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Boyle Heights

Taco of the Day: Taco Árabe from Los Originales Tacos Árabes de Puebla ~ Boyle Heights

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Tacos Árabes LA is a taco truck that serves up Puebla's street food favorites: Tacos Arabes and Cemitas on the corner of Olympic and Esperanza, in Boyle Heights. Their Taco is our Taco of the day! But what exactly is a taco árabe? We asked the proprietors to explain...

Whenever we get curious or new customers at the truck their initial reaction is, “what is a taco arabe and what is behind such a name?”. I like to answer that the taco árabe is the cousin of al pastor and both preparations are similar, yet vary in taste. However, what is perhaps most interesting about tacos arabes is its history.

Many people argue the origin of Tacos Árabes-- whether a migration of Lebanese or Iraqi immigrants introduced the popular Pueblan street food is a case of debate. It gets trickier-- besides arguing over which family originally introduced the taco style to Mexico, the truth is that even in the state of Puebla many versions have been canonized as the original. I've had encounters where I've ordered the famous taco only to be served a taco al pastor instead of the Árabe style of meat which should not come dressed in red chile.

If one thing is certain, is that both tacos Al Pastor and Àrabes should be cooked over a rotating trompo since the spit is almost a religious relic, and both styles use pork, since its the most consumed animal in Mexico. However, it is also important to note that originally, Árabes were served with cordero (lamb), and this is where we get the word, “Al Pastor”.

Even with the different canonized versions and the debate of who is the original and who isn't, the popular Pueblan street food has witnessed a renaissance of sorts... Where there seems to be a taco arabe stand in every corner of the city, even in small tucked away towns throughout the state and one that is slowly taking notice north of the border. In Los Angeles, where a huge demographic of Poblanos live and have made serious contributions to the landscape of food culture, less than a hundred restaurants, stands, food trucks, and underground backyard operations offer this specialty. That said, the numbers are growing and perhaps, soon enough, a new culture of tacos will be widely known by Angeleños.

-- Arely Villegas

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