Friday, April 2, 2010
Birrieria Apatzingan, Pacoima,CA-The Pleasures of Birria and Regional Bites from Apatzingan, Michoacan
Back in December I played a show in Apatzingan, Michoacan. This was brilliant trip that included my first visit to Morelia, and a stop in my current fling, Mexico City.
Apatzingan lies in the Tierra Caliente, hot lands, of Michoacan. And, it turns out that this little town has its own cuisine. The cooking of Michoacan is elusive, even in the the capital of Morelia, where much of the legendary cuisine is mostly found in homes of michoacanos. I know there are many people from Michoacan here in LA, but there isn't a single restaurant dedicated to the cuisine of Michoacan, except in.....Pacoima!
I believe I passed by this place about a year ago, made a mental note, but never followed up. Armed with my new appreciation of the delights of the Tierra Caliente, I took a closer look a couple weeks back......and....jackpot.
The restaurant is tucked back in the parking lot behind a convenience store called Super Stop. Its treasures are splashed in bright red letters against an orange sherbet exterior. Doesn't get anymore authentic than that!
Inside, a typical cafeteria style restaurant that seems to be a common decor in Pacoima.On the wall atop the arch of a walkway is a picture the chef, Martin, with his hands around a goat's neck. Martin has been here for two years, and was kept on recently when new owners took over a couple of month ago. His job in the morning is to fire up the birria. Josepha is around in the afternoons to make the various Apatzingan dishes and prepare fresh tortillas for the birria.
I remember scanning the taqueria menu signs driving into Apatzingan and seeing
chavindecas in every restaurant. What the hell are chavindecas? How come I never heard of 'em?
I had gone to a taqueria in the town center of Apatzingan to look for these chavindecas, when I discovered their rather uninvolved construction. It's just two tortillas with melted cheese and carne asada sandwiched in between.But don't pass this off as a mere quesadilla. This is the comforting flavor of toasty corn-scented tortillas with the lubricious pairing of melted cheese and carne asada.
The pure corn tamales of Michoacan, uchepos, make their debut here in LA. They are served with crema mexicana, and a tomatillo sauce. These are only offered on the weekends, but you'd better get up early or call in advance. Forget about the other corn tamale hypes in town, this is the real deal. They are brought to the restaurant from San Jose, CA where a master tamalera from Michoacan makes them.
They have pork ribs in a tomatillo sauce, but get this in the morisqueta, a sort of Mexican rice bowl with white rice, beans, and a topping of supple pork ribs in a tangy salsa. This is another hearty specialty of Apatzingan. This is a Friday lunch date kinda treat.
Aporreadillo is another dish you will not likely find around these parts. Eggs are cooked in a mild spiced sauce with cecina, Mexican beef jerky, famous in Michoacan. I had this on my Morelia run and am relieved to learn I could have this plate just a short drive from home.
Enchiladas of chicken or cecina are done Apatzingan style. This is similar, or rather identical to the famous pollo de la plaza(plaza chicken) in Morelia.
A guajillo chile sauce is used to fry chicken and potatoes. This same enchilada sauce is applied to corn tortillas stuffed with cotija cheese and fried into what resemble tacos.
The enchiladas are covered with lettuce, tomato, and onion.
These are a deconstructed enchilada as compared to the usual type, or perhaps the folks from Apatzingan would call our local version of the chicken enchilada a "constructed" enchilada.
Either way, this is one of the few regional enchiladas you can enjoy here in Los Angeles, a delicious dish, and something special that can expand your antojito horizions.
But don't let all this exotic regional gastronomy distract you too much, this is a birrieria after all. There's is always a big pot simmering, and the aromas of goat and spice permeate the restaurant.
This is a birria en caldo, a birria soup. This is reason alone to come to Birrieria Apatzingan. The broth is slurp 'til the last drop good, the kind of soup that makes you cringe the each time a dot of the juice falls onto the table negotiating the journey from bowl to mouth. The best way is to close the distance, eating directly above the scented aromas floating around the rim of the bowl.
Cumin is a principal spice in birria, but here you get cinnamon, garlic, cloves, laurel leaves,and sweet peppers. There is luscious balance of spicing, dried chiles, oily goat stock, and succulent meat.
This is the baby of chef Martin from Apatzingan, a personal recipe that can call itself among the top birrias in town. It's only peer at this time is Flor del Rio in Boyle Heights, but if you live in the Valley, Flor del Rio might as well be as far as driving all the way to Zacatecas.
10040 Laurel Canyon Bl
Pacoima, CA 91331