Birria, traditional Mexican stew, perfect for colder months

Sunday, October 30, 2016
Hungry Hound: Birrieria Ocotlan
Hungry Hound: Birrieria Ocotlan

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Cooler weather means warmer dishes, sometimes, in the form of soups and stews.

There's a special dish from central Mexico, perfect for chilly weather, called birria, a traditional stew made from young goats.

Early each day in the kitchen at Birrieria Ocotlan, in a Chicago East Side neighborhood near the Indiana border, they begin making birria.

"It's a very traditional dish from the central region of Mexico. It's usually for breakfast," said Andres Reyes, who owns the restaurant with his family.

Boiled for hours, the resulting stock is infused with dozens of spices.

"Started off with my great-grandfather. We have a tomato-based consommé, take the broth out, pour it in together, half and half, and then we add our secret spices," said Reyes.

When orders come in - be they for tacos or for birria - the cooks out front first have to disassemble the meat from the bones, chopping it all up evenly.

Then the rich, spice-infused consomme is ladled into the bowl. But that's not all. Fresh onions and cilantro are optional garnishes, and in addition to fresh salsas on the table, you'll also get some warm corn tortillas, dried chilies, fresh limes and tostaditos - some crispy tortillas you can crush up and place into the steaming bowl of birria. As for getting a specific cut of meat, Reyes says you can ask, but to truly enjoy this bowl of tradition, you should leave it up to the cook.

"There's a lot of people that like the rib, a lot of people like different cuts and we just serve the consommé on top; nice and boiling, nice and hot. Make sure it's very steaming so you get it the right way," he said.

There is another Birrieria Ocotlan at 87th and Commercial on the South Side, but whether you visit that location or this location doesn't matter, you gotta get two things: the birria of course, and the consommé. This is a hidden gem.

EXTRA COURSE: Interesting tacos at Birrieria Ocotlan and their homemade horchata drink

Birrieria Ocotlan

4007 E. 106th St., Chicago