Thursday, March 3, 2011

Carne Asada

I didn't grow up eating carne asada.

It wasn't something my mom made at home.

The first time I ate carne asada--as an event--was on a camping trip with the Godinez family in Yosemite in the early '90s.

They bought the meat from a special place, Vega Meats on Hacienda Boulevard, because it had the BEST flavor. All other places were compared to Vega Meats.

Through the years, carne asada has had it's place in Godinez family events, and it's always good. It has a strong, spicy, citrus-y taste.

So when my son said he was coming for dinner with his girlfriend, I thought I'd try and make it myself.

The cut of beef you want is called flap, or skirt steak.

I also used some salmon, sometimes I use chicken.

I read online somewhere that the most important ingredients in the marinade are citrus (using lemon, lime & orange) and onions.

I went out in the yard and collected some lemons, mandarins and grapefruit. I also had a few calamondins that a friend gave me. They're like a cross between a lemon and an orange, so I threw those in. I didn't have any limes, so if you're buying the citrus, get some limes.

I used one large sweet onion, thinly sliced, and four cloves of garlic, minced.

Juice all your citrus and add to the bowl with your onions and garlic.

I also minced up and added a jalapeno that I had in the freezer.

I added some oregano, rosemary and chives also.

Take the leaves off the woody stems and mince.

You can use dried herbs as well.

Then I added a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.

And two teaspoons of cumin, along with salt and pepper, and gave it a taste.

I thought it tasted good.

But wasn't sure if it needed something.

I went to Vega Meats about a week ago.

The cashier said the store changed owners about five years ago, and that this is the marinade they use for their carne asada. She said they also sell it in large quantities. I bought a small bottle of the Mojo Criollo marinade.

I gave that a taste to compare it with mine.

Mine tasted smooth.

The bottled one was vibrant and strong.

I looked on the ingredients list, and made some adjustments. Vinegar was one of the first ingredients, so I added a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar.

If I were giving the recipe to Rick Godinez, I would tell him to add a half cup of vinegar. That would suit his taste--he likes a strong vinegar taste, like Dino's chicken.

Even with all the citrus acid, the addition of vinegar makes the marinade pack a punch.

Not bad!

I cut the carne asada into several pieces, put them into a zip-lock bag and added two cups of the marinade mixture.

Then I squeezed all the air out as I was zipping the bag closed.

I think it helps it marinate better.

I did the same thing with the salmon.

In hindsight, maybe it would have been better to use a different flavoring on the salmon.

It makes for a better meal when you've got different flavors. Have you ever ordered several Chinese food dishes with the same flavors, not knowing what they were? Not a fun meal when everything tastes the same.

I grilled these over medium heat.

I was making tacos, so I chopped up the meat.

But I think next time I will serve it like the Godinez family does, they serve it in big pieces--you can tear it into smaller pieces to put in a tortilla, or you can eat it like a steak.

Here are a few pictures of our taco dinner...

The only things missing were a squeeze of lime and some fresh chopped jalapenos!

Happy eating!


This is our camping trip to Yosemite.

Wow, look how young we all are!

Bobby, in the front row, is married and has a newborn.

Carne asada at a graduation party.

Carne asada at one of our beach bashes.

I feel blessed to be a part of this extended family and group of friends. They get together often, are extremely generous hosts, and the fun-factor is always high whenever we are together.

It's so much fun watching all the kids grow up, getting married and having children of their own.

I love you guys!

No printable recipe for this one yet.


  1. I'm new to your site (from Tastespotting) and have a couple of comments for you. First, I want to dive into the computer for a bite of one of these tacos! Seriously, I'd take the steak or the salmon, both look so delicious.

    Second, your photography skills are great. What kind of camera and lens do you use. Also, do you "set up" your food before you photo, i.e. use white boards, etc?

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Thank you, Danielle! I have a Canon Rebel XT that I got for Christmas in 2005. My photos got a lot better when I bought a 35mm lens (advice from reading, and that lens pretty much lives on my camera these days. The only photos I try and 'set up' are the ones of the finished product that I'm going to try to get accepted at or In my kitchen, I've found that the time of day I take the photo gets a lot better results than the use of white boards. I haven't gotten any lighting yet, but am thinking about it.

    I took the pictures of the tacos in the kitchen at night with just the overhead lighting. I waited for my son to finish making his dinner plate, and asked him if he would mind if I stole it for a minute to take a few photos for the blog! :)

  3. Hello also from TasteSpotting. This looks incredible and I can't wait to try it! I just have to translate it into a recipe list first. How much citrus juice did you think you wound up with?

  4. There was about 2 cups of citrus. :)

  5. This looks amazing. I think I'm in love.

  6. dangit. i had a long post written and it gave me an error trying to submit it.

    just wanted to add that big rick also introduced me to carne asada, sometime around '93, on a trip to mammoth, and that i've been hooked since (had it last night!).

    my preference is to minimize the toppings and only add a heavy handful of onion and cilantro, and let the meat/filling do the talking. if fresh citrus is expensive, frozen oj concentrate works well too. it also works well for kalbi/bulgogi, which uses a similar marinade.

    oh yeah, and DINO'S CHICKEN (you're referring to the one on pico, right?) is my absolute favorite. i used to eat there 2-3 times a month when i lived a few blocks away from it. the jous and the slaw make me want to die every time i eat there so that my last meal is a happy one!

  7. I have not been able to find such kind of information throughout the search engines and internet. It's been fabulously informative to read your blog and i am going to suggest it to another fellow as well.
    carne and pollo asada san diego

  8. Hey there, spanish guy here, and I mean spanish from Spain, not Mexico or anything. I've been reading some of your recipes like spanish rice and carne asada, and let me tell you something: you get everything wrong because you guys are way too influenced by mexican cuisine. Why would you marinade the meat so much when it tastes soooo damn good by itself. My mom cooks like the best carne asada ever, and its made only with lamb, olive oil, garlic and some oven love. Thats it, and trust me its A-MA-ZING. I'm from Segovia, one of the best places in the world to eat asados, and thats how we do it. Good lamb/pork meat, olive oil and garlic.

  9. Hi foodjimoto/karolyn,

    Excellent Carne Asada photos. I was wondering if i could use them on a flyer for a work event? Of course i want to give you credit. Should i put or your name? thanks!