Tacos, Shawarma-Style

Michael Nagrant / 08.15.07

Antonio Anteliz, a Chicago native, was so enamored of the tacos he used to get in the Mexican city of Puebla, where he took trips to his family’s ancestral home as a kid, that he’d carry the grease-stained paper they were served on back to the States in his pockets, just so he could get a nostalgic whiff of their spicy aroma.

These weren’t just any tacos; invented by Puebla’s Lebanese immigrants and served on a thick flour tortilla (a nod to the pita), tacos árabes, as the succulent snacks are known, are made with slow-cooked pork bathed in a special garlic–chile marinade and carved off a vertical rotisserie.

“Go into most taquerias in Puebla and order a carne asada taco, they won’t know what you’re talking about,” said Anteliz, a gregarious young man in a White Sox cap, when I paid him a visit at Taqueria Puebla, his restaurant on North Avenue, in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. The tacos árabes he serves there—one of the few places to get them outside Puebla—are made from his grandfather’s recipe, which calls for pork shoulder to be marinated in garlic, oregano, and serrano and other chiles and then rotisserie-cooked with onions and herbs until the aromatics practically melt into the meat.

Anteliz’s tacos árabes—which could be called cousins of the more common tacos al pastor—are topped with a salsa of puréed chipotle peppers, a common Poblano ingredient. Anteliz says he hasn’t noticed anyone stuffing greasy napkins into their pocket on the way out, but he won’t mind if you do.

This article first appeared on Saveur.com.