Birria represents a very traditional way to cook meats in Mexico that originated in the state of Jalisco, but is common throughout the central part of the country. Cooking birria involves making a complicated sauce of toasted dried chilies and spices like clove, oregano, cumin and garlic. The meat is browned and then cooked in the sauce until it is very tender and the fat has been rendered out. Birrias can be made of any red meat, but goat (chivo) is the most traditional.
Don’t be afraid of goat. The taste is not “goaty.” It is very mild and tastes a lot like beef.
One option here is to have your birria de chivo in a soup with the flavorful broth that results from the cooking process. On the wall menu this appears as the “plato de birria” ($10) which is confusing to gringos who may think they are ordering a plate, not a bowl of soup. It comes with some of the best handmade corn tortillas in Salem, and onions, cilantro and lime on the side. Put some onions and cilantro in your soup, give it a big squeeze of lime, and eat it with the torillas. If you run out of tortillas, ask for more and your server will happily bring them to you.
Birria rookies may be more comfortable ordering the “combination.” This is the goat on a plate — with rice, beans, avocado and lettuce, served with tortillas and the onion, cilantro and lime on the side. This is also $10, and if you’re not a big eater, it can feed two. The birria broth, called consome, is served on the side in a cup. This might be the best part of the meal. You can really taste the flavors of the birria spices. Delicioso! Another option is birria tacos for $2 on the handmade tortillas, and even something called a chavindeca ($5) which is like a quesadilla with birria, or another meat choice, along with the cheese inside.
Other meat choices include pork, beef tongue, beef head and chicken. You can even get shrimp cooked one of four ways ($13). But we really recommend you go with the goat.
The proprietor, Artemio, has built a successful business over the past decade with his Michoacan-inspired food. Los Temos is often crowded on the weekends. If you go then you might hear Los Palomitos playing accordion tunes for the big family groups that come on Saturday and Sunday. We were recently here on a weekday, mid-afternoon, and sat near the window where we could look into the kitchen and watch Angelita turning out the fresh corn tortillas with a big smile.
Los Temos is a little bit of Michoacan, on Portland Road (99E) one mile north of Chemawa Road on the right. Look for the sign of the goat. It’s worth the drive to sample some of the most authentic Mexican food in the Salem area.
LOS TEMOS TAQUERIA
7000 Portland Road NE
Salem, Oregon 97305
Monday – Sunday 8 am to 6 pm