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Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Antigua Taqueria La Oriental, Puebla: 100% Poblano
There are many overreaching stories about the Lebanese influence in the taco arabe, or arab tacos, but it's certain that the original creators of these Pueblan tacos were of Iraqi descent.
It was in 1933, that the Tabe Mena family first served what is now known as the taco arabe, a taco filled with spit-roasted pork and a chipotle salsa wrapped in a thick flour tortilla called pan arabe. Other families of Iraqi heritage dispute the Tabe Mena family's claim, but the Tabe Mena family maintains that their grandfather Jorge Mena, who had fled the Turkish invasion of Iraq in the late 1800's, was the first to set up shop.
The Tabe family is still behind the spit of one of the largest tacos arabes chains in Puebla, Antigua Taqueria La Oriental. There are currently over 300 taquerias in the city of Puebla that produce this iconic taste of Pueblan cuisine.
Unlike al pastor--also cooked on vertical spits, called trompos--the pork meat for tacos arabes is carved in the shape of a cylinder, not like a child's top, and the marinade consists of mostly herbs and spices.
At La Oriental, you can get the sweet barbeque-like chipotle sauce, or an herb and mayo dressing from squeeze bottles.
In addition to the original tacos arabes, La Oriental has added all sorts of menu items featuring the same delicious pork, even cemitas and arab pizzas! The two items that are here to stay though, are the taco de harina (same taco on a regular flour tortilla) and the taco oriental (same taco on a corn tortilla).
The taco oriental, oriental taco, is a lighter offering of the signature pork on a corn tortilla.
Taco de harina, La Oriental
The taco de harina, taco in a flour tortilla, is what you likely have been served under the pretense of of a taco arabe in the U.S., but if it's in a regular flour tortilla, it's just a taco de harina. Don't feel bad, these are great, too.
Taco Arabe at La Oriental
But the star here, and the most interesting taco, is the taco arabe, made from the thicker pan arabe. The firm and thick artisanal tortilla has a lightly course texture, and makes for a more satisfying bite. The pork was consistent at the two branches I visited, tender, and plenty of herb-laced pork flavor sweetened by a spicy, smoky chipotle salsa.
There are many great taquerias serving the Pueblan taco arabe, but La Oriental is a wise place to start. It's an original and celebrated addition in the taco genre that's 100% Pueblan, and one of the delicious and unique tacos in Mexican gastronomy.
Antigua Taqueria La Oriental
Over 30 branches(see link to website)
Historica Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla