Pork. Carnitas. Tacos.
These things are really freaking good. I mean like, whoa. UCLA is known for having some super tasty dorm food, but in my opinion these tacos take the prize. Let me tell you why this dish comes out on top.
- UCLA’s dining hall food, in general, is pretty good. But, it is still dorm food. It’s served to tons of people, so each dish isn’t going to receive a whole lot of individualized attention. That is why I think the fish so often turns out weird. Baking it en masse isn’t the same as grilling each fillet by itself. But this is exactly why these tacos are so successful; the meat is prepared in large quantities, similar to how street vendors make tacos. The infrastructure for taco preparation in the dining halls is very similar to the infrastructure for street cart taco preparation. Both are designed to feed a lot of people fairly quickly. This is the same reason why last year’s chickpea vindaloo (an Indian curry) was relatively successful. Curries can be made in large quantities without sacrificing taste or technique.
- The thing about these tacos, though, is that they do not require very fancy or fine ingredients (much like street tacos). This is why the curry, although able to be prepared in large quantities like the tacos, doesn’t quite make it to dorm food stardom. In general, the better the ingredients, the better the vindaloo. For carnitas tacos, pork tenderloin is certainly not required.
- Perhaps I am biased, but I prefer the carnitas over the chicken or beef tacos also available on the Hill. While the chicken is good, it lacks the authenticity that comes with the shredded carnitas. Similarly, the beef is good but does not stand out. I will say that a large part of this may simply be due to the fact that there are less weird foreign gristly bits in the carnitas than there are in either the chicken or beef. You probably know what I’m talking about if you have ever had a meat dish from Rendezvous (I’m generally vegetarian when I eat there).
- Beyond the meat, the extras are simple, yet ~delicious~. The chopped onions add a subtle crunch, and the green cilantro adds some needed color to an otherwise monochromatic dish. The corn tortillas are good and usually fresh – rarely do I have a tortilla rip from being old or stale. Finally, the array of salsas offers you the option for a spicier or milder taco; options are always nice (my favorite is the chipotle salsa – it has a nice smoky flavor).
Even though these tacos are my fave, there are a TON of other fantastic dishes available in the dining halls or in the cafes (Bolognese pizza at Cafe 1919 <3). It has been very fun so far trying out the new dishes on this year’s rotating menu, and I look forward to tasting more. If you have a dish you are particularly fond of, please leave a comment! And if you wanna check out the pork carnitas tacos, you can get them every so often for dinner in Covel.