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A tasty mexican dish. It is a combination of chopped things, usually including meat, roasted together on a hot slab of metal (which I am sure has a more precise name in English).

One example alambre recipe includes (in the order in which they are added):

  1. Chopped onion
  2. Green peppers
  3. Chopped bacon (not smoked)
  4. Meat (not too lean)
  5. Shredded cheese (at the very end)
Eaten with tortillas.

0 What is love alambre?

Here’s a small nugget of Mexican culture for you: It’s false that we cook tacos of everything; it’s more accurate to say that we make a taco out of everything that lends itself to being stuffed in a tortilla.

Let me rephrase that: it’s not that we “make tacos” every day; rather we tend to cook all sorts of dishes and many of them can be stuffed inside a tortilla. It’s a subtle difference. Take pretty much any casserole-style dish and it can be put in taco form, although it’s almost never sold or advertised as tacos.

However, there’s a few dishes that are so intertwined with tacos that it’s rare to eat them in any other form. The dish(es) known as Alambre1 is a good example of this: it’s thought to be cooked in batches and presented in a large dish for the commensals to prepare their own tacos. Sure, you can eat Alambre on its own, but where’s the fun in that?

1 Soft, generic recipe

As usual, I believe it’s better to explain the rationale or the generic recipe than to establish a single authoritative recipe; mostly because that’s how food happens, especially “street” food. Dishes like alambre are so widespread and so common that a monolithic recipe is a major misunderstanding of how food and culture is in general.

Generally speaking, alambre is cooked like so:

  1. Fire up your griddle;
  2. Start cooking your protein, cut to small cubes or thin strips;
  3. Before the protein finishes cooking, introduce vegetables (onion and bell peppers seem to be the most basic ones);
  4. Once everything is to your liking; retire and serve in a large bowl.
  5. Get thee some tortillas and let your stomach guide you. Add lime juice.2

2 Variations

2.1 The Basic

Approximate weighs below. The actual proportions can be better approximated by sight: ideally your alambre is colorful and not just a single blob of brownish color.

Ingredients

  • Protein; 400 gr (~1 pound)
  • Vegetables; 500 gr in total (~1.1 pound)
    • Onion, thin strips; abundant
    • Bell peppers (green at the very minimum; more for more color), also in strips
    • Avocado to top

Procedure

  1. Season your beef with salt, pepper and garlic powder if desired; cut thin strips;
  2. Slice your veggies in strips as well;
  3. Add everything to the hot griddle. Depending on how thick the beef is, you may need to add it before to ensure proper cooking;
  4. The beef should be well done, the onions and peppers soft and starting to caramelize if desired;
  5. Serve with a few slices of fresh avocado on top.

2.2 The Basic at the Taquería

Ingredients

  • Protein: same as the basic, but also add either chorizo, sliced ham and/or bacon;
  • Veggies: same as the basic, but with a fresh jalapeño or two;
  • Cheese: I go for Manchego, but you could also make do with Gouda. Exactly how much will depend on how cheesy you want it, but 250 gr (~1/2 pound) should be enough.

Procedure

  1. Same as with the basic, but also cut or grate the cheese.
  2. Just before everything is ready, add the cheese and mix thoroughly to get it all melty all around. Move it constantly (you’re using a proper spatula, right?)

2.3 Basic seafood alambre

Ingredients

  • Protein:
    • Small or medium shrimp; 400 gr (~1 pound)
    • Fish fillets (Tilapia is fine, or anything else without a stronger flavor like salmon does); 200 gr (~1/2 pound)
  • Vegetables:
    • Same as the basic;
    • Add a few carrots (I use 4 medium sized ones), cut in thin coins/rounds

2.4 Simple protein variations

  • Chicken (cut in little cubes)
  • Pastor-style meat
  • Tofu (or other vegetarian/vegan protein)
  • Medium shrimp (cut in half lengthwise is conducive to good tacos)
  • Battered fish/shrimp (fry separately in oil), goes great with a simple coleslaw-like salad on top of the taco.3
  • Vegetarians can also substitute the animal proteins with nopales. Just be sure to cook them a little beforehand (either in the griddle or a small pot) to take out the excess liquids.4

2.5 Marinating the protein

Some or most of these proteins’ flavor can be enhanced with a marinade. The simplest one can be made with just lime/lemon juice. Depending on taste, you can also add a bit of soy sauce, crushed garlic, salt and/or pepper. The exact marinating time will depend on the protein, but remember that cutting increases surface area, so chopped/sliced proteins will need less time than their whole counterparts to properly marinade.

2.6 Useful additions

  • If you can find fresh chicharrón5 it makes for a nice crunchy addition on top;
  • Avocado slices are great, but should never be cooked, only added to the taco just before eating;
  • As discussed, lime juice;
  • In this noder’s opinion, Oaxaca cheese is not the best addition, flavor-wise; but it melts nicely so use it if you have it. Same with mozarella and other creamy cheeses;
  • Some recipes I’ve found—in English—advocate for the “common” topping of chopped onion and cilantro/coriander. This strikes me as odd, because that topping is more common in other types of tacos, but again you do you

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  1. Literally, “wire.” I have yet to find conclusive evidence as to why the dish is called like this.

  2. This of course is optional, but a few drops of lime juice in tacos like these is common almost to the point of being traditional.

  3. This noder favors a mix of fresh cabbage and carrot julienne with some sort of acid brine.

  4. Fresh nopal excretes a slimy, flavorless liquid whose consistency might be off-putting. Cooking the nopal for a bit can force it to evaporate and enhance the natural flavors a bit.

  5. Fried, crispy pork belly/rinds.

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