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Dec 14, 2006 04:00 AM

Birria de chivo at El Nopalito in Encinitas

I just had a birria taco at El Nopalito. It was moist, and spicy, with onions and cilantro. I squeezed a lime on it and added some salsa verde on the recommendation of one of the other diners. I had never had birria before, so I don't have anything to compare it to. It didn't knock me over, but it was good, and I'd have it again.

Who makes the definitive birria de chivo?

They had bags of chips and tortillas on the shelves, and tamales and salsa in the cooler. I really like their tamales.

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  1. Birria de Chivo is my favorite food -period.

    I am very glad that you gave it a try for the first time, Leucadian. You would be surprised at how big a role goat or kid plays in many world cuisines, yet is pratically non-existant in US cuisine.

    The other diner steered you perfectly in adornament of this treat.

    To me - chopped onions add a pleasing sharpness as well as a textural contrasting of crispness against the melting, comforting birria.
    Cilantro provides a vegetal spark (perfect with goat in lieu of mint as evidenced by the chinese use of this in pairing with lamb).
    Lime is also a must to cut the unctuous richness of the goat and 'brighten' the stew.

    I think verde is the best choice in salsa because of its slight tanginess but a close second is a vinegary arbol salsa roja.

    Somtimes searingly hot dried baby chili tepin is served alongside.

    Birria's 'must' qualities (for me) include:
    1. An aggressive gaminess
    2. A decent fat-collagen-meat ratio [not dry in ANY sense]
    3. Include bones
    4. Slight presence of spices (cumin etc)
    5. Dried Chile complexity (tones of smokiness and chocolate a la ancho and guajillo chiles)
    6. Being served with tender fresh stone ground corn tortillas

    Here is a posting I did way back on an Escondido "Tour De Birria"

    I was kind of sad I didnt get any responses -No love for the birria at that time : (

    Considering its high Latino population -- Escondido would be your best closest bet for good birria. Just make sure you are not getting "Birria de Res" -as it is much more common.

    In Fallbrook, I hit up El Tigre on the weekends to get a quick fix. Not the best birria (drier, leaner cuts) but it serves its purpose.

    I prefer Birria served in a soup bowl - kind of like 'en su Jugo' as another supermarket in fallbrook serves it (now sporting a 'B' rating -lol). Roll up some corn tortillas and eat along.

    For eye-rollingly-incredible Birria you will have to make a trip to LA's mecca of birria y asada -- EL PARIAN. But beware- after birria from el parian - everything pales in comparison.
    My El Parian Report:

    PS I can also reccomend Los Reyes for Birria on the weekend - but I prefer slightly more, their Barbacoa de Borrego estilo Pachuca (lamb) wrapped in Maguey leaves.

    Now on to my Birria de chivo dissertation

    1. Actaully, ya'll want to make the 2,500 mile trek south to a huge barn of a place on the outskirts of Guadalajara called El Chololo. I can take or leave goat, but not there. The only thing they do is birria de chivo and it is truly spectacular (thank you Cristina!).

      The goat is roasted in huge ovens and then finished in high heat glazed wtih it's own meat juices. The meal starts with consume, which is again, based on the juices that accumulate while it is cooking. The consume comes with the usual plate of diced white onion, minced cilantro and lime wedges. Shortly after the consume arrives at the table so does the goat and tortillas. The outside is crackly crisp and the interior soft, moist and not especially gamey. You can eat your consume straight, or add goat to it, or dip the goat in the consume and then roll it in tortillas to make a taco, or basically how ever it makes you happy.

      How does this compare with what's available in San Diego? A lot of the early migrants were from the state of Jalisco, it's surprising that birria and/or derivatives didn't establish themselves earlier.

      4 Replies
      1. re: DiningDiva

        Great responses. So the goat is roasted? I didn't catch any crunchiness or smoke in the taco I had, so I thought it was braised or stewed. Hmm. Looks like I'll have to have some more.

        I've seen clouds of smoke coming from a Mexican market next to Highway 78 in Oceanside on West Vista Way, grilling something. I never stopped, and I don't drive by as often now, so I don't know if it's still doing it. Anyone familiar with the place or what they are cooking? Next time I have a chance, I'll check it out.

        1. re: Leucadian

          I should have been more clear. The roasting I was describing was more more like a moist roast than a dry roast. There was no smoke flavor or taste, nor was the meat crunchy. There was a thin, very thin, veneer on the exterior meat from the meat juice glaze. Once you start digging in the glaze sort of dissolves in to the meat and meat juices, so you only get that crispy, crackly crunch on the first few pieces but not totally throughout the meat. Sorry for the confusion.

          1. re: Leucadian

            I think most birria this side of the border (as well as most barbecoa) is stewed without roasting. In Mexico - and DiningDiva is our acknowledged expert here - both dishes may imply/require roasting. I have no idea why this is the case except perhaps the places that specialize in roasting goat or lamb don't offer diverse dishes on their menu. In the US our expectations are that a Mexican restaurant will offer a wide range of dishes.


            1. re: Ed Dibble

              Saveur had a great article on the process of kid-roasting in Monterrey I believe a few months back. They are impaled whole on a spit and leaned against the fire - much like the P-NW Indian technique of salmon roasting.

              I believe this is a different dish than Birria- as Birria means something along the lines of 'a sloppy mess' implying a stew.

              Leucadian- I actually too was enticed by the smoke coming from this place and I stopped in one day. It is a great little market La P- something Market, I think. They have a great cocina section with roatating dishes being served, mole I think on Monday.

              They do a brisk tamale business as well and their prepared mango salsa (available for tasting among others with chips at the register) is great.

        2. This takes me back, while working at Solectron in the outskirts of Guadalajara (just off the periferico) there was a place across from the plant that sounds very similar, they affectionately called it building 7 (the plant has 6 buildings). Wonder if this was the same place? We would wander over for lunch a couple times a week. They would have goats splayed out on steel rebar, surrounding a fire; occasionally the cook would walk over grab one side of the rebar and move it so the other side would get some heat. The meat was fantastic and served as you described above. Thanks for bringing back a pleasant memory.


          1 Reply
          1. re: stevuchan

            El Chololo is South of the airport on the road to Ajijic. There are a few large places like this in the vicinity.