Lime and Herb Marinated Pork, Chipotle Salsa, and Crisp Cucumbers Combine in Tacos Árabes

published May 5, 2022
Tacos Árabes with Salsa Chipotle Recipe
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Credit: Ren Fuller

Puebla is known for many iconic dishes, but tacos árabes deserve more attention than they usually receive. They are a beautiful combination of Iraqi and Mexican culture and cuisine and represent the fusion of two beloved dishes: shawarma and the taco.

The Tabe and the Galeana families emigrated to Mexico from Iraq in the 1920s and settled in the city of Puebla. They brought with them their families’ technique for making shawarma on the trompo (vertical spit) and the roasting technique of layering meat and spices and spinning it next to a column of burning coals.

Originally, they used lamb, but it was hard to source and very expensive and, more important, no one in Puebla ate lamb. There is a saying in Puebla, “Tres cosas come el poblano: cerdo, cochino y marrano.” (There are three things that Poblanos eat: pig, pork, and hog.) And so they began experimenting with pork and available herbs like the parsley and oregano brought over by the Spanish.

They created a dish that is a bit closer in flavor to shawarma and wrapped it in a yeasted flatbread, called pan árabe, very similar to a pita only rolled thinner and filled and folded like a flour tortilla.

Tacos Árabes with Salsa Chipotle Recipe

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Makes 1 cup salsa

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the tacos:

  • 1/2 cup

    fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)

  • 4 cloves

    garlic, thinly sliced

  • 3

    bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon

    chopped fresh thyme leaves

  • 2 teaspoons

    dried oregano, preferably Mexican

  • 1 teaspoon

    cumin seeds

  • 1 teaspoon

    Morton kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    coriander seeds, lightly crushed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2

    boneless pork shoulder steaks, 1/2-inch thick (9 ounces each)

  • 1/2

    large white onion, thinly sliced

  • 4

    medium scallions, root ends trimmed

  • 2 tablespoons

    extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 cup

    chopped fresh parsley

  • 8

    Pan Árabe, or pita bread, lightly toasted

For the salsa:

  • 9

    medium chiles chipotles, stems removed

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried oregano, preferably Mexican

  • 1 teaspoon

    sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    Morton kosher salt

  • 1 clove

    garlic, peeled

For serving:

  • Sliced radish

  • Sliced cucumber

  • Sliced onion

  • Lime wedges

Instructions

Make the tacos:

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the lime juice, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, cumin, salt, coriander, and pepper until combined. Toss the pork and onion in the lime marinade until completely coated. Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. (This is a good time to make the salsa.)

  2. Heat a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, over high heat for about 2 minutes, or until very hot. Cook the scallions in the dry pan until charred on both sides, for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the hot skillet (still over high heat) and cook half of the pork and onion mixture (no need to drain, the pork will soak up all of the marinade) until the pork is charred on both sides, for about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked pork and onion to a large plate and repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and pork and onion mixture. Let rest for 10 minutes.

  4. Just before serving, slice the pork and chop the scallions, then toss with the onion and parsley. Serve the pork and onions wrapped in pan árabe topped with salsa chipotle, radish, cucumber, onion, and lime wedges for squeezing.

Make the salsa:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the chiles chipotles, oregano, sugar, salt, and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the chiles have softened, for about 15 minutes. Let sit, covered, for 10 minutes to let cool slightly.

  2. Transfer the mixture to a blender, add the garlic, and purée on medium-low speed until smooth.

Recipe Notes

The salsa can be made up to 3 days ahead. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or freeze for up to 1 month

Reprinted with permission from Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico by Rick Martinez copyright © 2022. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Ren Fuller. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.