One of the most wonderful discoveries for any East Coaster is experiencing his or her first real chicharron.
Growing up in the foothills of New England, the closest thing we ever came to chicharrones were dusty bags of “pork rinds” at rest stops on a long drive to a ski resort. But after moving out West, everything changed. The trucker snack that made my mother dry-heave at the very thought transforms into a treasured delicacy.
Shortly after arriving in San Francisco and coming to understand the cultural and culinary importance of this savory snack, I began hearing of a Mission taqueria where crispy fresh pork skins were sold by the pound. If you think it sounds too good to be true, you’re not alone, but I can assure you, this place is real. It’s called La Espiga De Oro, and it’s on the corner of 24th and Florida streets.
This is no ordinary taqueria. More like a miniature Latino food bazaar, La Espiga sells all sorts of goodies like pupusas, Guatemalan tamales — and, of course, the beloved Mission-style burrito. What truly sets this place apart, though, are the different pieces of meat that can be ordered a la carte and taken home to cook with. Near the register, behind a hazy glass, among tamales and stewed cuts of offal are stacked piles of thick chicharron. Each is about the size of a boomerang, with a dark, tough exterior. Once the two-inch cut is sliced into, the steaming inside shines with a plush pink glow. The texture is intensely crunchy, yet somehow, in all of its fatty glory, it will still melt in your mouth the way only bacon can.
At only $11 per pound, these gigantic slabs of pork skin are perfect for taking home and making tacos, crushing up and spreading over a salad — or, if you’re feeling really decadent, slice it up and add it to some mac-’n’-cheese. If you’re not in a rush and you want to enjoy the chicharrones at La Espiga De Oro, the shop also offers them as a taco or burrito meat. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a fried pork skin burrito. This secret is just too good to keep.
La Espiga De Oro, 2916 24th St., 415-826-1363, no website.