Carnitas – The Essence of Pork

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Carnitas distill the flavor of roast pork down to its essence. According to legend the dish originated in the Michoacán area; it is now found throughout the republic, often under the rubric ‘Carnitas Michoacanas’. Regardless, the preparation method varies little from region to region. The partitioned animal, including its viscera, is first boiled in water perfumed with onion and garlic, then braised in its own fat, confit style. Sometimes orange and herbs such as oregano are added. Finally, the meats are browned to add crispness and flavor. These proceedings take place in a giant copper tub, which distributes the heat evenly. Traditionally done outdoors over a wood fire, nowadays exquisite carnitas are prepared inside on gas. Carnitas are usually ordered by weight, i.e. 1/4 to a full kilo, or as tacos. Different cuts of meat can be specified: Maciza is pure meat without fatty bits or skin and is fine. But much fuller flavored and textured  are such combinations as buche con cuerito (lips with skin), barriga (pork belly), costilla (rib), chamorro (knuckle) or chamorro con nana (don’t ask). Surtida is a good option as it includes a bit of everything.
Below are a few of my favorite places to eat carnitas in CDMX.

El Rincon Tarasco
Av. José Martí 14, Colonia Escandón
Tel . 5277-2548
Open: Tuesday – Sunday 9 a.m. -3 p.m.

Amongst aficionados, it is generally agreed that this bustling taquería, in the Escandon area south of Condesa offers the best, succulent carnitas in the city.

Azul (El Capote)
Avenida Chapultepec Nte., between Genova and Amberes (exit the Insurgentes glorieta at “Chapultepec Nte. Pte.”, at the top of the steps turn left, it is about 10 meters down, opening on two sides of the corner, into an alley)

This humble, hard to spot locale, located just outside the Metro Insurgentes circle, is star chef Enrique Olvera’s favorite – he sends chefs from all over the world here to sample taquero Rubén Martinez´succulent offerings. It was a guarded secret until now: word is out!

Carnitas Michoacanas Don One
Mercado Abelardo L. Rodríguez (off calle del Carmen between Rep. de Venezuela and Rep. de Colombia) Centro
Open daily 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
This market building, built in the 1930’s, is one of the oldest in the city. It is worth a visit to see the murals, on view in the entryways, designed by Diego Rivera and executed by artists including Pablo O’Higgins and Isamu Noguchi. At the east end of the market is this stand serving juicy, succulent tacos of carnitas.

Tacos Richard
Corner of Tamaulipas and Alfonso Reyes (diagonally across from the church), Condesa
branch: Luz Saviñón corner of Av. Universidad, Navarte. Daily 11-5
Don Richard Godínez prepares carnitas in his home and his boys sell tacos out of the back of a pickup truck to patient local workers and passersby. They’re Michoacán style, crispy bits clinging to tender, rosy meat. Two unusual salsas are offered, a mild, smoky brown-brick ‘colorado’ and the spikier green made with avocado and habanero.

El Bajio
Avenida Cuitláhuac 2709, Colonia Obrera Popular (many branches, see site)
Tel. 5234-3763.
Open Monday-Friday 8 a.m. -6:30 p.m., Saturday, Sunday 9.a.m.-6:30.p.m.
Chef Carmen Titita, author of several cookbooks, founded El Bajio

more than 40 years ago. Her original restaurant is popular with large families, especially on weekends. The menu in all three locations is the same, and the carnitas are legendary.

Los Panchos
Tolstoi 9, Colonia Anzures
Tel: 5254-5430
Open daily 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
This is a good choice for traditional food in a casual environment in the otherwise glitzy modern Polanco area. The restaurant specializes in carnitas.

Enrique, located near the ‘salida a Cuernavaca’ in the south of the city, is a large family restaurant offering all sorts of typical Mexican dishes, but they specialize in carnitas which are amongst the best in the city.

Insurgentes Sur 4061, Tlalpan
Open daily from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

A no-name stand, recognizable by it’s red and white striped awning, sits alone at the corner of Av. Insurgentes Sur and Querétaro, in Colonia Roma. From 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. more than acceptable carnitas are sold.









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About The Author

Nicholas Gilman is a food writer based in Mexico City; he's author of Good Food in Mexico CIty: Food Stalls, Fondas, Fine Dining.