The New Gastronome

Freaky Tacos al Pastor

Freaky Pairings Episode IV: The Mexican Shawarma

Now a global icon and street food delicacy coming from Mexico, this emblematic dish first arrived in the Mexican city of Puebla, thanks to Lebanese migration in the 19th century. Nowadays, tacos al pastor can be found all over the country and could also be considered to be among those dishes able to overcome the different social layers of Mexican society.


Mainly an urban food — better eaten standing up! — it is famous enough to also be a guest star in fine dining restaurants. The traditional set up for tacos al pastor mirrors the well-known shawarma – but can be seen as the “Mexican rebrand” of this Middle Eastern delight. Based on pork meat and spices such as guajillo and ancho peppers, annatto, cumin and oregano, vinegar and garlic boosted by pineapple juice, it has made its own mark in Mexican cuisine. Do a YouTube research on how tacos al pastor are served in Mexico and watch the taco makers basically transform into culinary ninjas!


The most popular pairing for this dish is freaky by nature. People in Mexico usually eat them with extra sweet commercial sodas, ranging from citric to exotic fruit flavours, but some people skip this hypercaloric dimension and jump straight to a beer pairing.


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I randomly discovered Zibibbo Secco ‘Orange’ Abbazia San Giorgio 2017. This light-bodied orange wine definitely amplifies the dynamic range of tacos al pastor. Its notoriously fruity profile, with strong apricot and citric notes, bonds perfectly with the — never to be missed! — fresh coriander and the pineapple slice on top of the taco. While the airy elderflower and semi-bitter honey hints complete the fabulous mix of spices found in this tacos. The Zibibbo Secco ‘Orange’ Abbazia San Giorgio 2017 is based on biodynamic agriculture and is made of 100% Zibibbo grapes, a Sicilian white wine macerated on its skin for 15 days using a spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts.




The “Pastor” Marinade


Pork steak (sliced) 1kg
Annatto seeds 5 g
Cumin seeds a dash (a good one)
Oregano 1 tsp
Ancho peppers 3 pieces
Garlic clove 3 pieces
Salt 15 g
Clove 1 piece
Black Pepper 1 tsp
Guajillo peppers (no seeds) 10 pieces
Water 25 g
Sunflower oil 25 g
Onion 50 g
Pineapple juice* 100 ml
Lemon juice 6 ml
White vinegar  20ml


*if you use fresh pineapple do not add it to the overnight marinade, as the enzymes would denaturalize the meat excessively. Add it at the end after grilling it lightly.


To soften the ingredients, boil them with enough water for about 10 minutes. With the help of a blender or food processor, mix all the spices and the liquid ingredients, blend them and pass them through a sieve until everything becomes a smooth red-coloured paste. The texture should be like a spreadable cream at this point. If necessary, add some of the water you boiled the ingredients in. Marinate the pork with the previous preparation and let it rest overnight.

The next day, be sure to leave the marinated pork at room temperature for at least one hour before grilling it. Grill the pork until fully cooked. Be sure to have fresh coriander, onion and a kickass salsa!


Photos: Aarón Gómez Figueroa 

About the author

Aarón Gómez Figueroa

He studied design, gastronomy, photography and led a design agency for 10 years. In 2013, he earned a Masters degree in Food Culture & Communications at The University of Gastronomic Sciences and an MBA at the University of Bologna. Aaron works in Communications and as a food marketing consultant for various clients. He’s a lover of Instagram, discovering new bands, and time travel.