We've long admired the food writing and reviews of "The Offalo," an Angeleño who loves food and especially cuts of meat that others may be unfamiliar with. We asked him if he would be interested in exploring the offal side of our city's taco scene, and he jumped directly into the job, as you can read below. We hope this guide will help the uninitiated be bold and try some delicious tacos they ordinarily wouldn't have ordered, while also guiding those who do walk on the offal side some suggestions for where to get their fix....
Missed Part One? or Part Two?
A Beginner’s Guide to Offal Tacos: Part Three, Variety
Now that we’ve covered beef and pork, the two more popular animals on taco menus, we can begin to tackle some other animals. Of course, I can’t hope to cover every edible part from every kind of animal, but here are some popular and delicious variety meats I’ve come across here in Los Angeles.
Borrego, or lamb, is used in many Mexican dishes such as birria, a stew often made with either goat or lamb, and barbacoa, whole lamb traditionally slow-cooked in the ground, similar to Hawaiian pig roast. It is in this latter preparation that we’ll find offal tacos:
Sesos: Lamb brains, or sesos, are not that different than cow brains, culinarily. They are very mild in flavor, picking up the flavors of the other ingredients in the dish. Texturally, they have a consistency of medium-soft scrambled eggs. I find them a little more tender than cow brains in general, but of course preparation methods make a big difference.
Taco de Sesos de Borrego at Aqui es Texcoco:
Pancita: Lamb tripe, or pancita, is a bit funky, reminding me more of liver than tripe. It is very tender, at least in the preparations I’ve had. Pancita can also refer to lamb stomachs that are stuffed with other ingredients, including more offal, almost like a Mexican version of haggis. Unfortunately, I have yet to try this type of pancita.
Tacos de Pancita at Aqui es Texcoco:
Lengua: Lamb tongue, or lengua, is also fairly similar to cow tongue. Cubed or shredded, cooked until tender, lamb lengua, like beef lengua, is a good starting point for those starting out to explore offal cuts of meat.
Taco de Lengua de Borrego at Guerrilla Tacos:
Pollo, or chicken, is actually the most popular animal to eat in the United States, and on most taco menus it’s generally just diced or shredded breast or thigh meat. Of course chicken is loaded with delicious offal, including the gizzard (molleja), heart (corazón), and liver (hígado)! Unfortunately, I haven’t come across a place yet that serves these parts in tacos, but I’m sure I’m just not looking in the right places.
Pescuezos: One odd part I have come across recently in taco form is the pescuezo de pollo, or chicken neck. Also known as buches, the neck doesn’t have much meat on it, but what meat it does have is very soft and tender. The main attraction is the skin, though, which is bunched up toward one end of the neck before being fried. If you’ve ever lamented that chicken wings had too much meat and not enough skin, you’ll love their necks!
Tacos de Pescuezos at Santa Rita Jalisco Taco Truck:
Other: Since offal can come from any animal, there’s no reason why one can’t have tacos made with goat tongue, turkey gizzards, or other animal parts. I personally haven’t come across much offal taco offerings beyond beef, pork, and lamb, but I’m sure they’re out there to find.
Where to Try Offal Tacos: For lamb sesos, pancita, lengua (I think), and other barbacoa lamb cuts, go to Aqui es Texcoco in Commerce. For the haggis-like stuffed lamb stomach pancita, check out Tacos Quetzalcoatl in East Los Angeles on the weekends. Also in East L.A., Santa Rita Jalisco Taco Truck serves up delicious pescuezos de pollo.
Aqui es Texcoco, 5850 S Eastern Ave, Commerce, CA 90040
Tacos Quetzalcoatl, E Olympic Blvd & S Ferris Ave, East Los Angeles, CA 90022
Santa Rita Jalisco Taco Truck, 3900 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90063
Of course, I’ve only just scratched the surface of offal tacos! Are there such things as seafood offal tacos? I’ve had tacos with sea urchin, or eriza, as a filling. The part that we eat is actually not sea urchin roe, but rather gonads, which I’d definitely consider offal. Chapulines, or grasshoppers, are not offal, but they’re certainly not a protein source that’s on the minds of most Americans. They can be found around town at Oaxacan restaurants when they’re in season. I’ve yet to try a taco de chapulines but I’m willing!
And I haven’t even touched on non-taco Mexican offal dishes, probably the most popular (and widely available) of which is menudo or beef tripe stew. Made from the reticulum, the honeycomb-like chamber of a cow’s stomach, you can find menudo on many, many Mexican menus around town, though it’s usually only served on the weekends. Another great way to get into offal!
If you have any other suggestion for places to get great offal tacos of any sort, or even great menudo, please let me know!