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Seasons’ Eatings: Tacos al Pastor a la Fake Meat

2012 September 6

By Lauren Wilson

Taco toppings

Brooklyn, NY – Kara’s recipe for Chicken Parmesan with Fresh Tomato Sauce brought me back to being 8 years old and cooking with my nona.  It also conjured up all the comfort and pleasure I find in Italian cooking, and had me yearning for the cold weather so I could whip up a big old batch of gravy.

But I decided to go a little more abstract with my connection to her recipe on this relay: using the protein, fresh herbs, sauce, and crushed chili as the perfect excuses to try out a recipe I had been literally dreaming about since I read the latest issue of Lucky Peach – tacos!  The issue featured a thoroughly entertaining Choose Your Own Adventure style story, Voyage of the Taco Belles, about a pair of gals who head out west to indulge in California-Mexican treasures.  The recipe provided for Tacos Al Pastor has been ever present back there in my brain just taunting me with it’s promise of deliciousness.

CLICK HERE for the full post and recipe.

The original recipe calls for boneless pork loin cut into 1/4” strips.  I have adapted it here to include soy-based Lightlife Smart Strips (in “chicken”), which absorbs the marinade particularly well.  The recipe also calls for tomatillo salsa, and provides an additional recipe for that.  But seeing as though I already had an all-natural store-bought tomatillo salsa in the fridge (with almost exactly the same ingredients) I opted to use that instead.

The marinade is everything here, it’s makes the dish what it is.  The combination of chilies, pineapple, onion, garlic, toasted spices and lime juice produce a mildly spicy and very flavorful base for the dish.  Fresh and local ingredients like radish and cilantro from Milton’s Hepworth Farms play the perfect contrast to the smoky meat, and since I had some garlic scapes on hand I sliced those thinly to add another topping.

Tacos al Pastor a la Fake Meat
(Adapted from Alison Roman’s recipe in the summer issue of Lucky Peach)

Prep Time: 20 minutes (plus 4-6 hours marinating time)

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 12 tacos (2-3 cups marinade)


For the marinade:

  • 12 ounces of soy-based fake meat
  • 4 guajillo chilies, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoon whole cumin
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander
  • 1 cup pineapple, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, roughly diced
  • Juice from one lime
  • 3 teaspoon kosher salt

For the tacos:

  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radish
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed and leaves picked
  • Lime wedges
  • Oil for frying

Cooking Directions

For the marinade:

  1. Cut the chilies into 1/2” squares and place in a medium bowl.  Pour the boiling water on top, letting sit about 10 minutes to soften.  While the chilies soften, toast the cumin and coriander in a dry skillet until fragrant and browned.  Remove from the heat and grind to a fine powder.
  2. In a blender, combine all the ingredients and blend until a thick paste is formed.  Thin with water if needed.
  3. Put the fake meat into a freezer bag. Pour enough of the marinade onto the meat to thoroughly cover it (I generally find there is more than enough, and I put the left over marinade into a container in the fridge for the next batch).  Seal the bag and shake to cover the meat evenly.  Refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

For the tacos:

  1. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat and a small skillet over medium-low heat.  When hot, add oil to the cast iron pan and 1/2 the fake meat.  Cook until hot and well-browned, then transfer to a bowl.  Repeat with the rest of the meat.
  2. In the skillet, toast the tortillas lightly on each side.
  3. Spread the tomatillo salsa over a tortilla, then add the meat, radish, and cilantro.  Squeeze a lime wedge over top.  Fold and enjoy!

Tacos are probably up there in my top 5 favorite foods in the world.  I can’t get enough of them, and hope that you enjoy whipping up a little Mexi-Cal of your own at home – it makes for the perfect end-of-summer fiesta.  Note that if you opt to use pork instead of fake meat, the best results will come from from frying the 1/4″ pieces in a cast iron pan until nicely browned, removing from the heat and when cooled chopping it up further and frying it again.

Tacos al Pastor

Lauren Wilson is a jack-of-all-food-trades.  After eating up all the good bits of Toronto, Lauren followed a trail of crumbs to Brooklyn, where she is cooking, eating, writing, and teaching at Rustico Cooking happily.