Al pastor tacos come directly from Lebanese immigrating to Puebla, Mexico. Without going down a huge historical rabbit hole, these immigrants left due to the fall and disintegration of the Ottoman empire. If you’ve ever seen the way the meat is cooked for the taco, it’s a lot like looking at the meat cooking for a shawarma, and that’s no coincidence.
Taking a cue from their immigrant neighbors, the people of Puebla began cooking their meat on a vertical spit. In its origin, the taco was known as “tacos arabes” and involved lamb instead of pork. As the cooking method progressed and evolved, pork replaced the lamb and it was marinated instead of given a simple seasoning of salt. Thin slices of marinated pork are stacked on the spit. As it rotates and cooks, fat drips down, basting the pork while the outer layer crisps and caramelizes. When done, it’s shaved off by the taquero and ready to be served in a warm corn tortilla with fresh salsa.