Conceived through a cultural exchange not unlike those that define New York City, tacos al pastor exemplify the greatness and indigenous ingenuity of Mexican cuisine. Lebanese immigrants brought their spit-roasted shawarma to Mexico in the 19th century, and it didn’t take long before Mexico adapted this “shepherd’s style” technique for pork.
As a chef, I often feel an immense pressure to innovate and interpret, so much so that sometimes attempting to replicate something simple and deliciously authentic feels fresh and new. For me, this happened with tacos al pastor.
At Empellón Al Pastor, we have a finite focus on one of the most delicious ideas ever to adorn a tortilla. Pork shoulder steaks are rubbed with chile and roasted on a spit. We slice the meat thin and dress it with a green salsa followed by a red one, then add a sliver of pineapple with a bit of onion. Our tortillas are created in-house in a special area solely for this purpose.
Nixtamalization--Mexico’s most important cooking technique--happens here every morning. In this process, field corn is boiled and ground into aromatic masa for our tortillas every day.
By concentrating on this particular dish, we are trying to get one step closer to having all the puzzle pieces we need in place in order to make great Mexican cuisine here in NYC.