Have you ever eaten anything so good, and so greasy, that you were tempted to carry your grease-stained napkin home, just so you could later get a nostalgic whiff of the spicy aroma? I was marinating some chicken today, and as I licked my fingers I flashed back to the first time I tasted tacos in Mexico. These weren't just any tacos. They were invented by Puebla's immigrants and served on a thick flour tortilla (a nod to the pita). These tacos árabes, as the succulent snacks are known, are made with slow-cooked pork bathed in a special garlic–chile marinade and carved off a vertical rotisserie.
The pork is marinated over one or two days in a combination of dried chiles and then slowly cooked with a gas flame on a vertical rotisserie called a Trompo (lit: spinning top), very similar to how Shawarma (a Middle Eastern sandwich-like wrap of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef) is cooked. Add a piece of fresh onion and a pineapple on top. The juice from the pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which breaks down protein and makes the meat very tender. When ready, the meat is then thinly sliced off the spit with a large knife. It is served on tortillas, with finely chopped onions, cilantro and a small slice of pineapple, and usually topped with some lime juice and hot salsa.
The dish was supposedly first served in the city of Puebla, Mexico, in the 1930s, when an Iraqi immigrant named Jorge Tabe opened an eatery that advertised both “tacos arabes” and “tacos estilo Doneraky.”
These tacos have been brought by Mexican immigrants to the United States in the past few years and have become popular in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, the two largest Mexican and Mexican-American population centers in the United States.
Pork, the other white meat!
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