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Carnitas: The “Little Meats” That Could

BY: Editors | Jul 6, 2015
Carnitas: The “Little Meats” That Could

There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Indianapolis. Circle City residents and visitors alike can visit world-renowned museums, take a family trip to the Indianapolis Zoo, or pay tribute to the state’s beloved author at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. And if your Breakfast of Champions (or lunch or dinner of champions) involves tacos, there are plenty of Indianapolis Mexican restaurants that fit the bill. 

Local spots like La Chinita Poblana in Broad Ripple, La Margarita in Fountain Square, and Paco’s Taqueria on Keystone Avenue get rave reviews for their carnitas, a taco filling so popular it’s made its way from the Mexican state of Michoacán to every single Chipotle around the country—not to mention plenty of Mexican restaurants in Indy. Read on to learn more about the Michoacán meat that’s a favorite in so many Mexican dishes.

A Flavor Explosion

Carnitas—which translates to little meats—are entirely and specifically pork. To get the intense flavor Leah Eskin of the Chicago Tribune memorably described as “something like bacon-wrapped pork roast,” hunks of pork are traditionally simmered until they turn tender and begin to release their own fat. As the water boils away, the meat comes into contact with its fat once again and, having been steamed to tenderness, now sizzles to produce a crisp shell around a juicy interior. And before it ever hits the cauldron, the meat is generally marinated in citrus, salt, and other herbs and spices.

A Michoacán Specialty

Carnitas are a specialty of the Mexican state of Michoacán, and on both sides of the border they’re so beloved that many restaurants focus all their attention on the dish. At a typical carnitas counter, you’ll specify how much meat you want by the price or pound—and how much you want of meat, fat, or offal—and be left to apply garnishes of salsa, cilantro, and onion according to your taste or how soon your edible mosaic of the Mexican flag project is due.