Recently I had my first food truck experience. Here in KC there is an old warehouse district called the West Bottoms that’s been converted into a huge flea market that happens every first Friday/weekend of the month. If you love all things vintage then this is the place to be. They have anything and everything you can think of displayed in these beautiful old warehouses. People spend hours perusing through the old buildings looking for treasure. There aren’t many places to eat down there except for a line of food trucks that are parked along the streets. We walked the streets looking at all the food trucks each with their own artistic style and various menus, it was hard to choose. We decided on “American Fusion” which offered a small menu but caught our attention. Josh had their “Mayan Pork” sandwich aka Cochinita Pibil, a slow roasted Mexican pork from the Yucatan peninsula of Mayan origin. First of all, it practically melts in your mouth, it was that tender. And the flavor, it was amazing with a hint of smoky sweet flavors. I was inspired!! After researching everything I could find on how to make this delicious pulled pork I have finally created my own version. First thing on the menu Mayan Pork Tacos . . . . with more to come!
Traditional Mayan tacos are topped with pickled red onions. Some say you can serve pickled onions after marinating for just a few hours but honestly they taste much better after a few days in the fridge. These were made about a week prior to making the tacos. The first time I made pickled onions I made them with vinegar. I wasn’t impressed so I’m trying the Rick Bayless method and pickling them with lime juice instead. I like the taste much better and would highly recommend it. You’ll need 2 medium red onions, enough limes to juice 3/4 cup, a clove of garlic and salt to taste.
Place the lid on tight and shake for a couple turns to mix the salt in with the juice and onions. The juice didn’t completely cover the onions but in a few days you will see a huge difference. The onions will have shrunk in size with the salt drawing out the liquids from the onion so that they will be completely covered in liquid. Also the color will change drastically from a light pink to a vivid pink color.
On the day I prepared the pork I made an Achiote paste which is traditional for Mayan pork. It consists of ground Annatto seeds, garlic, coriander, black pepper, sea salt and olive oil. Some recipes use vinegar instead of olive oil but I went with a lime infused olive oil.
Drizzle olive oil into the bottom of a preheated dutch oven. Situate the pork along the bottom of the pan. Traditionally the pork would be wrapped in banana leaves and tied together. The citrus blend would be poured over top of the tied bundle. I didn’t have any luck finding banana leaves, maybe next time . . .
Pour the juice and concentrate mixture over the pork and bring to a boil. Place the lid on top of the dutch oven and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 4 hours on top of the stove or place in a 325 degree oven for 4 hours. Either way works.
Shred easily with 2 forks. The pork has a slightly sweet taste, more so if you ladle any of the left over liquid. We didn’t add any liquid as it tasted so good and tender we felt it was delicious just the way it was.
Pan fry the tortillas for a few seconds on each side. Fill each tortilla with Mayan pork, a few pickled red onions, chopped cilantro and crumbled queso fresco cheese. Look at the color of those pickled red onions. Love the color. Also note that the tortillas are slider sized and double wrapped.
While I love toppings and fill other tacos with endless layers, these tacos require only the basics. The contrast between the slightly sweet pork and tangy onions is the perfect contrast.
Mayan Pork Tacos
4 pound Pork Shoulder Roast, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons Annatto Seeds, ground
1 tablespoon Coarse Ground Sea Salt
1/2 tablespoon Corriander
1/2 tablespoon Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Mexican Oregano
2 cloves Garlic, grated on a microplane grater
2 tablespoons Olive Oil, (I used lime infused olive oil)
1 can Pineapple Orange Concentrate
1/2 cup Lime Juice
4 Guajillo Chiles, dried
1/2 cup Reserved Chile liquid
Pickled Red Onions, recipe follows
1/4 cup Cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Queso Fresco, crumbled
30 slider sized Corn Tortillas
Pickled Red Onions (adapted from Rick Bayless)
2 medium Red Onions, sliced thin
3/4 cup Lime Juice, squeezed fresh
1 clove Garlic
Salt to taste, I started with 1 teaspoon and added a little more
To make pickled onions: Boil a pot of water, maybe 3 – 4 cups. Place onion slices in a medium non reactive bowl. Pour boiling water over them, count to 10, then immediately strain the onions. Shake off all the water, place the onions back into the bowl and pour on the lime juice. Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt and give it a taste. Add more salt if needed. Pack onions into a pint size jar and slide the garlic clove down into the jar along with the onions. Pour the lime juice over the onions and seal jar with a lid. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The onions will begin to change in color from a light pink to a vivid pink the longer you leave them refrigerated. Also the longer they pickle the better they taste. The onions will last for a couple weeks or more in the refrigerator.
To make the Mayan Pork: Cut a 4 pound shoulder roast into 4 pieces. Mix together the ground annatto seeds, Corriander, black pepper, Mexican oregano, garlic and salt in a small bowl. Stir together and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to make an Achiote paste. Apply the paste over all sides of the cut up pork. Set aside.
Place 4 guajillo chiles in a medium pot that has a lid. Pour enough water to cover the chiles and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat, place the lid on top and steep for 30 minutes.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the chile liquid. Stem and seed the chiles and place both the chiles and chile liquid into a blender. Add the can of pineapple orange concentrate and lime juice. Blend on high until the mixture turns to liquid.
Heat a dutch oven over high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil to the pot. Sear the pork on both sides, pour the citrus chile mixture over top and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover with a lid and cook for 4 hours or place the dutch oven into a preheated 325 degree oven for 4 hours. Remove the pork from the liquid and shred with 2 forks.
Heat a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil and pan fry the tortillas about 20 seconds on each side. Pat dry with a paper towel and place tortillas in a tortilla warmer or in a warm place.
To assemble tacos place about 2 – 3 tablespoons Mayan Pork in between double wrapped tortillas, add 2 – 3 pickled red onion slices, sprinkle with queso fresco crumbled cheese and chopped cilantro.
Makes approximately 30 single wrapped or 15 double wrapped tacos. Any unused Mayan Pork can be refrigerated.
**More ideas to come on how to use Mayan Pork.