Who doesn’t love taco tuesdays? Tacos are the perfect food. They’re flavorful, nutritious and best of all, you’re supposed to eat them with your hands. It’s common knowledge that tacos come from Mexico; although, spoiler alert—burritos are an American invention. But when it comes to tacos al pastor, how did the Mexican specialty gain its Middle-Eastern flare?
If you’ve never had taco el pastor, you’re in for a treat. These “shepherd style” tacos or so that’s what they mean when translated from Spanish are made of delicious spit-grilled pork. They are the right balance between the fat of the pork and the acidity of the spices.
This interesting culinary mix happened after a wave of Lebanese immigrants moved to Mexico in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Later on, in the 1960s, the children of these immigrants began opening up their own restaurants and combining their cultural heritage with Mexican cuisine. They created many dishes based on these two cultures, perhaps one of most well-known ones being tacos al pastor. The special ingredients here are split-grilled pork based on the lamb shawarma, which is common in Lebanese cuisine, and the delicious mix of traditional Middle Eastern spices with Mexican ones.
The pork is marinated in pineapple, chilies and spices then stacked and vertically roasted on a slowly turning spit with a pineapple on top to help bathe the pork with its juice. The outside edges of the pork become crispy and caramelized while the inside remains juicy. The meat is then sliced off the spit-grilled in thin slices and placed on a corn tortilla, along with pineapple, pico de gallo, cilantro and lime juice. You can add other toppings to the mix including salsa verde, salsa, sour cream, avocados or guac.
Slice the pork shoulder into about thin, ¼ inch (1cm) slices, then transfer to a large dish or bowl. In a medium bowl, combine the achiote paste, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, vinegar, and pineapple juice, and start mashing and stirring until smooth with no lumps.
Pour the mix on the pork slices and make sure they are coated on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Place a slice or two of the pineapple on the baking sheet. Push a wooden skewer directly in the middle of the pineapple slice. Remove the pork from the fridge and add the slices through the skewer, layering one after the other until there is a 1-inch (2 ½ cm) space at the top. Push another pineapple slice on top.
Bake for about 1½ hours, until the pork is slightly charred on the outside and deep red inside. Rest the meat for about 10 minutes, then carve off thin slices of pork and roasted pineapple.
Place some pork on the tortillas, followed by a few pieces of pineapple, some chopped onion, a pinch of cilantro, a spoonful of salsa, and some diced avocado. Serve with lime wedges.
Add more toppings to give it some extra flavor.
Tried making your own version of tacos al pastor at home? Then make sure to share your creation on social media and tag us at @skyhour for a chance to be featured on this article.