Tinga is a Mexican classic that I did not grow up eating. So for the past several weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what it is, exactly. Some people say Tinga means “delicious” while others say it means “shredded”. Personally I don’t see that they’re mutually exclusive, so maybe we can go with shredded deliciousness? Actually, Tinga is a stew of delicious, shredded meat that usually contains chipotles or some other spicy chile, and it often contains a starch of some kind (I’ve seen black beans, potatoes, and corn used). The proper way to consume it is to wrap it in a tortilla like a taco or eat it on a crispy tostada.
The dish originates from the city of Puebla, a place I’d love to visit sometime, and the same city that gives us Mole Poblano. I’ve spent, well, really no time in the middle of Mexico, only the edges. The first time I ventured there was with a group of lovely do-gooders, and we drove across the Texas border to Matamoros to help build better digs for a children’s home (read: orphanage, but I don’t think you’re supposed to call it that anymore). It was quite an experience, one I will never forget. I got to experience the infamous border patrol both directions, which everyone should try to see at least once in their lifetime. But more importantly, we met some really amazing people and kids. They were among the sweetest kids I’ve ever met, kids who had the most cheerful dispositions and grateful attitudes despite their very unfortunate circumstances. Some were there because their parents, despite being very loving, simply could not care for them for a period of time, due to finances, illness, or something else. Others had simply been abandoned.
There was one little boy, he couldn’t have been older than 4, who really got attached to me. He spoke not a word of English, but didn’t seem to mind that I couldn’t understand a word he said. I tried not to let on that I had no idea what he was saying, but I think you can only nod, smile and say “Really? Wow!” so many times before even a 4-year-old will catch on that you’re clueless. He cried when I left, and truthfully, so did I. He’d be around 15 years old by now. I kept a picture of me holding him for the longest time, until it was quite literally stolen from me. About seven years ago, my car was broken into while I was in the process of moving, and that picture was in one of the boxes that were taken. Although I’ve never been back to Matamoros, I still think of him often and hope he’s doing alright.
The next two times I visited Mexico were a complete 180 from the first time. Those visits were romantic getaways in luxury beach resorts, once to Cabo and another to Playa del Carmen. Still, I love Mexico and have dreams and goals to see it all. One of these days I’ll get myself to Puebla. In the meantime, I’ll have this Tinga dish to keep me company.
Source: In My Kitchen, by Ted Allen
2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, fat cat trimmed
1 large yellow onion, quartered,
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbs kosher salt
2 tbs olive oil
1 (4-oz.) link of raw Chorizo sausage, casing removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (28 oz.) can chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tbs red wine vinegar
12 (6 inch) corn tortillas, warmed
Garnishes: chopped avocado, lime wedges, sour cream, crumbled queso fresco, chopped tomato, chopped cilantro
Put the pork in a Dutch oven with the quartered onion, smashed garlic, thyme, and salt and fill with water until the meat is just covered. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer until the meat is tender, about 2 hours.
Reserving the cooking liquid, remove the meat to a platter. While the meat is cooling, strain the cooking liquid, remove the fat with a fat separator or skim with a large spoon, and pour the stock into a separate saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, and reduce for about 15 minutes. When the pork has cooled enough to handle, shred with two forks or your hands (I always find it easier to use your hands).
In the Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the Chorizo and crumble with a spoon. When no traces of pink remain, add the chopped onion and garlic and let soften for a few minutes. Then add the shredded pork back in and cook, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, 1 cup pork stock, chipotle, black beans, and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer until most liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf.
Fill the tortillas with the pork and top with whatever garnishes suit you. Serve immediately.