Take The Leap - Today I had beef noodle soup and scallion pancakes with someone I used to love dearly. The details, of course, will remain vague and unpublished but I will...
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Ricos Tacos Toluca, D.F.-The Sausage King From the Charcuterie Capital of Mexico
Just about an hour west of Mexico City lies Toluca, a city in the state of Mexico, and a center of embutidos. Embutidos are stuffed sausages, a product brought to Mexico from the Iberian peninsula. Along with pigs, the Spaniards brought their meat preservation techniques, and varieties of stuffed sausages.Fresh chorizos and longaniza sausages are the most popular throughout Mexico.
Tolucans are revered for both their industrial chorizo production and artisanal embutido craft. They've even created their own distinct chorizo in the embutido genre, green chorizo. Green chorizo isn't really available outside the state of Mexico.In other words, when in DF, don't pass up an opportunity to sample this rare treasure.
Ricos Tacos Toluca is a humble taqueria near the San Juan market in Mexico City on the gastronomic strip that is calle Lopez. Here you will find homemade head cheese, green chorizo with almonds, red chorizo, longaniza(a long red sausage), cecina(salt cured beef), cecina in adobo, and pork blood sausage. These tacos should be at the top of your list when in Mexico City, where one can indulge in fine dining for less than a dollar a taco.
Oliver Rosana is the sausage king of D.F.He makes his stuffed pork meat sausages at his home factory and brings then to the stall each day. He uses all meat in his chorizos, no parts.Oliver chooses the best flavored cuts. He weaves a basket around the head cheese, made from cooked then cooled pig lips, collagen, fat, and cheeks. Any charcuterie in France would happily display Oliver's fromage de tête in their shop.
Mexican sausages here in the US are brown, sad looking things; or crumbly, industrial produced pastes devoid of flavor. At Ricos Tacos Toluca vibrant colored chorizos are festooned from a cord in Oliver's taqueria. The window display has the macabre, alluring obispo, pork blood sausages, that could resemble obscure props in a Marilyn Manson video.
In addition to the specialties here, you must try Oliver's tacos of chorizo and lonaganiza here. The longaniza is everyhwere in Mexico City, and the version here will change your perception of Mexican sausages. Quality Spanish pimenton, (paprika) color fine cuts of minced pork with propietary spicings to achieve the pinnacle of flavor.
A pile of cecina, salt cured beef, sits next to a hand woven basket of head cheese, and a sliced open obispo, displaying its raw beauty.
Obispo(bishop)has more girth than the usual beef blood sausages of Latin America.This impressive sausage gets its name from the white cloak-like casing and hood at the end that give it the appearance of a bishop at prayer.
The first time I visited Oliver's taqueria he told me I should come a little earlier to see all his sausages on display. I took his advice and arose bright and early taking in the scenic walk from the Zocalo to Mercado San Juan to get a glimpse of the uncommon green chorizo,and paprika stained chorizos and longanizas dangling in front of hungry customers.
I always appreciate the knife and hands of real taqueros.Observing the ritual of a taco prepared by a master taquero is a sensorial delight. Fresh and superior meats, stews, and condiments; quick and deft knife work;the craft of a seasoned cook; plating that is fast but stylized. There is always a tableside experience when eating tacos from stands and taquerias.
Mexican charcuterie is not like your typical charcuterie experience where you purchase the goods to prepare and serve at home. Here the sausage maker grills his wares right before your covetous eyes, the scent of meats and spices provoke your palate.
Chorizo verde(green chorizo) is made with serrano chiles, spinach, pine nuts, and almonds. The more spicy expression of chorizo at Ricos Tacos Toluca reveals a complex flavor, a flavor one can only experience from chorizo at its peak. The industrial type are heavy on the vinegar and are far from their youth. Here you taste pork, properly seasoned and matched with green vegetal notes.
The Obispo taco is another taco you must have at Ricos Tacos Toluca. The obispo is made right after the pig is slaughtered to incorporate pig's blood. These sausages are more meat, fat and spices than blood, much firmer in their texture. Luscious pork fat seeps into your tortilla and blends with the salsa. This is a pork lovers playground.
Queso de puerco(head cheese) is usually consumed in Mexico in commercial form as tedious lunchmeat. Oliver slices the head cheese to entice his clients with its attractive pattern of layered fat, pork lips, and cheeks.
I'm always careful to put just a minimal amount of guacamole and salsa on the head cheese taco. All of Oliver's tacos are celestial.
Near the area where he fries longanizas there are pork fat flavored beans, grilled onions, and french fries. If you ask for your tacos "con todo", with everything, you will get french fries cooked in the same oil at the longanizas. His customers always oblige, but I was skeptical of this adulteration of my pristine taco. Oliver may be a taco smith, but he's also practical. The french fries pair fantastically with his sausages, and a drop of beans in their broth only add to the party in your mouth.
And, the salsa is lava red from the roasted tomatoes, the guacamole is vibrant and of the criollo variety. The criollo avocado can be eaten whole, skin and all, it is so delicious. They're the kind of condiments that any food stylist would be proud to have in their shot. No dressing up necessary. Come experience the art of sausage making, the gastronomy of Toluca, and the finest Mexican charcuterie in D.F.
Ricos Tacos Toluca
mornings and afternoons
Calle Lopez at Puente Paredo
Near the Mercado San Juan