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Nicholas Gilman is a renowned journalist and food writer based in Mexico City.

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Carnitas, the Essence of Pork: Where to Eat it

Carnitas, the Essence of Pork: Where to Eat it

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Carnitas distill the flavor of roast pork down to its essence. According to legend the dish originated in the Michoacán area; it is now found throughout the republic, often under the rubric ‘Carnitas Michoacanas’. Regardless, the preparation method varies little from region to region. The partitioned animal, including its viscera, is first boiled in water perfumed with onion and garlic, then braised in its own fat, confit style. Sometimes orange and herbs such as oregano are added. Finally, the meats are browned to add crispness and flavor. These proceedings take place in a giant copper tub, which distributes the heat evenly. Traditionally done outdoors over a wood fire, nowadays exquisite carnitas are prepared inside on gas. Carnitas are usually ordered by weight, i.e. 1/4 to a full kilo, or as tacos. Different cuts of meat can be specified: Maciza is pure meat without fatty bits or skin and is fine. But much fuller flavored and textured  are such combinations as buche con cuerito (lips with skin), barriga (pork belly), costilla (rib), chamorro (knuckle) or chamorro con nana (don't ask). Surtida is a good option as it includes a bit of everything.Below are a few of my favorite places to eat carnitas in CDMX.

El Rincon Tarasco Av. José Martí 14, Colonia Escandón Tel . 5277-2548 Open: Tuesday – Sunday 9 a.m. -3 p.m. view map
Amongst aficionados, it is generally agreed that this bustling taquería, in the Escandon area south of Condesa offers the best, succulent carnitas in the city.

Azul (El Capote) Avenida Chapultepec Nte., between Genova and Amberes (exit the Insurgentes glorieta at “Chapultepec Nte. Pte.”, at the top of the steps turn left, it is about 10 meters down, opening on two sides of the corner, into an alley) view map
This humble, hard to spot locale, located just outside the Metro Insurgentes circle, is star chef Enrique Olvera’s favorite – he sends chefs from all over the world here to sample taquero Rubén Martinez´succulent offerings. It was a guarded secret until now: word is out!

Carnitas Michoacanas Don One Mercado Abelardo L. Rodríguez (off calle del Carmen between Rep. de Venezuela and Rep. de Colombia) Centro Open daily 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
This market building, built in the 1930’s, is one of the oldest in the city. It is worth a visit to see the murals, on view in the entryways, designed by Diego Rivera and executed by artists including Pablo O’Higgins and Isamu Noguchi. At the east end of the market is this stand serving juicy, succulent tacos of carnitas.

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Tacos Richard Corner of Tamaulipas and Alfonso Reyes (diagonally across from the church), Condesa branch: Luz Saviñón corner of Av. Universidad, Navarte. Daily 11-5
Don Richard Godínez prepares carnitas in his home and his boys sell tacos out of the back of a pickup truck to patient local workers and passersby. They’re Michoacán style, crispy bits clinging to tender, rosy meat. Two unusual salsas are offered, a mild, smoky brown-brick ‘colorado’ and the spikier green made with avocado and habanero.

El Bajio Avenida Cuitláhuac 2709, Colonia Obrera Popular (many branches, see site) Tel. 5234-3763. Open Monday-Friday 8 a.m. -6:30 p.m., Saturday, Sunday 9.a.m.-6:30.p.m. view map
Chef Carmen Titita, author of several cookbooks, founded El Bajio more than 40 years ago. Her original restaurant is popular with large families, especially on weekends. The menu in all three locations is the same, and the carnitas are legendary.

Los Panchos Tolstoi 9, Colonia Anzures Tel: 5254-5430 Open daily 9 a.m.-10 p.m. view map
This is a good choice for traditional food in a casual environment in the otherwise glitzy modern Polanco area. The restaurant specializes in carnitas.

Enrique, Insurgentes Sur 4061, Tlalpan, located near the 'salida a Cuernavaca' in the south of the city. view map
 This is a large family restaurant offering all sorts of typical Mexican dishes, but they specialize in carnitas which are amongst the best in the city.

Rafael and Meche, inside the Mercado Medellín in colonia Roma, view map do exquisite carnitas served on hand made tortillas. But they only do it on Saturday. They are located at the end of the meat aisle, and are not to be confused with the stand in the corner that is open daily but not as good. 

A no-name stand, recognizable by it's red and white striped awning, sits alone at the corner of Av. Insurgentes Sur and Querétaro, in Colonia Roma. From 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. more than acceptable carnitas are sold.

Taquería El Gran Abanico Francisco J. Clavijero 226, between Gutiérrez Najera & Joaquín Arriaga. Colonia Transito Metro San Antonio Abad, view map, is an enormous local institution located in the east of the city towards the airport. It's worth the trip, however, as carnitas, as well as tacos of  carnes a la parilla are exquisite. 

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Out of town: Evoka, Francisco Molina & Tlaxcala

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