secret : where to mind my absolute favorite tacos al pastor in Salt Lake City. Stay Tuned.