I don't have a spit-grill at home, but I thought I'd try my hand at tacos árabes anyway. The result? A keeper!
The origins of the tacos árabes are said to come from the Lebanese and/or Iraqi immigrants who migrated into Puebla, Mexico in the 1930s. Tacos árabes, or tacos de trompo, are closely related to the tacos al pastor. Both are traditionally spit-grilled over a rotating trompo and were originally prepared with lamb. The al pastor is different with its vibrant red color that comes from adding achiote (annatto) and chiles. The árabe, by comparison, is infused with fresh green herbs such as parsley and thyme.
For this recipe, I combined dried herbs, spices with fresh cilantro, vinegar and chiles. That is my added Mexican touch, but you could certainly keep the more traditional parsley. It creates a bright green marinade that can be used for pork, chicken, lamb, beef and seafood. As I often say when I am happy with the results of a new recipe, this one is a keeper! The salsa and yogurt sauce are similar to what the tacos would be garnished with.
The more authentic restaurants in Puebla serve tacos árabes on a thick flour tortilla or on whole wheat-style pita bread. This is my “home cook’s” version. Now if I could just figure out a home cook’s version for a spit-grill, I will be all set!
Freeze the pork chops while you prepare the marinade, yogurt sauce and salsa. Freeze for at least 1 hour. This will make it much easier to slice the pork thin.
Combine all of the ingredients for the marinade in the blender. Blend on high until smooth, taste for salt and transfer to a heavy plastic storage bag or glass bowl. Wash the blender.
Add all of the ingredients to make the yogurt sauce. Blend until smooth, taste for salt, then transfer to a bowl. Cover and chill until ready to use.
Add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet. Remove the stems and seeds from dried chiles and add to skillet. Heat to medium and cook just until chiles become aromatic and soften slightly. Add the onions, garlic and tomatillos. Cook for a few minutes, add the bouillon and water. Continue cooking until tomatillos are cooked and dried peppers are soft. Transfer all to the blender, cover and let cool for 30 minutes. Secure the lid and blend until smooth. Taste for salt.
Remove pork from freezer and slice thin, against the grain. Transfer to the bag holding the marinade. Marinate for at least 2 hours. When ready, remove pork 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat a large skillet or griddle pan to medium/high heat for a few minutes. Cook the pork in batches so it sears and browns well. Transfer to a covered dish until you finish cooking it all.
Serve with warm thick flour tortillas or whole wheat pita bread. Top with salsa, yogurt sauce, cilantro, lime and black beans.
The spicy chile morita salsa is all Mexican, LOL! Myself, as well as my extended family in Mexico love our salsas to be extra spicy. If you can’t find the dried chile morita or chipotles, just substitute with chipotles in adobo. Add one at a time when blending, because they will be spicy.