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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Good Goat from Tacos El Pariente

By Valentina Silva

My father despises birria de chivo (roasted goat meat). He won’t even consider taking a bite. “It’s too gamey,” he says with a look of disgust any time he’s confronted with the offending meat. He can’t tolerate the texture or the taste.

He always made it sound so god awful that I didn’t try it for years and years and years. When I finally did, I was surprised at how much I actually liked it. Turns out, gamey meat is my thing, and when you add a tortilla, sparks fly. I do understand the aversion, though. No matter how goat is prepared, it can be a tough-to-acquire taste and as harsh as liver to some people. However, it should be noted that my dad enjoys liver.

With a tall glass of milk no less.

If you already love birria de chivo or you want to love it, there are many places to get a pristine sampling in LA (check out Street Gourmet LA’s write-up on the subject), but if you just need a quick fix, Tacos El Pariente in Highland Park is a good choice. I don’t recommend anything but the birria – I find their chicken extremely dry and tasteless – but the goat taco? Very nice.

The meat is tender and moist. I believe the juiciness is key with goat since dryness and resulting chewiness is probably the reason why so many people are birria de chivo shy. The tortillas are handmade to order, taking this taco to a higher plain. Add some cilantro, salsa, onions and a squeeze of lime, and you’re in business.

Each taco is $1 – 25 cents extra if you want that handmade tortilla I was talking about.

Details:
Tacos El Pariente | Avenue 50 & Monte Vista St., Highland Park

Valentina Silva is a regular contributor writing about food and restaurants. You can also find Valentina’s reviews and stories on her new blog, Eastside Food Bites.



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3 comments

  1. Thanks for the review. Birria is one of the most underrated regional dishes of Mexico — and one of my personal favorites. I’ve never been to the place mentioned above, but I’d like to try it.

    I am a long-time fan of Birrieria Jalisco on First Street in Boyle Heights (right down the street from East Side Luv Wine and Queso Bar) and of El Parian in Pico Union (corner of Pico and Burlington(?) or thereabouts). I think the secret of good birria is the sauce/broth. Both Birrieria Jalisco and El Parian cook the meat in a savory mix of cinnamon, chiles and other spices which I cannot readily identify. They serve it with a generous amount of the same broth. A good birrieria should also have very fresh garnishes (onions, cilantro) and good quality tortillas — simple perfection. Also, for what it is worth, goat meat is one of the leanest meats available — much less caloric than turkey meat. So, all kinds of goodness, …

  2. I think goat meat is very understood. People try it once or twice and think “that’s the way it always is” which isn’t true.
    I had friends who had milk goats and since male goats aren’t much use (you only need one buck for a LOT of does), the young ones were usually sold or a barbecue was held. Likewise, some people will have a male goat neutered and then use him as a brush goat to keep weeds, etc under control.
    Friends who were vegetarians had a brush goat but it became a pest so they gave it to us to use (as meat). (We lived in the country at the time and were used to this). The meat from a full grown neutered male goat was as mild as veal–or as venison taken in the right season.
    Older goats develop a lamb taste (which can seem gamey at times when it’s from an older animal)–which is fine with me! I used to buy chivo from Jon’s market because it cost about a quarter of what lamb would cost and was more available all the time.

    If the meat is from old goats, it’s going to be tougher and perhaps stronger. Up north, when a dairy cow got too old to produce milk, they were slaughtered and the meat sold. These animals didn’t have a lot of body fat and the meat wasn’t as tender as what most markets sell, but it was great for cooking where it was braised or stewed. I think it’s the age of the animal that determines the character of the meat.

    What’s great about goat meat is that when you stew/braise/soup it, you’re usually using boney parts so you get full flavor from it.
    Back to the ‘gamey’ taste. It’s not just a matter of age, it’s also what the animal has been fed I’ve drunk goats milk from animals that grazed on chapparel and it put me off goats milk (and cheese) forever. Same thing with meat.

    I know this will never convince your father, but maybe it’ll help others understand that it’s more than just the kind of animal the meat comes from.
    I’ll have to check out some of the birria places, thanks for the article.

  3. Cristi and Gabriele, thanks for the informative responses. I learned a lot.

    Cristi, I’ve only tried El Parian, and I agree it’s great. You’re right– a good birria doesn’t need a lot of extras to make it shine.

    Gabriele, my dad probably can’t be convinced, but Im still going to tell him. Thanks for all the info!

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