500 Tacos: Sazon
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
1816 S. Lamar Blvd. (map), 512-326-4395, www.sazonaustin.com. Hours: 9:30am-10pm Mon-Fri; 8am-10pm Sat; 9am-9pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 05.01.15
In search of true Mexican food for a Statesman story in 2010, I interviewed Sazón chef and owner Margarito Aranda about cochinita pibil. He described it this way: “A true cochinita is going to be cooked in the ground, in what's called a 'pib,' in an earthen oven. That's the way the Mayans would cook it. The name 'cochinita pibil' is a mixture of Spanish and Mayan, which is 'little pig cooked in the ground.' We braise it in the oven, try to mimic the temperature and the time.” I order it every time I'm here, like Johnny Depp’s character in “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” who shoots the cook if the cochinita pibil’s too good — just to keep the world in balance. I’ll just settle for another helping.
The taco: Cochinita pibil
No, it’s not listed as a taco on the menu, but a $12 plate of cochinita pibil will make three custom tacos on fresh corn tortillas with black beans, pickled habanero, pink onions — even a slice of fried plantain for a touch of the exotic. A bargain for rich, fork-tender meat braised in dried peppers and citrus with a pronounced achiote sachet of annatto, cumin, garlic and allspice. Nobody builds a taco like you can, especially with a toolkit like this.
► Pastor al la carte: One al pastor taco on fresh corn is just $2.25, a good value for aggressively seared nuggets of pork with an equally aggressive pineapple presence.
► Secret breakfast: Given that Sazón opens in the morning, it’s hardly a secret that they have chilaquiles and huevos rancheros. The secret is that if you ask, they’ll bring you a breakfast menu anytime. In this land of interior Mexican ceviche and pibil and huitlacoche, a humble $1.29 bean-and-egg breakfast taco is a salute to the border.
► Tortillas: Sazón makes its own white corn tortillas, with rough edges and a dry disposition that bends just enough to get the job done.
► Salsa: A watery, medium hot tomato red doctored with chili powder comes standard with chips and sauce, which beside the bean-and-egg breakfast taco, is mostly what it’s good for. They keep a vinegary-hot dried pepper salsa in reserve. Ask for it.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)