Chicharron en Salsa Ranchera; $1.99; Mama’s Kitchen, 504 Hildebrand Ave., (210) 733-0904
One taco puzzle I haven’t quite solved is how to properly prepare chicharrones. The most popular way to consume these bad boys is to fry them — sometimes fry the $#!* out of them. Sprinkle chile powder on them, squeeze some lime, crack open a beer, and you’re good to go.
In tacos, however, I’ve had them crunchy, I’ve had them soft and I’ve even had them gelatinous.
As The Tacoist, because I gladly wield my self-appointed power like a self-absorbed bastard, I proclaim Mama’s Kitchen on Hildebrand Avenue as the best version of chicharrones in a taco. Their version takes the skins and slow cooks them in a salsa ranchera. Traditionally this sauce is composed using the base of tomatoes, onions and peppers, or the colors of the Mexican bandera. After that, who knows what’s added to the sauce. Garlic, I’m sure. Salt and pepper for proper seasoning. I don’t know for certain that these pork skins in this sauce are slow cooked. But they must be considering the softness and depth of flavor that’s achieved with this dish.
It’s the perfect fusion of the flavor of the pork skins with all of the ingredients of the sauce. It’s a swirl of all of those flavors. “America’s Test Kitchen” couldn’t recreate this taco. No way. The flavors of the skins and the sauce become one. You remove the skins from the sauce, taste them separately, and find that each ingredient has soaked up some of the other’s flavor.
In my write-up of Mama’s Kitchen, I described this taco as “mind blowing.” After having had this taco recently, I stand by that statement.
The chicharrones make this taco great. But Mama’s Kitchen’s soft and very good flour tortillas certainly play a huge part. Also, this taco is naturally hot, and already contains the salsa ranchera flavors, so there’s no need for additional hot sauce.
I had heard of Mama’s Kitchen through the Trinity University grapevine, and through friends who are mutual admirers of breakfast tacos. In 50-plus taquerias visited, Mama’s Kitchen is one of a handful that has earned The Tacoist’s coveted three salsa cup rating. For now, this restaurant has produced one of San Antonio’s truly Great Tacos. “For now,” because there are probably other Great Tacos on its menu. This one is the best one I’ve had at Mama’s Kitchen.
— Benjamin Olivo
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