A quick trip to Michoacan

By Dan Paris

During my travels in Mexico I feasted on tacos from Chihuahua to Chiapas and Merida to Michoacan. Two types of tacos stood out above the rest: Al Pastor and Carnitas. The chefs who prepare these all seem to have an emotional connection to their unique preparation rooted in the local culture and passed on from generation to generation. There are some common practices, mostly in the use of the “Trompo” for Al Pastor and the cooking and braising of the Carnitas in a cauldron of “mantecas madres” or lard confit. The aromas of these iconic dishes being prepared are intoxicating for any pork lover.

The “Trompo” is a huge inverted cone of porkitecture.  Thin slices of pork butt and shoulder marinated for twenty four hours in chile adobo, vinegar, pineapple juice and red achiote paste. The slices are layered on a vertical spike with onion and pineapple slices and mounted on a slow rotating vertical gas-fire spit.  As the grill chars the outer layer, the taqureo deftly slices perfectly cooked meat onto a corn tortillas, adds raw onion and cilantro and serves them immediately. The salsa bar offers pickled jalapeno, marinated carrot slices, radish slices and house made red and green salsas.

I am here on $1.50 Al Pastor Taco Thursday and notice the several Trompos waiting their turn in the kitchen looking like a pork Stonehenge.


Many taquerias will chop marinated pork into cubes and cook them on the flat top. There is no comparison to the texture and flavor of spit roasted al pastor.

The ambience says classic taqueria with dramatic voices of telanovela actors in the background and a full wall mural of Janitzio Island in Lake Patzquaro , Michoacan.  Michoacan is known as the capital of Carnitas The entire pig is used in authentic carnitas. The pork is initially deep fried at a high temperature and then slowly braised at a lower setting. You can customize your taco with a mix of shoulder, loin, ribs and skin. Finish it with onion, cilantro, salsa and a squeeze of lime. El Tarasco offers a special $1.50 taco on carnitas tacos every Wednesday.

These tacos are not typical “street tacos” with tiny amounts of meat and mounds of onion. They are packed with meats.

I have been coming here for several years and confess I have yet to try anything beside the Al Pastor and Carnitas tacos. The menu includes other meat; Chicken, Carne Asada, and Lengua (tongue). There are also soups, sandwiches, burritos, quesadillas, seafood cocktails, micheladas, horchata and licuados (fruit juices).

“Tres tacos Al Pastor con todo por favor.”

El Tarasco

3441 Date Palm Drive #D

Cathedral City, Ca.

(760) 324-4133


Monday 9am -10pm

Tuesday 9am-10pm

Wednesday 9am-12pm

Thursday 9am -9pm

Friday 9am to 11pm

Saturday /Sun. 9am-3am