Mexican recipes SPAM

Chilaquiles con “Lardones” de SPAM

A friend’s Facebook status message this morning that mentioned a chilaquiles craving inspired this crazy dish. I haven’t had chilaquiles since our trip to Chicago, and this version won’t win any awards for authenticity, but the final product was delicious, and that’s all that matters, right?

Chilaquiles con Lardones de SPAMSome cracked-out chilaquiles.

This recipe is pretty cracked out since I had to improvise on the ingredients. I had some old tortillas, but I didn’t have any salsa verde. The only salsa I had was an almost-finished jar of Trader Joe’s Salsa Authentica, but there wasn’t enough. I found an old bottle of La Victoria red taco sauce in the fridge and mixed that into the salsa. I didn’t have any eggs or crema mexicana so I mixed some sour cream with a little water to thin it out and drizzled it on top of the chilaquiles.

I chose SPAM because it was the only meat I had readily available, and I’m always looking for new ways to prepare SPAM anyway. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to cut up the SPAM, but as I thought about, the “lardon” idea came to me. Lardons are generally bacon cut into thick chunks, so I thought I do the same with the SPAM.

SPAM SPAM “lardons”
Chicago Mexican reviews TV

Cemitas Puebla

Since I’m from California, I didn’t seriously consider having Mexican food in Chicago, but Cemitas Puebla was No. 1 on Chicago Yelp’s “Hot on Yelp” list and a popular topic on LTH Forum, a Chicago-based food forum. A little more research revealed that Cemitas Puebla was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, which probably attributed to its Yelp popularity. Although I’m not a fan of Guy Fieri as a chef or restauranteur, his DDD gig might be the best job in the country.

Cemitas are a sandwich that’s native to the Mexican state of Puebla and at Cemitas Puebla, they’re comprised of your choice of meat on toasted sesame seed bread, avocado, Oaxacan cheese, papalo (a seasonal cilantro-like herb), their own homemade adobo chipotles. Cemitas Puebla is so committed to the authenticity of their food that they make regular trips to Mexico to get the right ingredients.

We ordered the Cemita Milanesa, a breaded butterflied pork chop that, like all their food, was made fresh to order. The milanesa was a little dry, but combined with the toasted bread, cheese, and chipotles, it was really tasty. In fact, the adobo chipotles with its mild lingering heat might be the real star of Cemitas Puebla since it has a prominent role in every cemita, as well as the Tacos Arabe (see below), and is also available on every table.

Their other specialty is the Tacos Arabe (Arabian Tacos), which owner Tony Anteliz likes to call the “cousin of the shawarma” and comes from the heavy Middle Eastern influence on Puebla. Marinated pork and onions are stacked on a spit roasted like a traditional al pastor. On order, it’s sliced and grilled for a few minutes and then served rolled in a really thin pita with a chipotle sauce that’s made by puréeing their adobo chipotles.

We got their late, so I got the last pieces of meat off the spit, which were really good, but I’m sure their better much earlier in the day. I also got a selection of other tacos including, an excellent carne asada, and very good al pastor and chorizo. One of our friends ordered the chalupas chorizo that looked amazing as well.

The best part about Cemitas Puebla is that it’s cheap, hearty food. Plus the service is fast, friendly and attentive. Even though you order at the counter, they bring your food to you when it’s ready and are always around to make sure you’re being taken care of.

The only negative about the place is that they really love Oscar de la Hoya and his pictures are everywhere. I’m all about Manny Pacquiao and expect Pac-Man to kick Oscar’s ass on December 6. :-)

Cemitas Puebla
3619 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647 map
Web site
Cemitas Puebla on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Mexican street food

Taco Truck War Spreads to Sacramento

We’ve already seen this in Los Angeles, and truth be told, similar disputes have been going on for years in much smaller California cities like Modesto, Patterson, Ceres, Riverbank and Turlock.

But the regulations passed by Sacramento’s City Council in February seem pretty unreasonable, including a time limitation of 30 minutes in one location and no sales after dark. The time limitation is pretty severe, but the night restriction severely impacts folks who work the second and third shifts (police officers, janitors, nurses, etc.) who frequent taco trucks on their breaks. is starting a petition to save Sacramento’s taco trucks, although I couldn’t find a link to an actual petition (unless they’re just collecting them in their Web comments). They also articulate a lot of the other issues that have been brought up in this struggle.

Here’s an excerpt from the actual text of the ordinance:

5.68.170 Operation on the public right-of-way.
It is unlawful for any person to operate a food vending vehicle while stopped, standing or parked on the public right-of-way:

  • A. Between the hours of eight p.m. of one day and five a.m. of the following day during the months of April, May, June, July, August, September and October;
  • B. Between the hours of six p.m. of one day and five a.m. of the following day during the months of November, December, January, February and March.
  • C. For more than thirty (30) minutes in one location, without moving to a new location at least four hundred (400) feet away;
  • D. Within four hundred (400) feet of a location where the same food vending vehicle previously operated, on the same calendar day;
  • E. Within four hundred (400) feet of any other food vending vehicle; or
  • F. Within one hundred (100) feet of any street intersection controlled by a traffic light or stop sign.

If you’re interested, you can read the entire ordinance.

Mexican musings Southern California street food

L.A. Adds Taco Trucks to War against Street Food

Save the Taco TrucksPicture from

First, the bacon hot dog carts, and now taco trucks? What the hell is going on in L.A.?

Chowhound’s C. Thi Nguyen had an Op-Ed piece published in the L.A. Times a couple weeks ago detailing the new regulations passed by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors that would basically put taco trucks in unincorporated parts of L.A. County out of business.

From the article:

On Wednesday, the supervisors passed a harsh set of regulations for unincorporated county areas. Parking a taco truck in one spot for longer than an hour is now punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, or six months in jail, or both. Developers and restaurant owners, particularly in East L.A., are pushing for tougher enforcement too. These changes, say some truck owners, will probably put them out of business.

$1,000 or six months in jail? Not surprising when Downtown L.A. food cart owner Elizabeth Palacios spend 45 days in jail for selling a bacon hot dog.

Nguyen says:

This is a cultural disaster. Forget the Getty — it’s the taco trucks, and their crowds, that are the true culture of L.A. Attacking the trucks is like New York going after its hot dog stands or Memphis banning barbecue pits.

What’s the motivation for these new rules? Competition.

Ron Mukai, an East L.A. developer, says the trucks are unfair competition, edging out the “legitimate brick-and-mortar businesses.” But the county’s 14,000 registered catering trucks seem just as legitimate as restaurants — they’re just providing a different service. Restaurants provide meals, and a table to eat them at, and walls to eat them within. Taco trucks provide food, pure and simple. They charge less because they’re selling less.

If I’m looking for food on the run, I’m not looking for a sit-down restaurant. I want something good, fast, and cheap, and if that happens to be the neighborhood taco truck, I’ll be first in line. It’s a lot better option than fast food.

But class is also at the heart of this issue. Nguyen puts it best:

…these new regulations don’t just attack taco trucks, they hurt eaters, especially poor eaters. In a lot of places in town, it’s the only meal you can get for three or four bucks. And in some places, it’s a great meal for three or four bucks.

I’m not really sold on the effectiveness of online petitions, but if you want to sign one or are interested in more information about this fight, go to

Let this Cinco de Mayo be about FREEDOM!