Tacos al Pastor: Beto Mendoza’s go-to comfort food

I was born in Wasco, CA, and raised in Eagle Lake, TX and have always considered myself a true Texan. I grew up poor but rich in culture and family. Mexican cuisine has always been a big part of the Latino culture, bringing families together during celebrations or just weekend gatherings.  Some of my fondest memories with my family most always include delicious Mexican dishes like tamales, empanadas, chilaquiles and enchiladas. 

One of my fondest and earliest memories was eating tacos al pastor for the very first time with my parents. My father took my mother and me to La Calle de Taco, street of tacos, in Reynosa, Tamaulipas Mexico. This was a street in Reynosa lined on both sides with different taco vendors stretching for over a mile. That’s where I had my first taco al pastor and completely fell in love with the taste. I went back many times to the Calle de Taco and each time I had a taco al pastor, it transported me back to that day my parents took me for my first street taco. 

After my mother passed in 2002, I returned to La Calle de Taco to recapture that memory of my parents. This is my comfort food because when I eat it the memories that flood my mind comfort me.

La Calle de Taco is still there but due to all the violence among the cartels, 80% of the businesses have shuttered. This once thriving and bustling area looks like an abandoned, neglected street.  Since it is too dangerous to go eat there, I taught myself to make these tacos. Now, I can always have that taste to accompany the memory of the day my mother and father took me for my first street taco.  

📷 Beto Mendoza

Recipe for Tacos al Pastor

1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless pork loin or pork butt, thinly sliced

1 tomato

3 peppers dried guajillo chile peppers, seeded

2 medium (4-1/2″ long) dried ancho chile peppers, seeded

 1 pineapple, sliced 3/4-inch thick

½ cup orange juice

1 onion, quartered

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1 Tbsp salt, or to taste

-2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Cook tomato on a ridged grill pan over medium high heat until slightly blackened, about five minutes. Remove from heat and cool until easily handled. Peel off skin and remove seeds.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add guajillo and ancho chile peppers; cook until softened, about five minutes; drain.

Combine tomato flesh, softened chile peppers, two slices pineapple, orange juice, quartered onion, chipotle peppers, salt, garlic, cloves, cumin seeds and oregano in a blender; blend until smooth.

Arrange pork slices in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Pour blended mixture over pork, ensuring all sides are evenly coated. Cover baking dish with plastic wrap. Marinate pork in the refrigerator four hours to overnight.

Cook remaining pineapple slices on a ridged grill pan over medium high heat until slightly blackened and soft, about five minutes per side. Chop into small pieces.

Preheat grill pan over medium high heat. Cook marinated pork in the hot pan, turning once until browned, four to five minutes.

Chop pork and remaining cooked pinappple coarsely into small pieces against the grain. 

Serve with your choice of salsa, avocado, crema fresca or pico de gallo.

Gilberto Mendoza has been a resident of Flint, Texas, since January, 2017. He is currently a student at UT Tyler in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program.

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