Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Chiquito pero Peligroso":El Tizoncito, DF, the birth place of tacos al pastor

After a long hike from the subway stop at Chapultepec to Condessa looking for a little nightlife in DF I happened upon El Tizoncito, Los creadores del taco al pastor(the creators of tacos al pastor).Mexico City really goes to sleep on Sunday night.I found only a few popular bars open in which to libate before running into the original El Tizoncito.Sort of knew where I was going but was on foot.It was a goal on this DF trip to check out some al pastor, good friend Kaire Raisu was down for the count on this Sunday in Mexico City and wouldn't be able to get a taste 'til the next day.

I hadn't had much luck with al pastor over the years, ususally dissapointed with the underwhelming favorites in LA,and not always having luck in other parts of Mexico either.My previous best had been in Cananea, Sonora.I stood by and excitedly watched a guy load his trompo(spit) during one afternoon at the fair in Leon,Guanajuato, only to come back later that evening only to taste some very average tacos.But, this is El Tizoncito, the creators of one of the top two tacos in all of Mexico, and one of the most loved tacos worldwide.

As I eagerly awaited my first crack at these things I ordered a Montejo beer, and struck up a conversation with the non-pastor taquero named Natividad. He spoke proudly of their prized tacos de pastor, only occasionally distracted by the film "Chiquito pero Peligroso"(Little Man from the Wayan's Brothers)playing in the background.I love the over the top translations.This movie completely blows, but the taqueros and meseros didn't mind a little potty humor and physical comedy while they tacoed away.Just like that pint-sized criminal posing as a baby in the Wayan's Brothers movie, the tacos at El Tizoncito are small but dangerous, in a tasty way.

The El Tizoncito in Condessa was started by Dona Conchita in 1966 along with her sons. The vertical spit had been brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants for cooking shwarma, and at some point Mexicans adopted the cooking device for their own purposes. This evolution took place in the part of Mexico where the Lebanese settled, in DF, Puebla, and the Yucatan, and probably involved several phases, but El Tizoncito was the first to put tacos al pastor in their current form on the map.Not to be confused with the original cabrito al pastor from Nuevo Leon(whole butterflied roasted kid),tacos al pastor are made with pork marinaded in a rub of chiles, spices, and citrus.

Well, I was a captive audience watching these tacos go down. First, El Tizoncito uses only quality lomo(loin) for their pastor, and the marinade is all from scratch.On the trompo there are always three whole onions to form the base of support for the meat.A pineapple attached atop the spit is gracefully flicked by the knife of the taquero where its circus like journey is the grand finale.

The tortillas are the mini sized, which allows for a few slices of succulent al pastor, revealing their beautiful lines and contours.The tender pork is sliced thin leaving a well manicured round of meat.Onions and cilantro are generously applied, and that al pastor is supple to the touch. I've had it thin sliced before but usually dry, or flavorless.The al pastor meat is carved directly vertical rows made by the taquero directly into the taco.

Al Pastor is almost universally served with pineapple in Mexico City, but al pastor is done in all 32 states in Mexico, as well as the capital. It has another regional name used in some northern states where it is known as adobada, which is the same thing. There is also a practice in other parts of Mexico where the al pastor, or adobada is griddled off the spit because the customers prefer a more crispy texture. The use of pineapple also varies from region to region, and even within a city, depending on who's doing the cooking.

Tacos al Pastor, El Tizoncito

Al pastor taqueros must be specialists, and the ones here at El Tizoncito are real pros. Knives are sharpened constantly and the trimming of the trompo is meticulous, the mark of a competent master.They marinate, load the trompo,cook their pork, and plate their tacos with impressive speed and accuracy.

Sorry, forgot I can't shoot video sideways, but you'll get over the crick in your neck after watching this marvelous display.

The salsas served from an attractive tower were excellent, best of all the frijoles.

El Tizoncito isn't the best taco al pastor in DF, a city so densely packed with stands, taquerias, and every other delivery method imaginable.But, they are a benchmark that all who love tacos al pastor should know.It's impossible with so many al pastor choices in DF to really know.The two others I had in DF, one in Xochimilco which was solid,and another near Mercado Sonora which was just average, were far better than what I've come across in LA.Every neighborhood has their favorites, and someone knows of someplace around the corner which you can't seem to find(this actually happened), and there are places that disappear and surface elsewhere.I'm ready to find better and equivalents but now have a standard by which all future tacos al pastor that come my way shall be evaluated. You could go mad searching for the best, but have a couple of these small but distinctively flavored tacos al pastor.Order a beer, watch the pineapple chunks fly, and discover why los tacos El Tizoncito son chiquitos pero peligrosos!

El Tizoncito
Condessa,D.F(original location at Tamaulipas and Campeche)
At various locations in DF, Chiapas,Estado de Mexico, Jalisco,Morelos, Nuevo Leon,Queretaro,Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosi,and Yucatan.

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