Restaurant: Iguanas
City: San Jose, CA (Downtown)

I went to Tech Museum to secure tickets for the Star Wars exhibit, and grabbed a burrito at Iguanas. It’s been 21 months since I’ve been to Iguanas in Downtown San Jose; I’d frequent it when I attended San José State University.

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I ordered the Super Mini with al pastor sans beans. The Super Mini is a smaller version of the Super Burrito, which contains guacamole, sour cream, cheese, meat, beans, rice, and fresh salsa. There were seven choices of meat:

Carne Asada – grilled marinated Angus steak
• Pollo Asado – grilled marinated chicken
• Chile Verde – braised pork in tomatillo sauce
• Carnitas – tender braised pork
• Chipotle Chicken – shredded chicken in a spicy chipotle sauce
• Ground Beef – Mom’s seasoned ground beef recipe
• Al Pastor – spicy marinated pork

It was my first time ordering al pastor; I usually get carne asada at Iguanas. I was in the mood for spicy food and also asked for the orange sauce (orange-colored, spicy special sauce). When I got back to work and ate the burrito, my mouth was on fire and my nose was runny! It was worth it because it was delicious! ;D

I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and never knew there was a name for the burritos from this area! Do you know what they are called? They’re called Mission burritos and they originated from San Francisco!

The following is a background of the Mission burrito, from Wikipedia:

A Mission burrito (also known as a San Francisco burrito or a Mission-style burrito) is a type of burrito that first became popular during the 1960s in the Mission District of San Francisco, California. It is distinguished from other burritos by its large size and inclusion of extra rice and other ingredients. It has been referred to as one of two major styles of burritos in the United States, following the earlier, simple burrito consisting of beans, rice, and meat and preceding the California burrito containing cheese and potatoes that was developed in the 1980s.

Many taquerías in the Mission and in the greater San Francisco Bay Area specialize in Mission burritos. It is typically served in a piece of aluminum foil around a large flour tortilla which is wrapped and folded around a variety of ingredients. A food critic working for the San Francisco Chronicle counted hundreds of taquerias in the Bay Area, and noted that the question of which taqueria makes the best burrito can “encourage fierce loyalty and ferocious debate”. New York-based writer Calvin Trillin said that the burrito in San Francisco “has been refined and embellished in much the same way that pizza has been refined and embellished in New York and Chicago.” Since its commercial availability began in the 1960s, the style has spread widely throughout the United States.

Two key technologies that made the Mission burrito possible are the large flour tortilla and tortilla steamers, which together increase the flexibility, stretch, and size of the resulting tortilla. The tortilla steamer saturates the gluten-heavy tortilla with moisture and heat, which increase the capacity of the tortilla to stretch without breaking. This in turn allows for the size of the Mission burrito. Corn tortillas, the original indigenous pre-Columbian form of the tortilla, cannot achieve either the size or the flexibility of the flour tortilla, and thus cannot be used to make a Mission burrito. A few San Francisco taquerias grill the tortillas instead of steaming them, using heat and oil instead of steam; and a few grill the finished product before the final step of wrapping it in aluminum foil.

The basic ingredients of the Mission burrito include the large flour tortilla, Spanish rice, beans (frijoles, usually with a choice of refried, pinto or black), a choice of a single main filling, and the customer’s choice of salsa, ranging from hot to mild. Most taquerias also offer a “super” burrito which includes a choice of meat and all of the available non-meat burrito ingredients. This usually includes sliced fresh avocado or guacamole, cheese (queso), and sour cream (crema).

For meat fillings, almost all San Francisco taquerias offer a choice of stewed or grilled chicken (pollo or pollo asado), grilled beef steak (carne asada), barbecued pork (al pastor) and braised shredded pork (carnitas); many also offer additional ingredients, including pork stewed in green chile sauce (chile verde), beef stewed in red chile sauce (chile colorado), Mexican sausage (chorizo), beef tongue (lengua), stewed and shredded beef (machaca), stewed beef head (cabeza), beef brain (sesos), beef eyeball (ojo) and shrimp (camarones). Many taquerias also offer vegetable or tofu fillings to accommodate their vegetarian customers. Other fillings offered in San Francisco taquerias include birria (goat meat), camarones diablos (extra-spicy shrimp), carne deshebrada (shredded beef with red chile sauce), carne molida (ground beef), chicharrónes (fried pork rinds, stewed), barbacoa (marinated lamb, sometimes pork is substituted), pescado (fish, usually fried or grilled tilapia and sometimes salmon), picadillo (ground beef with chopped chiles and tomatoes), mole (chicken stewed in a chile and chocolate sauce), nopales (prickly pear cactus), and tripas (beef tripe).