Young and Hungry

Tacos Al Pastor: Lebanon’s Gift to Mexico

Taste Insight, "Tacos al Pastor" with Nicholas Gilman from Inside Mexico on Vimeo.

Forgive Y&H's obsession with tacos this week, but I've been fascinated by the wealth of history behind this simple Mexican street snack. Take tacos al pastor. Many taquerias don't prepare them the traditional way, which requires a vertical rotisserie like the ones you see in shawarma shops. 

In the video above, Nicholas Gilman explains the presence of these spits in Mexican taquerias. They're legacies, it seems, of the Lebanese natives who brought them to Mexico in a wave of immigration in the mid-20th century. Mexican taco makers merely adapted them to a meat more common in Latino cuisine.

Not that I don't trust Mr. Gilman, but I wanted to do some fact-checking on this page in culinary history, so I turned to Mark Miller's excellent cookbook, Tacos. Miller, if you'll recall, is trained both in anthropology and cooking. The father of Southwestern cuisine, Miller founded the Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe and the late Red Sage in D.C.

Here's what Miller says about tacos al pastor:

The meat for these "shepherd's" tacos is commonly seen roasting on vertical spits displayed with pride on street stands throughout Mexico. The spits are usually topped with a pineapple, which is thinly sliced and served in the tacos. This method of cooking meat is identical to that used for the spit-roasted lamb (shawarma) brought to Puebla, Mexico, by Lebanese immigrants in the 1930s. The technique was copied by the Mexican taqueros (taco masters), who substituted pork for lamb. The original stand for tacos al pastor still exists in Puebla, with vertical spits of pork still revolving in front of its huge wood-burning hearth.

So where in the D.C. metro here can you get tacos al pastor still prepared on spits? This place right here.

  • Susana Beristain

    Huequito means a little space, a little gap. Not a whole in the wall. Jesus Christ!!!! Thig guy needs to review his Spanish. If you are sitting on a sofa, "Hazme un huequito" means move over and make space for me to seat, for example.

  • http://no pastor,p.ramamurthy naik

    Dear Brother are Parents in Christ, Greetings to you in His Sacred Name. HAPPY GREETINGS We are conveying your good wishes in the name of Jesus Christ.. Greetings to you in His Sacred Name. Good greetings of to you. We are writing from our Banjara Tribal as the pastor,s team and our church believers and the poorest of the poor destitute, orphans, widows women?s, blind, polio, aged people, leprosy, physically handicapped, street children?s and other orphanage children?s disadvantaged of this area. We are safe, and hove are you. We hope that god will grant you happiness, health and wealth through out your life. Dear beloved brother in Christ, Greetings to both of you from (Pastor) P.Rama Murthy (Stephen) Naik Yerragonda Palem ( India ) in the name of our lord and savior Jesus Christ. We are all doing well by the grace of almighty god and by your blessings also and we are also praying for your Ministries and Church, your family. We have not yet seen to each
    other, but we are loving very much to each other since Philiphans 1:1 ? 7. Let me at the outset, introduce my self. I am Ramamurthy (Stephen) Naik (Pastor) residing at Yerragonda Palem, Prakasam District, South India . I decided to develop intimacy and friendship and do lord?s work. I praise the lord for giving me this opportunity. I thanking you for praying for me and treating me as your brother or friend or fellow worker. Inspired by your prayers, I am going forward in his work. I am praying for your. Our Church and our Pastors also remembers you in its daily prayers and fasting prayers. We belong to BANJARA TRIBE (GYPSY). Our Mother Tongue is TELUGU LANGUAGE which is very backward educationally socially and financially. The almighty god saved me and using me for his work (I TIMOTHY 1:12 ? 17) we live thick forests, village our people are addicted to drinking, cheating and robbing the passers by is a common profession to many of us. We live on
    hunting, collecting the forest products. People living in town and cities look down and ill that us. Our life style is very peculiar. Our women wear a special dress. We worship stones. Neemtree, Ant hills, Idols made of mud, and other things. Our people are very backward in education. Actually there are no educational facilities, non medical facilities. I studied up to intermediate class and had to give up studies because of poverty up and working as cooli on daily wages. On 1-1-1984 some of the lords servants came to our tribal village and started preaching. Their words were new to us. We had never heard such messages. Their messages brought a lot of change in our people. The word of God perced into my heart. I could know that I was a sinner. I went to one of them and begged for prayer. He prayed for me and official a new testament. As I was reading the word of God and praying every day, a miracle had taken place in my life. I confessed my sin and
    accepted Christ as my lord and savior. I was baptized on 09-10-1984. God called me to His service (Luke: 5:4-11) obeying his word, I looking his yoke and doing his work since them. I am being used by God as an instrument to spread his gospel among the nomadic tribes of our area. I wanted to bring the uneducated and uncivilized people of our treat to the fact of Jesus. I visited different villages on foot, preached the work of God and made them to accept Christ as their savior. Yet there are may to be brought to His feet. We are praying for them. I could start 9 Churches at different places and appointed 9 believe as pastors. They are daily voluntary Gospel work as I am doing I am also pastering one Church at Yerragondapalem. Transporting facilities are practically nil in our hilly area. One has to go up and the hills and hillocks the villages and cross rivulets to reach different villages. The distance between one villages is very big. Our Gospel
    workers do not have even bicycles worship is being conducted in small huts.. There are orphans, street children and destitudes. There are no schools in these villages. One has to go to a distant village in planes on foot to study. This very dangerous because wild animals wander even in day light. Threatening the passers by. So there is n need to start schools for educating the tribal children may people are dying every day, due to poverty and lack of medical facilities. There is much to be done for these forsaken people who live forest beasts and animals. But our hands are not strong enough to provide food, clothing, shelter medical and educational facilities. We are praying God to send help from any souce and hopefully awaiting a nicle to happen. Dear Brother. I am protected from tribal cart and Lord keep the as service man of him. The people from so many tribal areas of forest and hills area were used in Lord god Ministry. God has given in two places
    in tribal area i.e. tow Churches. With the god has given 9 numbers of God servants and doing ministry. By his day by day. We are conveying "GOSPEL" to so many people. Everyday, from village we are visiting every village and every house. In small huts, we are conducted "Sunday worships and prayers in other times also. We are suffering from lack of church buildings. Kindly pray for us. Lord selected us from backward forest area. In Andhra Pradesh, Ongole, Guntur , Nalgonda, Warangal Districts are backward districts. In this districts Lambadies Chenchulu, Erukula and Yanadis People are livings so, 250 Tribal Tandas (Villages) were mere villagers and people were unaware of Gospels from those areas. We are came forward no our are to transit Gospel, because no road transport ? so people are facing difficulties. From this villages, we should go by walk to tell Gospel to Villagers. To convey Gospel to his places, your prayer is very much in need. We are if we
    want to buy ? pamphlets, Bibles, Books, Gospel Books, we do not have economic support please pray for us about his matter. No one is helping to us from any place, in these forest areas, people are wondering on the roads without food and cloths. Please pray for his people we are so backwards and lack of fund people, so we are back ward in Lord God Ministry service. We want 300 Bibles, pamphlets of Gospels and books to us. Our mother tongue is TELUGU LANGUAGES so we need Telugu bibles and pamphlets, Books. Kindly pray for us for these. We are praying for you and your ministry. We will be happy and great full if you can extend your helping hand we are requesting God with them in our fasting prayers to send help. Ephesians 3:20. Please pray for our Tribal Ministry Ministers, Churches and families of our ministries. Please pray for orphans destitudes and streets children. James 1:27 May God bless you adundantely and use you in His service. III John 1:1-2.
    Awaiting your early reply. Yours in His Service (P. RAMAMURTHY (Stephen) NAIK) (Pastor) From P. Rama Murthy (Stephen) Naik, (Pastor) Post Office Second Line, Indira Nagar, YERRAGONDA PALEM, (P&M) Prakasam District, A.P. South India, Pin : 523 327 E-mail :
    cell NO: 0091-9492320482

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  • Street Gourmet LA

    This isn't Lebanon's gift to Mexico. That's like saying the adoption of washable dishware made European cuisine Chinese. Mexicans adopted the vertical spit, but it's a cooking device, not cuisine. The adoboed pork recipe was in existence, cooking over fire was in existence, Mexican's just used the vertical spit. While al pastor means the shepherd, there's no knowledge of why or when this name happened that can be verified. Using modernist technique doesn't make food Spanish; using a chinois doesn't make your dish French influenced. Al pastor is Mexican--period!!

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