A visit to our favorite beach in Del Mar was never complete without a stop at the local taco shack, where surf boards lined the fence, the metal-mesh benches were sticky with sand, and hungry surfers formed an ever-winding line. Their specialty: the carne asada burrito, succulent, singed-tip fajita cuts rolled up in a flour tortilla with chunky guacamole.Yum
I spent a good chunk of my childhood years in San Diego, where we lived in a little Israeli-American bubble we called "the kibbutz," befriending the Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, and Brazilians while bewildering the Americans in our midst. We were, of course, at the beach every weekend (just like in Israel, except frigid and lacking in the artik (ice cream pop) department). One of our regular haunts was a surfers' beach overlooked by a tall cliff with Torrey pines practically hanging off of it. Parking was always dicey, but, having learned to drive in Tel Aviv, my dad blithely made do. As a child, despite possessing a curious palate, I was not (yet) a fan of Mexican food. But stopping at the taco stand was worth it just to hear my dad rhapsodize about the carne asada burrito. The shack was called Roberto's—it's now a franchise, and our old taco stand, which I've spotted since moving back to SoCal, is today all shiny stucco and non-sticky benches.
I had no idea that the carne asada was a San Diego thing until I set out to recreate it. Turns out, my dad's burrito—overstuffed with charred beef wrapped in an absolutely enormous flour tortilla, oozing with chunky, barely-guacamole avocados basically straight from the tree—boasts bona fide local terroire. Happily, it was easy to recapture: this is, after all, the best kind of street food, fresh, humble, and stunningly good, especially seasoned with the appetite of a day at the beach.
How to make carne asada burritos
In terms of cuts of meat, I can't always find skirt steak, which is my first choice for fajita-style steaks. Another cut that works well that seems to be sold by kosher meat departments is "pepper steak," I think named after the dish popular in American Chinese restaurants. That's what you see in the photos here. You can also easily increase the amount of meat to serve more if you like; the marinade can be stretched a bit.
The first step is to marinate the meat, for a half hour at minimum, or up to 24 hours in the fridge. The marinade is simple: onions, lemon juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Put it all in a zip-top bag, smush it around, and leave it to sit.
After that, the meal comes together in just a few minutes: heat up a grill pan over medium-high heat; you want it nice and hot and singe-y. In batches, because you want crispy edges on that meat, sear the meat, just a few minutes on each side. Make the guac by mashing the avocados with a bit of lime juice, salt and pepper, and a dash of Mexican hot sauce.
Then, just warm the tortillas and serve. Make sure to get the large, burrito size tortillas if you want them to roll up nicely for you. I like to serve these burritos with smokey ancho sweet potato oven fries.
Carne Asada Burrito (meat)
- Grill pan (you can also use a regular skillet)
- 1 ½ lbs beef - skirt, flank, pepper steak, or any fajita style cut of meat
- ½ onion
- 1 lemon - juiced
- 1 lime - juiced
- 2 large avocados
- 1-2 tsp lime juice
- 1 dash hot sauce
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 5-6 large flour tortillas
- Finely minced the onion and place in a large zip-top bag. Add to the zip-top bag the lemon, lime, salt, and pepper.
- Cut meat into small strips against the grain (if not using pepper steak). Place the meat in the bag, seal, and toss to coat evenly. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
- Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Using tongs, remove the meat from the zip-top back and place on the grill pan in batches, so that the pieces of meat do not touch each other in the pan. Sear until the edges are blackened, 3-4 minutes per side. Discard the marinade.
- Slice the avocadoes in half and scoop out the meat. Place in a small bowl along with the lime juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Mash with a fork.
- Warm the tortillas. Place a generous amount of carne asada meat in side, along with guacamole, and roll up.