Taco Talk-O. In Our Perpetual Need to Find the Best Tacos, Tacos Kinil Hits the Spot
By: T.E.M Staff
Taco, burrito, what's that inside of your speedo. Is it Cochinita Pibil? Or maybe Relleno Negro?
Cochinita Pibil & Negro Rellenos. Mmmm mmmm good.
Photos by Deike Alexa
When I think about tacos from the Yucatán, I think of Cochinita Pibil. This slow cooked, tender, juicy suckling pig with achiote, garlic and spices such as cumin, coriander, pepper, oregano and cloves, is a dish not to be missed.
The authentic way to prepare Cochinita Pibil is wrapping achiote marinated pork meat in banana leaves; then cooking it underground over hot stones, pibil in Mayan means under the ground. This preparation has pre-Hispanic roots and still preserves the technique of cooking in the ground, holes with stones heated for hours over firewood. Not many places still practice this technique, but I am a stickler for authentic Cochinita Pibil. Of course there are many places around the Yucatan, and you can find little hidden gems that cook it properly.
finger lickin good
One vendor of this delight that does not disappoint is Taquería Kinil in Tulum. It’s located near the corner of Calle Sol Poniente and Calle Jupiter Sur, and off the beaten tourist path. It is a tiny storefront on Calle Sol Poniente with a blue and yellow striped awning. Like most authentic Cochinita Pibil spots, you have to get there in the morning when they open at 7am, because they usually sell out by 1 PM. They put their Cochinita into a pit in the ground in the afternoon, and slow-cook until they open in the morning.
They offer 3 types of meats, which can be served in tacos or a torta, on bolillos, a typical Mexican sandwiches, or sold by the kilo. They have the Cochinita Pibil, Lechón de Horno, and Relleno. The Cochinita Pibil melts in your mouth. It is juicy and flavorful. It is not spicy, but has the right amount of spices to make it delicious and the achiote seeds create the signature orange-reddish color of the meat. The Lechón de Horno is oven-roasted pork. It is tender and doesn’t have the same spices as the Cochinita Pibil – good for someone who wants a more straight-forward pork taco or sandwich. The taste reminded me of a pulled-pork sandwich that I might find in the U.S.. Then there was the Relleno Negro, which is another Mayan jewel to try.
In most places the Relleno is made out of turkey, but in this case it was a mix of turkey and pork, which made it a little wetter from the juiciness of the pork and it gave it a more tender texture. The black color of the spices in the meat is due to the toasted chiles, which are not spicy-hot, rather more of a smoky flavor. They use dried chile paisitas that are toasted until they become black. Then they are blended with pepper, cumin, cloves, grilled garlic and onions, to form a paste. This is combined with water to make a sauce and they use it to cook the meat, which is cooked over a fire buried deep in the ground, with hot coals and wood, covered with stones, with the pot of meat on top. All of this is covered with earth, so the meat gets a smoky flavorful steamed bath, changing its texture and chemistry all underneath the ground while we are still asleep.
All of these dishes can be topped with their homemade habanero salsa and pickled red onions, a combination of hot and sour that perfectly compliments the meat. They offer a few drink to wash it all down with, such as homemade orange juice and soft drinks.
Taquería Kinil, near the corner of Calle Sol Poniente and Calle Jupiter Sur
Monday thru Saturday, 7am until they run out
Tulum Eats Magazine is published 12 times a year, unless we decide to go on prolonged vacations. You can find the print magazine at select locations throughout the Riviera Maya, and in some East Coast establishments, where we will randomly place, during selective times. The website will be updated monthly, with selected materials that may or may not be the same as the print version. Look for us soon, in other states of Mexico.