February 6, 2023

Carnitas - A John Nechman Discovery

  Carnitas. Where one cooks down chunks of pork with their fat. The fat comes out, just like you’ve probably observed when frying bacon, and meat continues to fry in its own fat.

John found a place on Airline for carnitas, in that complex of flea markets just before West Mount Houston and writes: 

“. The best carnitas I’ve ever eaten were prepared by Mama Ninfa herself for my family and me when we were kids. I’ve been on the search for any that can compare ever since. On rare occasions, I found some fairly close—San Antonio’s Carnitas Lonja and Don Raul’s, Carnitas Qerétaro in El Paso, and in Laredo, Carnitas Uruapán comes to mind. But I haven’t found any others at that level in Houston, including at Ninfa’s (the secret must’ve died with Mama!). Diego’s Famous Carnitas on Veterans Memorial and Gerardo’s in the North End are pretty reliable.

“And then Saturday, we continued our trek to try the only taco spots on the Chronicle’s recent Top 25 Tacos in Houston list ( https://www.houstonchronicle.com/projects/2023/best-taco-spots-in-houston-area/ ), which let us to the busy Sunny Flea Market on Airline. I’ve often stopped here for the spectacular tacos at Taquería 4 Hermanos, but this time, we went in search of a place called Que Tacote (8705 Airline). And at this sweet little family-run stand, we found the best carnitas tacos I’ve had in Houston. Not as good as Mama Ninfa's carnitas, but for flavor and flair, these come the closest in this area.

“Look for the stand in about the midpoint of the market. It consists of one section that makes fresh churros, which are also excellent, and then the main attraction, which is all about the pork! The massive chunks of succulent pig are braised in lard and finally chopped, with huge portions stuffed into fresh tortillas. You can go pura carne, or add-in any of the skin and organ meats that you find to your liking. Whatever you do, make sure to ask for a hearty sprinkle of the fresh crackling chicharrón, and don’t forget the all important cebolla y cilantro, as well as some caramelized cebollas, too. And try all of the five amazing sauces, but beware—a few of them should come with a fire extinguisher!

“The only problem with this stand is that it’s only open on Saturday and Sunday when the market is open. It will be painful trying to overcome mid-week cravings for these amazing tacos, waiting for the weekend to arrive.“

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