In my previous post I shared an update of my 2021 gardening efforts. The first photo of that post (as shown below, left), features young stems of pápalo (Porophyllum ruderale ssp. macrocephalum), one of the 2021 new-to-me crops. Pápalo is a potherb native to Mexico, that is used always fresh to top stews an soups, and most famously, added to street tacos and cemitas (a sandwich from the Mexican state of Puebla, prepared on a local bun of the same name.) The last photo of the same post (as shown below, right) shows my first harvest this spring, a small bunch of multiplier onions (Allium cepa, var. aggregatum). Multiplier onions (also known as knob onions) are so important in Mexican cuisine that they have their own name: cebollitas de cambray; they are a staple at Mexican BBQ parties (parrilladas) and taco restaurants and stands (taquerías), usually grilled and slightly charred, or fried next to taco meat fillings.
Seeing these two veggies together did not require me to cogitate too long before thinking of a specific street food in Mexico City: Tacos de Suadero. Street taco stands in Mexico City sometimes have a bunch of fresh pápalo in a jar with water on the counter, and customers may help themselves to a few leaves to add to their tacos, particularly suadero (a type of beef cut) and, as I mentioned above, grilled or fried cebollitas are the best side for tacos. I prepared a batch of suadero tacos back in the fall (as shown at the top of this post), but I had not had a chance to publish the recipe; now that I have remembered, and since the Lenten season – during which meat is often not consumed in Mexico – has ended, a nice and “meaty” story seems appropriate.
So, last fall, I was watching the “Taco Chronicles” on Netflix, and the episode on suadero gave me a craving. I thought that I could maybe find the cut in nearby Leamington, because of its strong Mexican connexion due to agricultural workers (formerly because of tobacco and currently known as the Tomato Capital of Canada). I discovered Ordoñez Butcher Shop (128 Erie St. South, Leamington, Ontario), and my husband and I were able to visit the store in-between pandemic lockdowns (the new normal); it is a wonderful family business, with a few isles of shelves filled with canned and dry goods, both Canadian and Mexican, as well as an impressive array of refrigerated meat products:
I was after the suadero cut. In anatomical terms, it is a flat muscle right under the skin, located on the lateral surface of the animal’s trunk (hence its scientific name M. cutaneus trunci). It has a layer of fat attached, and it is generally a lighter shade of red than beef steak or roast, for what it is also called “fresada” (strawberry-like), or “rose meat” in English. The chart on the wall at Ordoñez did not include the cut, but on the diagram, it would extend from the lower rib, to the flank:
I asked if they carried suadero, and one of their butchers especially prepared a 2 lb (1 kg) piece for me (photo below, on the left). A few taco places in Mexico cook brisket point (superficial muscle from the breast, see diagram and chart above) and serve it as suadero, so I also bought 1 lb (454 g) to compare (photo below, right upper corner):
The difference in surface area between the 2 lb. suadero and the 1 lb brisket gives an idea of how thin the suadero cut is. In Argentina, it is known as “matambre” , and because of its shape, it is conveniently used to make a roll, stuffed with ham, eggs, and vegetables.
I also bought a small container of pork lard, needed to cook my suadero. In many of my recipes, I offer substitutions when lard is one of the ingredients, but in this case, I strongly recommend to keep it as it is, because lard contributes in great part to the characteristic flavour of tacos de suadero.
A popular option is to include a piece of longaniza, a type of sausage that, in Mexico, is seasoned with red dry peppers. I have posted a story about homemade longaniza, but in this case, I bought some pre-packed at a Mexican grocery store nearby the butcher’s.
Rose Meat Tacos – Tacos de Suadero
1½ lb (680 g) beef suadero (or brisket point)
¼ cup lime juice, preferably freshly squeezed (2-3 limes)
1 tsp salt, plus more, to taste
½ cup lard
Hot water, as needed
1/3 lb (150 g) Mexican longaniza (click here for my recipe for homemade, or store-bought); optional
1 bunch knob onions; washed, trimmed (or 1 white onion, peeled and cut into thick slices)
Warm corn tortillas
Salsas (for example, click on names for my recipes for green tomatillo and spicy chile de árbol, or bottled)
Cilantro and white onion; washed and chopped
Limes; washed, cut into wedges
Pápalo leaves; washed (if available)
Pat meat dry with paper towels; cut into sections of 3 to 4 inches in length (7.5 to 10 cm). If using brisket, slice lengthwise in half first, to reduce the thickness. Score each piece on the fat side with a knife, to mark a grid; this will prevent the meat from curling during cooking. In the photo below, prepared suadero on the left, and brisket point on the right upper corner:
Arrange meat in a non-metallic container (I used a glass tray), and pour lime juice all over the meat (photo below, left); sprinkle evenly with salt (photo below, right):
Allow meat to marinate in the fridge for about half an hour.
NOTE: For cooking, Mexican street-food stands will generally have a gas or coal source of heat, with a grill on top. Depending on the cooking method needed, this grill could be 1) flat (comal, photo below, left) to roast or grill dry ingredients; 2) have a concave depression in the centre (comal cóncavo, second photo, with propane heat source), for deep frying; or 3) have a convex dome in the centre (comal de bola, third photo), to cook suadero and other foodstuffs in the outer ring, and warm up tortillas or finish individual portions on the dome (photo below, right):
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If a convex griddle (comal de bola) is not available, use a large and wide pan (or pressure cooker) to cook the meat, and later on, instead of the dome, a separate small frying pan to finish individual portions. Since I had 3 lb. of meat, enough for two batches, I prepared one in a regular wide pan, and the other in my Instant Pot™.
Pour lard in large pan (or pressure cooker pot) over medium heat (photo below, left); allow the lard to melt. Arrange marinated meat, preferably in a single layer, turning to coat with the lard (photo below, right):
Add hot water (photo below, left) 2 cups for pan, or 1 cup for pressure cooker; bring to a boil, then cover (photo below, right):
For pan, lower heat to keep a nice simmer, and check after one hour; add more hot water if it is drying too fast. Continue cooking until the meat becomes tender and easy to break with a spoon, approximately one hour and a half for my batch (photo below, left). For pressure cooker, seal with lid and cook for 35 minutes; turn off, allow pressure to lower, then uncover. Continue cooking over medium heat, uncovered (either pan or pressure cooker pot), to evaporate water. Once almost all the water has evaporated, add longaniza (if using, photo below, right):
Continue cooking until meat and longaniza are fully cooked and tender, and have started to brown (photo below, left). On the photo, right, a chopped sample of suadero at the top, compared to one from the brisket point, at the bottom. Both were tender and flavourful, but the brisket tended to shred and looked dark, while the suadero kept a chunky texture and its light colour:
I personally prefer suadero, but brisket point is not a bad alternative if suadero is not available.
To finish portions for serving, instead of using the dome of the comal de bola, add a couple of tablespoons of fat from the pan to a small frying pan over medium heat; chop some longaniza and meat and add to the frying pan, along with a few knob onions (or thick slices of white onion):
Stir and cook until crispy, to taste, and adjust seasoning with salt, if needed. Prepare tacos by filling warm tortillas (they may be warmed in the frying pan, as well) with suadero, or longaniza, or both (suadero con longaniza). Serve with lime wedges and fried onions, topped with chopped onions and cilantro, and offer salsas and fresh pápalo (if available), at the table. In the photo below, a suadero con longaniza taco with raw tomatillo salsa, and a suadero taco with spicy chile de árbol salsa:
Comparing cooking methods, the regular pan was as close as possible to the traditional suadero from a comal de bola. The pressure cooker was much faster, but had a lot of liquid when uncovered (photo below, left); after allowing most of it to evaporate, the result was similar. In the photo below, right, a piece of suadero and a piece of point brisket from the pressure cooker on the left, and from the regular pan on the right:
For this particular recipe, I preferred to use the regular pan, because it allowed me to check the cooking process of the meat as it progressed, but in general, I appreciate the shortened cooking times, and enjoy using my Instant Pot Duo Crisp Pressure Cooker (11 in 1, 8 Qt, featuring Air Fry, Roast, Bake, Dehydrate and more functions). For your convenience, click here to see this product on Amazon™.
*DISCLAIMER: Any reviews included in this post are my own, for items I have purchased, not provided by any company; as an Amazon Associates Program affiliate, I might receive a commission for any purchases originated from the links below, at no extra cost to you; thank you to readers who have bought other products starting with a click from my links!
I am sharing my recipe at Thursday Favourite Things #485, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.