April 18, 2009

What is birria?

On Sundays, as you drive around town it’s pretty quiet. Many of the businesses are closed and there is a lazy feeling in the air. Around 9 am the church bell in Iglesia Santa Barbara’s bell tower starts clanging, calling people to mass. Various no-name eating establishments, little hole-in-the-wall places, put out handwritten cardboard signs offering up posole, menudo and birria. Esperando and I are familiar with posole and menudo, but we always wondered—what is birria? We first noticed birria signs elsewhere on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez in Puerto Peñasco many years ago when that place was still a sleepy little fishing village. Back then Esperando thought birria (which can be made of just about any meat, but most commonly here is of goat) might be a kind of barbeque.

Well today we decided to draw on our local resource and asked the cook to make us a birria for lunch. She started early this morning with a big hunk of beef, a bag of mixed spices that looked like pickling spice, a whole garlic head still in its papery skin, some onions, and a small pile of dried pasilla chiles, dried Anaheim-type red and green chiles, and a few of the fiery little chile pequins that have been harvested from the darling pepper tree my friend gave to Esperando. The house is suffused with the spicy essence of this stew or caldo bubbling away on the stovetop. We didn't know how we would last until we were allowed to sample this obvious piéce de résistance. I thought we might salivate to death.

When we came to the table condiments were set out in bowls to put on the birria: chopped lettuce, sliced radishes, chopped onion mixed with cilantro, and a bowl of Mexican limes. The meat in the birria had been shredded in skinny threads, and the broth was flavorful but a clear broth colored red by the chiles. It was the perfect lunch, not heavy, not especially hot from the chile, but redolent with the spice of clove, cumin and allspice. Next time Esperando wants to try goat.

1 comment:

Ryan! said...

well how was it?