Michael A. Gardiner
Torta de carne asada
About the only thing you can't get at North Rosarito Beach's Sunday Mercado Sobre Ruedas "Los Panchos" is the thing for which they appear to be named: hot dogs. You can get backpacks, jeans, toilet seats, cast-iron pans, MacBook Pro power cords and more at Los Panchos (I've purchased all save one of those here), but you can't get hot dogs. There is, however, no shortage of great food at the market: barbacoa , birria , fish tacos, carne asada , among the offerings. But you won't find any food better than the menu items at Carnitas Becar at the corner of Diego Esquivel and the frontage road off the Carretera Libre Tijuana-Rosarito every Sunday.
One of the fixtures of life in Mexico is the mercados sobre ruedas , markets on wheels. They're street markets that are much like American swap meets, except they're conducted on city streets shut down for the purposes of the market. They are, however, more of a feature of every day life in Mexico than swap meets are north of the border. In Rosarito, there's at least one everyday of the week and on many days more than one. The largest of these is North Rosarito's Los Panchos market running up the hill eastward on Diego Esquivel from the free road to Tijuana.
At the very base of the market at the Southeast corner sits Carnitas Becar, its great vats of carnitas simmering and meats for its carne asada caramelizing right in front of you. It takes an exercise of will to ignore the wafting, savory aromas and walk past up the hill to all the rest the Los Panchos has to offer. So don't.
There's nothing better to get at Becar than the carnitas for which the place is named. Whether served as torta or taco, the carnitas are crispy, caramelized on the outside and tender on the inside. All things considered I preferred the torta, the tasty fat from the carnitas soaking into the telera bread. All that's left is to customize the sandwich with diced onions, cilantro, avocado puree and the choice of red or green salsas.
But there's a lot more than carnitas at Becar. Perhaps my favorite torta was a combination of buche (stomach meat simmered until tender) and adobado (sweet spiced pork cooked on a vertical spit, gyros-style). The combination of the savory and slightly minerally flavor of the buche and the savory-sweetness of the adobado lent the dish a delicious, beguiling complexity.
As good as the tortas were, there was plenty to be said for the tacos. Again, the carnitas were good, but combining carne asada and tripe created one of the best tacos I've ever tasted. It was the textural contrast—between the tender tripe and caramelized and crispy carne asada—that took it over the top.
Becar's complexity—both in flavors and in textures—is what you look for in the best food of any style. But perhaps what makes it most special is that it isn't a high-end restaurant. In fact, it isn't exactly a restaurant at all. It is a stall in a Sunday street market where it seems you can find absolutely anything. Except hot dogs.