I have always been under the impression (though without actually trying) that chicharron was crispy fried pork cracklins.
I just came back from my favorite local Mexican deli where I'd decided to order a taco with this (instead of my usual carnitas.) I was expecting something very similar to carnitas, but lighter and crispier. Instead, I got a taco containing what appeared to be cubes of soft pork fat that seemed to have been stewed, rather than fried. It was tasty, but definitely not what I was expecting.
Have I been living a life of ignorance, did I simply encounter a regional variation, or are they crazy? I don't question the place's authenticity. (It was Tehuitzingo on 10th Ave in Manhattan for you NYers.)
One of my favorite treats as a kid was homemade chicharron. My mom would cut pork fat into cubes and then fry them until hot and crisp. We would then put them in a handmade corn tortilla with some salsa. We always referred to them as tacos de chicharron. If we order chicharron in a restaurant, whether in a burrito or separate, we always expect to get them cooked in usually a green chile. I do them both ways at home now. I also make frijoles con chicharron by adding them (amount depends on preference) to a pot of boiling pinto beans along with chimayo chile, jalapeno, onions and garlic. We then eat them like soup. They are deeeeelicious served this way.
OK, I'll put in my 2 cents here. I happen to LOVE chicharrones, and I'm not even on Atkins. Had them first perhaps two or two-and-a-half decades ago in marginal mexican restaurants in Chicago. As others have noted, they were basically your fried pork rinds from a bag or from the deli counter (cut into managable bits) which are then stirred and cooked into a sauce. I've had them in both red and green sauces, both quite hot. What I love about them is the spongy, springy mouth-feel, as well as the pork's ability to retain its own distinctive, smoky taste against the blazing, ripping fire of the hottest sauces. Add to this the bragging rights of enjoying an oddball (not to say disguting) comestable, and what do you have but a feast for the gods? (Of course, in this singular respect, it in no way surpasses the cow eyeball tacos--tacos de los ojos--about which other Chicagoans have posted.)
One further glory: these are easily replicated in the home kitchen, even on the single, portable burners of many a studio apartment in New York. Simply heat a flour tortilla or two in a pan, and when these critters are done remove them, dump a can of Herdez green sauce or red sauce or the sauce of your choice into the hot pan, add a few hand-fulls of fried pork rinds, stir and let cook about 5 minutes or until the rinds are mostly flaccid and have absorbed most of the sauce (along with its flavor and intensity).
YUM! I just finished a big ol' panful myself.
I had the exact same experience, and I too was greatly disappointed.
Tacos de chicharron are always made with that soft chicharron. I love chicharron (the crispy version) but this version of it is an acquired taste.
IMO this version of chicharrom is a misnomer as by definition chicharron means something crunchy.
I think the confusion may arise from your having read about chicharrones as served at Colombian restaurants, where they are in fact crunchy bands of pork belly, with little nuggets of meat attached. Yours is the second story I've heard about stewed chicharrones. Glad you liked 'em, but I'm not sure they're on my short list of things to try.
I can understand and sympathize with you on this. I had a similar experience, seeing the stuff as it is sold "out the door" it is crispy, crackly pork skin. But after buying some of it at my local authentic Mexican "deli", and asking "okay, now what do I do with this stuff?", the counter guy told me to essentially "stew" it in a red salsa, then serve it in a tortilla. Just like your experience, so evidently this is the most prevalent use of chicharrones in the mexican kitchen.
re: mike g
Here in LA, where good Mexican food is bountiful, chicharrones frequently come---when had in tacos, tortas, sopas, etc.---stewed in various sauces (mole, tomatillo-based salsa verde, etc.)
The cripy type that you speak of is, in fact, eaten plain as a snack (often flavored with chile and lime). There was a recent (and probably ongoing) demand for the snack version here in Atkins-crazed SoCal due to the fact that is a very low-carb alternative to, say, potato chips or pretzels.
re: Eric Archer
Thanks to you both. I guess the answer is that I've been living in ignorance. The veil has been lifted!
I did enjoy it, though am probably not in much of a hurry to have it again. After that and finding bones in my taco de barbacoa, I'll probably revert next time to my standard order duo of carnitas and huitlacoche.