As previously reported, ‘The World’s Seven Tastiest Fast Feasts Awards’ were revealed at a gala event in April. Chowzter, dedicated to promoting ‘traditional fast food’ was the proud sponsor. And out of five nominations for best taco in the world the prize went to Barbacoa Santiago in Querétaro. The tacos at Santiago, a roadside restaurant in the hands of the same family, originally from the state of Hidalgo, are legendary. Wrapped in maguey leaves and pit-cooked overnight over wood, the fragrant meat is served on freshly made blue or yellow tortillas augmented with hand-ground roast chile salsa that would bring a tear to the eye of the most hardened charro.
|Accepting the award|
As Chowzter’s Mexico City representative, I was charged with delivering the trophy, which was gratefully accepted by members of the Santiago family. After being fed everything on the menu, which includes several manifestations of their eponymous main dish, from tender 'lomo' to crispy refried bits, I was led on a “backstage tour”, apparently a privilege rarely granted and never before to a member of the press: even a Televisa crew was refused entry. Santiago's premises are gargantuan; everything, from tortillas to salsas are made in-house by dozens of busy cooks. Ten to fifteen healthy, locally raised sheep are sacrificed, Abraham-like, daily. They are hung to dry, then roasted between layers of maguey leaves. Their earthen pit wood-fueled ovens are located in Dante-esque smoke-blackened oven rooms. This traditional method of cooking, similar to the 'pib' of the Mayan Yucatán, is little changed since pre-hispanic times.
|Prepared sheep are briefly hung to cure|
|Meat is roasted in a pit dug into the earth, fueled by wood and covered in 'pencas' of maguey, the plant from which mezcal is produced|
|bamboo poles support roasted meat|
A note to my readers: See a fine interview with the author in this month's Time Out Mexico