You can’t scroll through your Instagram feed without seeing someone eating some version of birria: usually tacos, but now sandwiches, fries, even saimin — being dipped into a bowl of Mexican stew. It’s so über-trendy, I resisted trying it for the longest time. The more it spread, the less I wanted to eat it.
But then Justin Mizufuka of Diamond Dining said he was partnering with chef Arturo Silva of Buho Cocina y Cantina to open a La Birria taco truck at Pearlridge On October 17. Not only is Silva an accomplished chef, he’s originally from Mexico City. If I’m going to eat birria tacos, my first ones better be his.
Birria and its trend is actually not new. The spicy, vinegary stew itself originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco, using goat, and the cooking process and all the spices were done to help counteract the gaminess and toughness of the meat. Of course, as it made its way to Tijuana, catering to U.S. palates, the birrerias added the tacos as a dip for flair and the meat was changed to beef or pork. And, Silva explained, cheese is an integral part of this Americanized dish — something he said Mexicans don’t really eat.
Birria tacos made it across the border and have been all the rage in L.A. for years, but the trend suddenly spread in the last year, colonizing the food scene in cities across America … and now in Hawaii. And we love it.
I got a preview of the new La Birria Tacos truck a few days ago, and I’m happy to say, the menu is not a crazy variety of items. Mizufuka says they’re going to just offer a few things, and do them well.
The main item, naturally, will be the tacos with spicy consommé — three for $12. Or you can get their hellfire (hot AF) tacos, two for $12 with consommé. I can handle up to Malaysian spicy, so these made me tingle and sweat, but I did really enjoy the contrast of the cheese to help temper the heat. I looked across at Kyna from the Pearlridge management office, who doesn’t do spicy, and she was using all the napkins and tanking all the horchata ($4). But even she admitted that it was worth the hit.
They also serve birria saimin, which sounds weird, but it actually works. They used various noodles in the R&D process, and although they all worked well, they found that saimin noodles were head and shoulders above the rest as a match. It’s a little like the Taiwanese beef noodle soup, but with extra spice. I should warn you that this is REALLY filling! It’s great for days when you’re really hungry (or a big eater).
If you don’t order the birria saimin itself, you can just order noodles for $5 to help use up your extra taco consommé, which is what I would probably do to stretch it out into a second meal.
They recommend you get a side of pickled jalapeño peppers (tossed with pickled onions) to add crunch and balance to your order. We liked how it added a different layer of flavor to the tacos, bringing out some sweetness while brightening our palates with each bite. I’m actually salivating right now as I’m writing about it and remembering the sensation!
No matter what you decide to eat, I recommend you order agua fresca ($4, shown) and highly recommend the horchata ($4). These will help extinguish the flames in your mouth, especially with the hellfire tacos. At a lot of restaurants, horchata tends to be overly sweet, but Silva seems to go light on the sugar so it’s more refreshing than cloying.
Since these were my first birria tacos, I can honestly say these were the best I’ve had! But I think Silva makes the best Mexican (or Mexican-inspired) food in Hawaii.
La Birria Tacos opens at Pearlridge Center outside Sears (by the Leonard’s malasada truck) this Saturday, October 17. They’ll be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Do you want to try these new La Birria Tacos? Enter our giveaway on Instagram this week!