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Aug 10, 2005 12:34 AM

Taco filling translations

  • r

Not comprehensive, but some of the taco fillings I saw in a recent taco crawl. Good link to Mexican food terms at the end.

There are some odd balls in the list like Jamon Cocinado and Chile Verde.

Even though I worked in Mexico City for a year ... I was WORKING. When I ate, I focused on tortas. So, going into my crawl I was clueless about many of these terms. I heard them, I just wasn't sure what they were EXACTLY.

So, for anyone as clueless as me, here they are. I hope those more in the know will let me know if I have any of this wrong.

AL CARBÓN - charbroiled meats.
AL PASTOR – marinated pork cooked on vertical spits like Mid-Eastern shawerma, although it is just usually marinated pork that is fried, baked or roasted.
AL VAPOR - steamed meat, often from a cow or goat's head
BARBACOA – slow-cooked shredded beef or lamb. It is usually meat from the head. Originally the head was placed in a pit lined with coals. Now it is usually steamed
BIRRIA – slow cooked meat that is stew-like
BUCHE - pig's stomach
CABAZA – beef head
CARNE ASADA – grilled beef
CARNE MOLIDA – ground beef
CARNITAS – Pieces of pork slow-cooked, then fried;
CHICARONNES – fried pork skins
CHILI COLORADO - red chili sauce often with beef
CHILE VERDE – green chili sauce meat can be anything but usually chicken
CHORIZO – crumbly Mexican pork sausage
DESEBRADA – shredded beef
JAMON COCINADO – cooked ham / pork
LENGUA – tongue, or as one menu listed, bovine tongue
POLLO – chicken
POLLO ASADO – grilled chicken
SESOS – beef brains
SUADERO – rose meat – Probably beef. See this Chowhound link for some ideas
TRIPITAS – fried tripe (usually the lining of a cow’s stomach. Can be pig or sheep)

Other translations

Cebollitas - Green onions or scallions
zanahorias en escabeche – marinated sliced carrots usually with onions, and oregano

The following link, while not comprehensive, has some other Mexican food terms and background. There is a nice list of antojitos.


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  1. There was a little bit of a discussion on exactly whta Barbacoa is and how does it differ from cabeza.

    IMO, many of these terms can mean different things depending where you are.

    However, one poster came up with one of the best links I've ever seen on Chowhound about the Barbacoa at Vera's Pit BBQ in Brownsville, TX. Great pictures of the whole process. Makes me want to jump in a car and drive to Texas


    1 Reply
    1. re: rworange

      One note. I ate at Vera's in late June. Some things have changed. First, the restaurant is open everyday. I ate there at 10 am on a Saturday morning. Also, based on the pictures, they have done a lot of renovations on the building as it looks new and freshly painted.

      I thought the food was very good.

    2. In my experience, chili verde is more often pork than chicken...although that might vary regionally. OTOH, enchiladas verdes are often stuffed with chicken...

      cebollitas are generally grilled, and the zanahorias also usually have pickled jalapenos, which is why some folks call them jalapenos en escabeche...

      This list is making me hungry! Wish there was one good place near my office to get tacos al pastor! :-)

      1. The only time I ordered tripas (tripitas?), thinking it would be tripe, it turned out to be intestine, which I'm not crazy about. The Michoacan Mexican food I have here, calls tripe, buche. I'll stick with buche, and forget about the tripitas. Does anyone know if tripas and tripitas are the same.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Pat Hammond

          The tripitas I've had on California's central coast have been pork intestines aka chitlins.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Tripitas are always intestines.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Thanks. It sounds like it should be tripe, doesn't it? I actually enjoy chit'lin's, but tripitas, nope. Maybe it was because I was expecting tripe.

          2. One I rarely see in the bay area that is very common in Sacramento is ADOBADO or ADOVADO. It's meat--always pork in my experience--marinated in an achiote-based sauce, cooked on a griddle, and typically served with carmelized onions. The taste and look of the taco in the end is similar to al pastor. The way I see it, al pastor really needs to be cooked on the Turkish spit. If it's similarly marinated but cooked another way, it's adovado. I think the taquerias in Sacramento are being a bit more precise about what they are cooking. In the bay area, it seems al pastor has such a strong cachet that everyone uses the term even when it's not cooked on the spit.

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