Many of Mexico’s most coveted tacos feature pork, from carnitas and cochinita pibil to the various tacos de trompo. There’s tacos árabes from Puebla, adobada from Baja California, tacos de trompo out of Nuevo León, and the nearly ever-present al pastor, with deep roots in Mexico City and many other Mexican states. Much the same is true in Los Angeles, which makes a new type of pork taco contender here in Southern California all the more rare, indeed.
Suckling pig tacos, featuring whole roasted young pigs, are a rare delight even in Mexico, only found as a common dish in states like Aguascalientes, the tri-state Yucatán, and in the town of Acaponeta, Nayarit, a municipality just south of the Sinaloa border. Now, Angelenos can find them on Saturdays and Sundays from a small stand called Los Sabrosos al Horno in the tiny Southeast LA city of Cudahy.
Called tacos de puerquito horneado (roasted suckling pig), or colloquially puerquito echado (lying down) in Acaponeta, these sucking pigs arrive at the stand burnished and brown from a serious oven roasting. The whole pig is split head to tail and laid flat for maximum crispiness on the skin, and it all gets chopped up into various pieces on site and served with corn tortillas and a salsa de mostaza, or spicy mustard salsa, plus a squeeze of lime. This is unlike any other pork taco in greater Los Angeles.
After five years catering events for locals from Acaponeta and Tecuala, Nayarit, Delfín decided to give his own street stand a go at the end of October 2020. Now, with plenty of his paisanos showing up (and bringing friends), what may be the only puerquito echado stand in the entire United States is drawing a weekly crowd.
Twice each weekend, Delfín roasts a whole fifty or sixty pound suckling pig, plus one or two more for private events as time allows. The best time to arrive, real fans know, is around 2:30 p.m., when Deflín’s pig — butterflied and cooked for four hours in its stainless steel box — is first revealed. Its golden skin glistens like a beacon for delicious tacos, beckoning diners to this dusty roadside off Atlantic, inside a Cudahy industrial park.
Taqueros carefully remove rectangular cuts of crispy skin before diving into the moist flesh below, building a pile big enough to handle all those waiting orders. “Okay, that’s good enough,” says Delfín, signaling from his yellow cart to the waiting crowd that it’s officially time for tacos. Plates are quickly assembled with white meat tacos and a dark, crispy strip of skin, then a dealer’s choice of spicy mustard salsa made with Roma tomatoes and chiles serranos, or a milder mustard salsa with tomatillos. Both are kissed by smoke from time in the oven, and finished with ribbons of raw, white onion. That’s it — just lightly salted pork on corn tortillas and some salsa de mostaza, which adds all the seasoning these tacos need. These plates are rich and bountiful, each mouthful chased by a bite of crispy skin.
“The tradition started in Acaponeta with Anacleto [Carrillo], a man who came down from the Sierra Madre and started to sell it,” says chef Betty Vasquez, gastronomic ambassador for the Riviera Nayarit region. “His son carried it on and then his grandson Marcelo [Carrillo], who passed away this year from COVID.”
In those intervening decades, according to Vasquez, puerquito echado has spread around the state to places like Tepíc, all thanks to people from Acaponeta. Now Delfín is one of the dish’s small handful of messengers, promoting the tradition in Los Angeles through his countrymen and women, one plate of tacos at a time.
“These guys over here are from Acaponeta, they have a construction business and have been sending all their employees,” says Delfín, pointing across a growing crowd on a recent Saturday. “And this couple here is from Tecuala.” Throughout a day of service, Delfín makes sure to talk with each customer, to learn where they’re from, reaching for a connection to the food. Small business owners, tradesmen in construction, roofing, and landscaping, locals; everyone stops by for a five- or six-taco lunch.
Customers leave here smiling, many wiping nostalgia and pork fat from their mustard-stained lips simultaneously, as if they’re departing a family reunion. There are comments about how they haven’t had sickling pig in years, and how the flavor of the salsa takes them back to Acaponeta. Groups often seem to know each other, though in reality, it’s just the common bond of Mexicans from this pair of small towns, Acaponeta and Tecuala, who miss eating mariscos at Playa Novillero, dancing to banda at backyard parties, and spending afternoons snacking on tacos de puerquito echado. Now they’ve found it once again, except in Cudahy, the second-smallest city in LA County but a big destination for rare suckling pig tacos.
Los Sabrosos al Horno, 4901 Patata St., Cudahy, (323) 407-5930, Saturdays and Sundays only, starting around 3 p.m.