Tuesday, January 11, 2011

No Name Carnitas Stand in Mexico City: Mexico City Style Carnitas, The Other White Meat Stars of Mexico

The carnitas in Mexico City will knock you out. They're common around the metro stops around the city in the morning. In Mexico's capitol, the pork is fried in lard inside of a stainless steel cazo, a large kettle. Cuts vary from stand to stand, but head to tail frying is the norm. Shoulder, ribs, shank, lips, tongue, tripe, uterus, kindey, liver, skin, mixed, hog's maw, and more. In other regions, carnitas are purchased from carnitas shops to go, here in Mexico City they are served on the street for tacos.

Way too early in the morning after a day of metroing, eating, drinking, and walking 'til the wee hours, my friend Josh and I hit the Mercado San Juan looking for one of my favorite taquerias. Mexico City will kick your ass, wear you out. Josh Lurie of Food GPS was visiting DF for the first time and we had full days planned, but when it comes to street food in Mexico City, never fear, there's always a plan B.

My guy didn't show that morning so we started to head over to Arcos de Belen and walk to the Mercado Merced, checking out the bounty of eats along the way, but these carnitas were looking like the way to start the festivities .

This unnamed stand at the corner of Dr. Valenzuela and Arcos de Belen near the Mercado San Juan has been on the street for 20 years. It's a four man operation, two cooks to work the cazo, a taquero to make the tacos, and a cashier. This is important,carnitas are a serious affair! The taquero is your typical gunslinger, fast with deadly accuracy, the cashier tends to customers and keeps the cooks hands away from our filthy money. The guys running the cazo? They just insure us to dine on perfectly cooked pork parts, still retaining a bit of pinkish color with lardened offal and tender meat.

Perhaps a bit of lovely skin? Skin is as much a textural sensation as it is flavorful.

Hog's maw, voluptuous, soft, and wrinkly, is pretty in pink.

A gathering of shank and tripe, can we get both? Yes you can. Surtida, or mixed is the way to go to get all the parts thrown in. This varies from taco to taco depending on what's near the taquero, or is preferred by the taquero. The wonders of the surtida are in the range of bites, and notes.

Chamorro, or shank is a Mexico City favorite.

The salsas also reflect the city's style. A red salsa of fresh chile de arbol, non-existant in Los Angeles, and a green salsa of the more fruity cuaresmeño, identical to the jalapeño, but delivers more body. Followed by pickled onions with hellish habanero and and a colorful pico de gallo.

Tongue with a pico de gallo perfectly supple with a dense pork flavor.

On the left, some excellent shoulder, one of the more challenging cuts to deliver moist, was quite a bite. These guys know how to fry some carnitas. The buche might have been the standout of me that morning. (pictured on the right). So clean and attractive, a fine piece of offal. It's everything carnitas should be, full of that natural pork flavor, but with a righteous mouth feel. Essential to what great carnitas are about is the texture that traditional cooking imparts.

This isn't the best carnitas stand in DF, but just another nameless, faceless band of craftsman on some corner in reasonably the greatest ongoing street food tradition on the face of the planet.

Unnamed Carnitas Stand
Dr.Valenzuela/Arcos de Belen
near the Mercado San Juan
Mexico City


Anonymous said...

Like Jose Alfredo Jimenez says "Vamonos...."

Food GPS said...

Those may not have been the best carnitas in DF, but they were still damn good, especially the tongue. This would be a destination stop in Los Angeles for sure. Happy to have been there for the moment of discovery. Back to Mexico in 2011!

streetgourmetla said...

Anonymous-vamanos indeed

Food GPS-THis would be the best carnitas in Los Angeles if it were in LA, obliterating the competition. It's an above average stand in Mexico City. I would go back, for sure.