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Recent Visit to Bay Area - tacos

chibi | Mar 20, 200304:26 AM

On a recent whirlwind trip back in the Bay Area, I snuck in a little time to do a taco truck run.

Despite two surprisingly good airline meals, my last two hours on the flight from Tokyo to SFO were haunted by two words... Al Pastor. Stopping only to drop off our luggage at our friend's house, we headed out on foot to the Mission for the fix that we had been awaiting for the last 5 months. First stop was the El Tonayense truck on Harrison (near 18th?) where we made short work of one al pastor, lengua, and cabeza taco each. Spicy, savory, juicy, piquant, meaty, charred, silky.... it was a very good reunion. The only disappointment was that they were out of tripitas (a common occurrence at this particular truck in my recollection). So, the only sensible thing left to do was to go down the street to the other El Tonayense truck at 22nd (which always seemed to have them back when I went regularly). Since we were there, it seemed silly to get just one, so we got one al pastor taco each and one tripitas. I went on a mini-quest last year to try different versions of tripitas and this one was always one of my favorites - just the right balance between chewiness and crackly-ness, with some (but not too much) "intestinal flavor". I was one happy chibi when I got my little paper plate mounded high with still-sizzling strips of tripitas, the fat still foaming within the curls. And the al pastor? I've tried to compare the offerings from the two trucks a couple of times, and all I can say is that they are both really damn good, because I eat them too quickly to remember the difference.

Still, we were not quite satisfied... and still just barely awake enough, so we headed off to Taqueria San Jose #2 on Mission & 24th for a chorizo taco, one of our old late-night treats. On first inspection, they looked much the same as before - large mounds of crumbled, yet silky moist chorizo piled high on substantial tortillas, topped with salsa, and lots of finely chopped onions. Two things jumped out immediately - gone was the pool of guiltily tasty bright orange grease gathering at the bottom. The salsa, (which used to have a decent kick already), had been escalated into a even more impressive beast. It was full of torn-up pieces of dried chilis, and velvety-smooth from pureed tomatillos. Smoky, tangy and make-your-nose-itch hot. I have never figured out how they cook their chorizo - how do they get the bits browned and charred, and yet keep it so moist that the little bits of meat hold together, with a silkiness like braised cheeks? I don't know if the un-greasy chorizo (mind you, the greasy version was nothing to sneeze at) was the result of a particularly good day in the kitchen, but that great sauce was definitely not what I remember.

Remembering that there was a dinner party in our honor in a few hours... we reluctantly decided to call it quits. But not before stocking up on Anna's cookies to bring back with us.

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