Monday, September 20, 2010

Not For Vegetarians...Sorry...

My friend took me to Los Mundialistas, a chicharroneria that comes recommended by several people in the know. Chicharrón de chancho is a familiar dish for those of us who know Mexican food, consisting of pork meat and fat deep fried to crispy perfection and served hot. Many people don’t eat real chicharrón, partly because the more commonplace pork cracklins are known by the same name but also because chicharrón is always going to be fatty, fried and not for the delicate. But oh…it is so delicious. In Mexico we chop it up and eat it in tacos with cilantro, cebollita, fresh green salsa and cheese. Here in Cusco, the presentation is a little different: those amazingly sweet fresh sliced purple onions, mint, white corn and a whole fried potato. You tear off a piece of meaty chicharrón, snag some onion and mint, and pop the whole thing in your mouth for a totally distinct, surprising and superb flavor combination. The onion cuts the fattiness of the pork and the mint gives it startling freshness (and helps with digestion). Add a little aji de huacatay, a green and spicy salsa, and you’re set for the day.
Ultimately, I think I prefer eating chicharrón with tortillas, but next time I make tacos, I am going to put purple onion and mint in there with my green salsa. That truly is a beautiful and unexpected combination.
The other house specialty is adobo de chancho, or a red pork stew based on chicha (corn beer). It tastes like the essence of pozole (a Mexican pork and hominy soup), but its broth is thick and rich with the juices of the meat, that incredible corn flavor and onions cooked to the point of disintegration. The huge chunks of pork are so tender that they fall off the bone when you look at them…that might be a slight exaggeration, but not by much. It was an exquisite stew and would do perfectly for any cold day with plenty of fresh bread.

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