Barbacoa Ermita, Tijuana: Victor Torres' Hidalgo Style Pit Roasted Mutton
Here you go Ringo Gato!
Those who are very familiar with the cooking traditions of Mexico know about Hidalgo. Before the arrival of the Spanish in what is now Mexico, people in this region had perfected underground pit cooking with wild game, and their cooking traditions were cherished in the Aztec Empire.Barbacoa hidalguense is an art form. Pit roasted mutton slowly cooked wrapped in pencas de maguey(maguey spines) to an tender oily sheen , hand made pancita(offal stuffed lamb stomach with a chile rub), salsa borracha(drunken salsa), consome(broth with chickpeas, and fresh corn tortillas.
Every weekend, Tijuana's own Victor Torres, from Hidalgo where he learned the art of pit cookery, sells about 80-90 kilos of barbacoa served on some park benches set up in front driveway of his house, directly across the street from Tacos Salceados.On Thursday night he boils chile morita and guajillo for his chile rub, then cleans and takes apart his New Zealand lamb.Friday he gets to cooking until the dawns first light on Saturday as costumers start to trickle in at 8AM for the first seating. Like many other specialists in Mexico, the place is open 'til a set hour, but will close when the food is gone.Arrive late and you might miss his masterful pancita.As if his cooking wasn't reason enough, he is one of the most good-natured people you're ever going to come across. The whole family is so charming.
I've been going to Barbacoa Ermita for over a year and recently had the chance to bring writers, chefs, and friends down for a Cotuco sponsored gastronomic tour through Tijuana.Although our group was exhausted from the day before, they soon were animated by the view of Victor's above ground pit exposing tempting scents and views of succulent barbacoa.
The barbacoa and pancita are cooked suspended above a well where the roasted meat drips into savory consome. Victor cooks his lamb perfectly with hints of light pink in the center of his meat. There's only one place I know north of the border that does this right and that's Aqui es Texcoco, first reported by my friend Alex of Chowhound.No one really delivers barbacoa excellence in LA
Victor has barbacoa, the best pancita around, gorgeous consome, mixiotes(chilied lamb steamed in maguey paper), and certified salsas from the core of barbacoa hidalguense. Two drunken salsas, the first a guajillo chile salsa traditionally crocked by pulque, then a chile de arbol salsa spiked with beer.A tart fresh salsa made from jalapenos makes for a powerful salsa triumvirate.His pancita is where you should first try this delicacy. He cleans it right and delivers luscious and funky flavors, the texture is so pleasurable. It has form and structure, not just a loose gathering of offal like it can be.
With only his young assistant to serve us on the day of the FAM visit, Victor cranked out the bowls of consome, kilos of barbacoa and pancita, and warmed homemade corn tortillas. He even has a fresh agua de jamaica.It was a kick watching mi compadre, Eddie Lin, running around looking for spare chunks of pancita. I think he even forgot to take video here in his offal maddened state.
Barbacoa Ermita is a nice sit down local family establishment. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside watching young Tijuana children enjoying barbacoa tacos and a nice consome. Wonder if I could convince my friend's children to put down the chicken nuggets for this taste of Hidalgo?
The restaurant is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. The rest of the week, Victor removes the benches from the driveway and relaxes with his family.He is a genuine specialist only working his craft as his birthright dictates, with humility and purpose. You must hit this spot when in Tijuana for a weekend breakfast indulgence from the opulent culinary tradition of Hidalgo.
Av. Ermita, 807
Open Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.