Lengua de Res en Salsa @ Mi Pueblo Food Center, Salinas
For today's shopping challenge, my mother asked, "can you get a pound of beef cheeks?" So on the way home, we tried to find a carniceria/taqueria combo that might sell prepared meats by the pount. I struck out at the first two butcher shops we tried, then I got the bright idea of making a stop at the newish supermercado, Mi Pueblo on the corner of Sanborn and E. Alisal.
Mom hadn't been in here before. She commented that when it was Safeway, she was in here just about every other day of her working life. When she stepped in the door, her eyes got very wide with wonder at the transformation. This is a beautiful, well-stocked store.
We wandered over to the "Deli-Mex" counter to see what types of cooked carnes might be available. No beef cheeks, but a huge mountain of carnitas of every shape and cut ($5.99/lb.) for the choosing. And next to it was an even bigger pile of chicharrones, just the pork rinds or with meat. What a time to be without my camera! The chunks of meat, offal, rind, and riblets were intertwined with a cebollito here and there and roasted jalapeños for a spot of green. Contrary to my own preference, my mother wanted a softer and not as crispy piece that would be easy to chew. With much pointing, the counter helper got her tongs on just the right chunk of fatty carnitas from the butt.
A case of hot stew-y foods had trocitos en salsa verde (chile verde), tinga de pollo, res y papas, and many other choices. I pointed out the beef tongue in red sauce ($3.99) to my mother and asked if that would suit her instead of the beef cheeks. We tried a half pound, ladled into a styro cup then sealed in plastic.
These made up our dinner tonight. Dad especially liked the lengua. Near inch size cubes of soft tongue are bathed in a mildly piquant red salsa that he enjoyed with some rice. The carnitas proved to be as tender and moist as they looked and very tasty.
My mother has her eye on the roast chicken special and the fried-to-order fish for her next visit.
Mi Pueblo Food Center
950 E Alisal St
Salinas, CA 93905
Other locations in Watsonville, Modesto, San Jose, Mountain View, Hayward, and Oakland.
Very interesting. I love lengua. Was the red sauce primarily a dried chili sauce? Or a tomato based ranchero? Or a thicker tomato sauce? I have eaten the latter two, but never seen lengua in a basically red chili sauce. Around where I am, the lengua is usually sliced, not cubed. Another style sauce that I like on lengua is a tomatillo based green sauce.
re: Ed Dibble
re: Ed Dibble
On the lower central coast-SLO-cubed lengua is the norm. Never seen it sliced. It's always served in a brothy green chili "sauce" but it's never about the sauce, it is well-drained at the deli counter before going into the taco, burro, or to-go container.
We made it to Mi Pueblo, and even a hestitant hubby ventured into the store with me. We cruised the deli meats first, but with only an ice chest packed with food, no where to keep it for our 6 hour journey to Carson City. Next we passed the tortilla station where the corn tortillas were flying off the machine into the hands of two chatting ladies who gave us each a hot one to eat. WoW! not hand patted, but So good with the salsa they had out to try.
The bakery counter came next and what an array of gorgeous cakes decorated with fresh fruits. The gals were making some huge beautifully-deorated (wedding?) cakes behind the counter. It was fun because the entire kitchen area is open and you can watch all the activity. In the case, there were also cups and wedges of house-made flan (which we got, but haven't tried yet) and Tres Leches cake in squares, or packed into plastic to-go cups (same as blended coffee drinks go into) with the domed lids. We got a Mocha one to try. It was good--fresh sponge cake, mocha whipped cream topping, sweet milk sauce. It came garnished with an unfortunate canned strawberry topping which I removed. Heresey here in the land of fresh berries! This cake hit the spot after another 4 hours of driving! A good late day pick-me-up.
I was interested to read that the owner is expanding his Mi Peueblo markets over Northern California. I hope he brings one down our way. I know it would be gratefully patronized.
I agree about the fresh meat counter--it was sparkling and neat as a pin! We got some longanisa sausage to try on the BBQ with our ribs tonight.
The place was bustling at 9:00 a.m. and I can imagine it at 4-5 p.m.! Parking was tight even in the early morning. Glad to know it is open so early.
Thanks for this great post, Melanie! Although photos would have been nice, your descriptions were vivid and made my mouth water! When I'm w/o my camera, I feel like I'm missing something important like my pocketbook.
Mi Pueblo is a nice store, isn't it? I prefer the one in San Jose to the one in Watsonville, but I need to explore the Watsonville store more, esp. the prepared foods section.
Here's a link to ahclem's post on the Watsonville branch w/ a few photos: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
I will def. check to see if they have lengua next time I'm there. We like lengua (esp. husband!), and I can't see myself ever making it at home. I've tried a couple of their deli case salsas (the spicy rojo and the pico de gallo) and didn't really care for them. Rojo was one note and a touch thin, and pico de gallo didn't taste that fresh. Quality probably varies by store though...
re: Carb Lover
Thanks for the link on the Watsonville branch.
Salinas opens at 6am. There's a whole butcher case dedicated to specialty beef cuts that has 4 types of tripe plus a menudo mixto, lengua, cachete, and whole beef heads. The raw beef tongue is $2.99/lb, so $3.99 for cooked seemed like quite a deal.
I'll have to say that the meat counter here looks good, unlike so many carnicerias that have dried out, tired displays. And it was well-staffed too. The marinated meats (carne asada, quail, etc.) looked interesting, might try those and cook them at home.
Thanks, Melanie for this great post. and shame on you for being without camera--you know you've spoiled us with your knack for photo illustration!
Lengua is my favorite deli-case stewed meat. I know the thought of tongue grosses some hounds out, but when you get past what part of the animal it comes from, and just taste the meat, it has such delicious, rich flavor. I grew up with English-style cold boiled tongue at the holiday table and loved it. In the Mexican delis and taquerias, sometimes I do find it cooked a little too long, to where it becomes almost mushy. But usually it just makes me swoon. Lengua tortas are my favorite but I usually get tacos to forgo some of the calories of a torta--all that crema....
Mi Pueblo is now on my list to try when 'in the neighborhood.'
We'll be traveling through today on our trip to Reno, and it will be in a good leg-stretching spot. I love to shop Mexican groceries to see what lind of goods they carry. It's almost like being a tourist:) I'm googling it now to get a map!