Back in the early 90s when we started riding our old motorbikes across northern Mexico we ate like kings at tiny taco carts in Sierra Mojada, Acuna, Piedras Negras, and La Babia.
You could get a flophouse motel room for $10 or $15, the bars would charge a flat $10 for all you could drink, and tacos were a buck apiece.
It was a wild era brought to a screeching halt when the narcotraficantes started the sideline business of kidnapping American visitors, and holding them for ransom. The last place on earth you want to be is in a dingy Nueva Federacion-held house in the scrubby deserts of Coahuila.
The best al pastor I ever put in my mouth was served off a plancha powered by a car battery near Plaza Benjamin Canales in Ciudad Acuna. A pair of tias were patting out corn tortillas by hand, and carving pastor off a spit licked by brazier flames.
It was 5am, and tacos were needed to tamp down all the Tecate Light we’d been drinking at Pancho’s Bar.
Earlier this month I was woodshedding recipes in Austin when I came up with this one
It didn’t take long. All I had to do was daydream for a couple hours about all the middle-of-the-night tacos I used to live for down by the Rio Grande on the Mexican border.
A Recipe For Tacos Al Pastor
12lb Pork Shoulder, cut into 1” cubes
2 Ancho Chiles, toasted
2 Guajillo Chiles, toasted
1 c. Maggi stock, 4 cubes dissolved in 1c. Water
24 oz Conchita bitter orange juice
1 c. Jumex Mandarin Orange nectar
2 T. Mexican oregano
2 T. Cumin
1 T. Cinnamon
1 t. Ground cloves
1 3.5 oz bar Achiote paste
1 c. Chipotle puree
¼ c. Vinegar, white
2 T. Paprika
1 bulb garlic, chopped
3 T. Salt, kosher
1 c. Soy sauce
3 T. Black pepper
¼ c. Sugar
If you can source good heritage pork from a local farm please do so
The difference in heritage pork and grocery store pork is immeasurable
The recipe is quite long but actually really easy
The key is mise en place (get all ingredients out and in one place)
These tacos does not need any salsa
Play with the formula all you’d like
Make it your own by adding or subtracting various ingredients