Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Dayana. Dayana Wonders, “What is the most popular food in Mexico?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Dayana!
Imagine you're on vacation in Puebla, Mexico. You walk around the city square, admiring the many fine examples of colonial architecture and Renaissance-era cathedrals.
You purchase some pottery from local artists. You visit the art museum. Before you know it, your stomach begins to grumble and you know it's time to partake of another of the city's famous culture: its cuisine.
After speaking with a local artisan, you head to a hole-in-the-wall establishment to sample one of the city's signature dishes, the Arab taco. Also known as a taco árabe, a taco al pastor, or a shepherd's taco, this local delicacy will make your mouth water.
The Arab taco is arguably the most popular fast food in Puebla and is popular throughout Mexico. It dates back to 1933, when immigrants from Iraq brought the tradition of shawarma to Mexico and began selling gyro-like sandwiches on pita-style flatbread.
Shawarma is a Middle Eastern sandwich similar to a gyro. The key ingredient is the meat (usually lamb, chicken, or turkey), which is roasted for hours on a vertical spit.
The meat is layered in a cone (wider at the top, narrower at the bottom) with onions and sometimes pineapple, so that the meat roasts in its own juices. The outer layers of roasted meat can be sliced right off the cone into a pita to create a sandwich.
The traditional shawarma traces its roots to the earlier Turkish doner kebab. In Mexico, the spit is usually known as a trompo, which means "spinning top," because of its cone shape.
Iraqi immigrants brought this cooking style to Mexico, but they quickly replaced lamb with pork to satisfy local palates. Although some Arab tacos are now served on more traditional tortillas, many vendors still use pita-style flatbread to stay true to its Middle Eastern origins.
After slicing spit-roasted pork and onions into a pita, diners can add their own variety of toppings. Many people add a dash of salt, some lime juice, and chipotle salsa to make the perfect Arab taco.