A light breakfast of tacos de nana, or the meat of the pig uterus

A yummy taco de nana

I’ve been fascinated with tacos de nana ever since my friend Jesica told me about them months ago. We were playing dominoes and everyone was a little tipsy, and the conversation drifted to all the weird things you can stick in tortilla here.

“Uterus?” I’d sputtered. “Uterus tacos?” My taco universe suddenly opened up. God had tipped his cards, and they were covered in gooey pictures of pig parts.

Interestingly, no one else seemed as excited as me. (This is starting to become a trend.) But then a few months later, I was chatting with Jesica’s business partner Martha, who mentioned that she had a carnitas taquero de confianza in Del Valle.

The concept of “confianza” is uniquely Mexican. It basically means trust, and it’s used in all sorts of situations. It’s important to have a cleaning lady “de confianza.” A locksmith “de confianza.” A plumber “de confianza.” I’ve even seen bakeries advertising themselves to be de confianza. I’d never heard of a taquero de confianza, but it made sense, and I begged Martha to let me go with her next time she trekked down to Del Valle.

So it came to be that last Sunday, the morning I was sweating away on my hamburger buns, Martha invited me out for a carnitas tacos breakfast. (Fried meat en la mañana — this is how Mexicans roll.) She drove me to the Mercado Lázaro Cárdenas in Del Valle.

It was about 10 a.m. and the mercado was mostly empty. A few women in checkered smocks sat out front in plastic chairs, tending to a flower stand. We walked inside, past empty stands selling fruits and vegetables, dried chiles. We turned a corner and there it was: a small restaurant with a sign reading “Ricas Carnitas y Desayunos.”

The place already had a line for table service, but we ignored it, because Martha never gets a table. Instead we walked straight up to the glass case stuffed with pig parts.

“This is Jorge,” Martha said, introducing me to the smiling man — and quite skinny, for a carnitas vendor — behind the counter. “Jorge, tell her. Haven’t we been coming here for a long time?”

Jorge related how Martha’s family had been customers for more than 70 years, since before the market was even built. Martha’s grandmother’s sister, in fact, discovered the place as a newly married woman who’d moved to Mexico City from the Yucatán. The stand has been there since at least 1935, Jorge said.

Martha, who used to eat 10 tacos in one sitting here as a kid — lately, she tops out around four — said she never actually orders specific kinds of tacos. She just lets Jorge choose whatever he wants.

“Is that okay with you?” she asked me.

Was that okay with me? I was living a dream. I think at this point my pupils had been replaced by two stars.

Jorge grabbed a few pieces of meat from inside the case, sliced them thinly and began chopping on a tree-stump like cutting board behind the counter. He chopped them so finely, they were almost minced. Then he sprinkled the meat in a corn tortilla hot off the comal, and drizzled on some salsa verde. He placed the tacos on two small plates, each lined with a square of paper.

“Trompa and lengua,” he announced. Snout and tongue.

Martha dug in. I did too, but not before wondering whether I would hate the tongue because of its bumpy texture.

Turned out I needn’t have worried. The meat was chopped so fine, I couldn’t really discern any strange textures. Only a slight meatiness of the tongue, and a smidge of fattiness from the trompa. And anyway, the seasoning had enveloped my brain: slightly tangy, salty. It married perfectly with the bright green salsa. I gobbled mine up in minutes, before I even had a chance to take a picture. So I got some of the glass case instead.

Pig parts, for carnitas tacos

The actually very delicious trompa, or snout

The carnitas chopping post

Next up: higado. I didn’t realize liver tacos were part of the carnitas oeuvre — nor did I know I even liked liver, until I tasted Jorge’s. He took a chunk of liver from the case and again, sliced it thinly. He added some cuerito, which are bits of fried pig skin. Then chop chop chop, toss meat on tortilla, drizzle with salsa. Fold and place in front of two hungry girls.

The liver had a stronger, gamier taste than the trompa/lengua combo, but it was gentler somehow. It did not have the table-pounding, “I am liver!” taste of liver and onions. This was beach-side liver. Liver you’d eat while sitting under an umbrella, curled up with a good book. I liked the contrast between the two tacos that came before it.

Next: the tacos de nana, my reason for coming. The meat sat in a big olla, under the glass. Most people would try not to look at it, but I wanted to take a picture. (As a sidenote, I also don’t get grossed out during the human-anatomy operating scenes on TV.) Martha asked a woman behind the counter if she wouldn’t mind, and so the woman took the camera and snapped this.

A pot of nana, before it's chopped into tacos

Once chopped up, the nana looked innocuous enough. I thought it would be like tripa — the thick, rubbery sheet that’s cubed and often eaten in menudo — but it wasn’t. The fatty parts were about the thickness of a fingernail. And they clung to bits of meat. It tasted even milder than the lengua, but blanketed in the same seasoning and salsa.

“How are they?” Martha asked.

I could only nod and widen my eyes. Then I ate the rest of my nana.

Lastly, we ordered a “sesadilla” — a mix of brains and chicharrón, which are crispy fried bits of pig skin. (Chicharron is cuerito, but deep fried, so that the skin has a fluffed-up appearance.) I’d had brains before, at Bar Belmont in Colonia Juarez and Cafe Tacuba. These brains were a bit different, though. They were creamier. I asked Jorge how he prepares them, and he said he whisks them in order to give them a softer texture. (He also said some other stuff I didn’t understand.)

The sesadilla was completely different than all the other tacos Martha and I had tried — it was so creamy and gloppy, with a meaty, kind of sour taste. I tried not to think of the words “sour brains” as I ate, and instead of something nicer, like pudding.

My halfway-eaten sesadilla

We ate four tacos each, and I had an orange-tuna fruit juice. Martha got two sodas. Total price was about $10.

We left feeling full, but not like we had to roll ourselves out the door. For some reason I felt like I’d eaten a light breakfast. Maybe it was because the meat was chopped so fine. Or maybe… part of me, the gustatory part, is actually becoming a little more Mexican.

A girl can hope.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Enjoyed this post? Share it!
11 Responses to “A light breakfast of tacos de nana, or the meat of the pig uterus”
  1. Ash

    no offense, I almost barfed when I read this. I’m so not even close to having the iron stomach you apparently have. holy cow. (literally.)
    you go girl!

  2. Leslie Limon

    You are far more adventurous than me! I love most of the food Mexico has to offer, but I have yet to embrace the more “exotic” meats.

    Next on your adventure should be “tacos de ubre”, cow udder tacos. My hubby and 6 year old daughter are crazy about them!

    • Lesley

      Leslie: Cow-udder tacos? Yum! They’re now on my list. Especially now that your family has endorsed them. I’ll let you know if I find ’em…

  3. Alice

    Curly nana? Creamy brains? When describing cow parts, the English language just doesn’t seem adequate. If you say it’s good, I’ll have to give ’em a go.

  4. Don Cuevas

    We had some tacos de nana at the Mercado Medellín, Col. Roma Sur about a year and a half ago. Wasn’t no big deal, really. My curiosity was satisfied, and I probably wouldn’t order them again.

    Speaking of “de confianza”: our trusted butcher (the same, cecina-maker of Pátzcuaro) yesterday sold me a kilo of eye of round, skillfully cut and butterflied to resemble arrachera, which was what I was really wanting.

    My confianza in him is at risk, but I’m withholding final judgement until we grill the fake arrachera tomorrow. He swore up and down that it would be tender and that “hammering” it was unnecessary. There was an earlier incident, involving specifics of ground beef, in which he totally ignored what I asked for and swore how juicy the hamburgers would be. (They weren’t.)

    I must be slow to catch on.

    Don Cuevas

  5. Lesley

    Don Cuevas: Good luck with that. I’ll sure the beef will be tasty no matter what. I kinda dig the name “fake arrachera,” though. I wonder if you can make that with soy?

  6. Don Cuevas

    Lesley, we just had a fantastic meal of nearly grilled everything.
    The meat was nearly butter tender, and fat free except for the olive oil n the marinade. (Well, it had marinated a day and a half in lime juice, beer, and spices, etc.)

    Don Cuevas

  7. alice

    Tacos de nana are wonderful, you should also try buche. But sesos I hate :/

  8. elmundodemando

    Sounds riquisimo! Look us up next time you’re in Tejas. Good luck in your aventuras!


  9. Emily

    You have cajones, that’s for sure.

  10. mexicomystic

    I know the world is getting crowded and a person shouldn’t have food prejudices but I have to draw the line somewhere…
    even in Georgia I couldn’t bring myself to eat “Chitterlings”…
    As Jimmy Carter once said, (and I guess it holds true for tacos de nana),
    “It takes a lot of ETHNIC PRIDE to eat Chit’lins”.
    Its enough to make me want a McDonalds burger.

Leave a Reply