|Place of origin||Mexico, Greeks, Middle Eastern|
|Main ingredients||Pork meat|
|Cookbook: Al pastor Media: Al pastor|
Al pastor (from Spanish, "shepherd style"), also known as tacos al pastor, is a dish, developed in Central Mexico, based on shawarma spit-grilled meat brought by the Lebanese immigrants to Mexico. Being derived from shawarma, it is also similar to the Turkish döner kebab and the Greek gyros. Although shawarma and döner are usually lamb-based (thus the "shepherd-style" name), gyros and tacos al pastor in Mexico are pork based. In some places of northern Mexico, as in Baja California, this taco is called taco de adobada.
Lebanese immigration to Mexico started in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1892, the first Lebanese arrived in Mexico from Beirut in French ships to Mexican ports. At that time, Lebanon was not an independent nation; the territory was governed by the Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years, but the empire was collapsing, which influenced the migration of many people. In the 1960s, Mexican-born progeny of Lebanese immigrants began opening their own restaurants and morphing their heritage with Mexican cuisine.
Though grilling meat on a skewer has ancient roots in the Eastern Mediterranean with evidence from the Mycenaean Greek and Minoan periods, grilling a vertical spit of stacked meat slices and cutting it off as it cooks was developed in the 19th century in Ottoman Bursa in current-day Turkey. According to some sources, the Middle Eastern shawarma, Mexican tacos al pastor, and Greek gyros are all derived from the Turkish döner kebab, which was invented in Bursa in the 19th century by a cook named Hadji Iskender.
Pork is marinated in a combination of dried chilies, spices and pineapple. In some places, achiote is also added, and then slowly cooked with a gas flame on a vertical rotisserie called a trompo (lit: spinning top), very similar to how shawarma is cooked, with a piece of fresh onion and a pineapple on top. When ready, the meat is then thinly sliced off the spit with a large knife. It is served on small tortillas, with finely chopped onions, cilantro, and occasionally a small slice of pineapple, and usually topped with some lemon or lime juice and hot salsa. This meat is a common ingredient in not just tacos, but also gringas, alambres, huaraches, tortas and pizza.
In some places of Northern Mexico, such as Nuevo León, Durango and Chihuahua, these are usually called tacos de trompo if served on maize flour tortillas, and gringas if they are served with cheese on wheat flour tortillas.
A similar dish is called tacos árabes, which originated in Puebla in the 1930s from Arab Mexican cuisine. Tacos árabes use shawarma-style meat carved from a spit, but are served in a pita-style bread called pan árabe. These tacos have been brought by Mexican immigrants to the United States in the past few years and have become popular in cities, such as Chicago and Los Angeles, two of the largest Mexican/Mexican-American population centers in the United States.
A non-pork version was brought "back" to the Middle East in the early 2000s, and sold as "shawarma mexici". It is essentially a chicken shawarma made in the Middle Eastern style (wrapped with garlic mayonnaise, dill pickle and french fries in a thin flatbread), with the only difference being the marination of the chicken in the "al pastor" style.
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