You’re likely familiar with tacos al pastor, that glorious taco filling of red chile pork and pineapple roasted on a vertical spit. Well, tacos árabes is just as delicious. Think of it as pastor’s lesser-known cousin, heralding from the city of Puebla.
While tacos al pastor gets that remarkable red chile marinade, tacos árabes are flecked with a Middle Eastern blend of spices before getting spit-roasted and thin-sliced—they’ll probably remind you of a shawarma taco. Especially when you find out they’re typically served with thick flour tortillas, yogurt-like jocoque and cucumbers. Especially when everyone tells you that it was the Lebanese who settled there over a century ago and brought the techniques and flavors.
Assuming you don’t have one of those big, vertical spit roasters in your kitchen—truly, my hat’s off to you if you do—we’re making a version where the sliced pork shoulder gets seared over high-heat on a grill pan. (No grill pan? Use a charcoal grill. No grill? Try cast iron. Just make it. You’ll thank me.)
Using a very sharp knife, slice the pork shoulder into 1/4-inch thick slabs. Place them on a large platter or baking sheet in a single layer.
In a small bowl, mix the salt, coriander, cinnamon, pepper and cumin. Sprinkle some of the spice mixture over all sides of the pork. (You'll have extra; store the spice mixture in a jar.) Let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes or covered in plastic in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Heat a large (10-inch) nonstick skillet over medium high. Add the onions and cook, stirring regularly until golden, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Heat a small (7- to 8-inch) skillet over medium heat and roast the unpeeled garlic for 12-15 minutes. Peel and mince the garlic.
In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, roasted garlic, lime juice and cilantro. Taste, adding salt if necessary. Add cucumber into skillet with onions.
Heat a grill pan or one side of a gas grill to medium or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the coals are covered with ash and still quite hot. Spray or brush a light coating of oil on each piece of pork.
Working in batches if necessary, add pork to the grill pan or grill in a single uncrowded layer and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes each side.
Remove the pork to a cutting board, slice against the grain into 1/4-inch pieces and return to the skillet with the onions and cucumber. Toss to combine and serve in warm tortillas with cucumber sauce and salsa.