Is cooked pork at its absolute finest. And the way it is done in this part of Michoacán is to slow cook huge pieces of pork in nothing but its own rendered fat in immense stainless steel pots, in the street, on big gas burners.

Entire pigs are chopped up and fed into these bubbling cauldrons of hot simmering lard. And nothing is wasted. Everything is used. The snouts, the ears, the skin, the guts; everything but the oink.

The snout is top center. Part of the head (with eyeball) is top right.

The snout is top center. The head (with eyeball) is top right.

And there are connoisseurs for every last little bit. Me? I am a novice so I get a mixed platter. I make sure that I get some rib meat, a bit of the gelatinous snout, and some of those chewy intestinal pieces.

Surprisingly none of the pieces comes out greasy. Just fall off the bone tender. Succulent. And the flavor is as Curnonsky, the prince of early 20th century French gastronomy meant when he said ‘Good cooking is when things taste of what they are.’

Carnitas are such a big part of the local food culture that there is a Carniceria every few blocks. In fact there are a half dozen of these places that cook carnitas within as many blocks from where I live. And two blocks up and a block over boasts not one but three Carnicerias to choose from. And although each and everyone in the neighborhood has a favorite; all of these places sell out.

The chunks are dredged out of the pot then chopped up on a thick slab of wood – which by the way has only a most distant ancestry to their northern cutting board cousins – then served as either takeaway or eaten on the spot.

With your order you get hot tortillas, sliced limes, cilantro, diced onion, guacamole, and your choice of the house red or green salsa. And no, none of these places dispense plastic cutlery. Everyone uses their fingers. Even the guys serving up the food uses their fingers. Example. If they are building a plate for you, they pinch the diced onion and cilantro directly onto your tacos with their fingers. There are no serving utensils.

PS – Only the skin is cooked crispy. Which partially explains why these vats are so huge as to be able to accommodate even the largest sheets of skin. And there are even skin connoisseurs because the way that the local’s do it is there are different types of cooked skin. Like some of the skin has white gooey fatty pieces attached. Where some of the other skin has more of a combined meat and fat component. And then some of the skin is just a pure crackly golden brown.

Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but in my humble opinion only the Filipinos do true justice to the skin. But that’s an entirely different cooking style where the pig is whole roasted. As for me that roasted skin is without a question one of the finest things I have ever put into my mouth.