This simple but complex dish has captured the hearts of people all over the world. Some people call even it the pinnacle of Mexican cuisine. It is the most famous dish from Mexico City: Tacos Al Pastor, truly the perfect blend of sweet and spicy goodness.
Tacos Al Pastor is really the result from a clash of cultures. Using the vertical spit is very reminiscent of the shwarma or the Turkish kebab. Mexicans adopted this form of spit roasting from Arab and Lebanese immigrants that came over in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The earliest photo of the vertical spit is dated 1855.
Al Pastor, which literally translates to “shepard style.” get’s its name from its original filling of lamb. Over time locals replaced the lamb with the more common pork and the pita was replaced with the omnipresent tortilla. There are still places where you can find more middle eastern style pastor. Made with lamb on pita bread topped with onion and cilantro these “Oriental” or “Arab” tacos”(tacos arabes) were introduced in 1930s and 1940s and are still popular in Puebla and Mexico City.
Ultimately, there are a few main components that make up a successful Al Pastor taco: the trompo “vertical spit”, the salsa, and the pineapple. Traditionally, al pastor is made with spices, achote, chiles, and is marinated for hours. Then the pork is layered on a vertical spit. The leaner cuts of meat and the fattier cuts are alternated to keep the meat tender during the cooking process.
As far as salsa goes, the correct amount of heat is key. There have been plenty of Al Pastor tacos ruined by a bland salsa. The salsa, in combination with onions and cilantro, play up the spicy and savory notes in the pork.
The pineapple is what takes Al Pastor tacos to the next level. The sweetness cuts through the salsa and pork to give it a fresh element that balances the entire taco.The play of savory, spicy sweet all there in a taco, the perfect vehicle to deliver flavor.
(Note: Don’t overlook the power of a good tortilla: a well-made, fresh tortilla will keep its pliable and soft texture to hold in all the ingredients.)
Some Of Our Favorite Al Pastor Tacos
5412 San Pablo Ave
Emeryville, CA 94608
Cassave is not technically in Oakland but this taqueria serves a really nice pastor taco with some great flavors
Tacos El Gordo
4201 International Blvd
Oakland Ca 94601
Tacos El Gordo roasted on a traditional trompo. Tacos El Gordo is an institution serving delicious tacos to one and all.
1001 Fruitvale Blvd (Guadalajara Restaruant Parking Lot)
Popular truck in the fruitvale neighborhood. Slinging delcious pastor all day.
Tacos Y Chelas
Pop up in and around Oakland. Check them out on instagram @tacosychelasoak to find out where they will be.