Tortas Ahogadas

Tortas Ahogadas

Tortas are widespread throughout Mexico, but only in Guadalajara
do these pork-and-bean ‘Mexican sandwiches’ take a dip
into a fiery salsa to become a real – drowned – torta ahogada.

Origins
The story goes that a hungry man from Guadalajara came home after a long day of work. All there was for dinner was a piece of old bread, some leftover beans and a couple of pieces of cooked pork. That made for a boring torta, so he reached for the spicy salsa his wife had cooked and submerged the whole torta in the salsa. Now, he was on to something…

SERVES 1–2

You’ll need
About 30 dried chiles de
árbol, stemmed and seeded
¾ cup (185mL) cider vinegar
2 tbs pumpkin seeds, toasted
1½ tbs sesame seeds, toasted
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
¼ tsp ground cumin
⅛ tsp ground allspice
⅛ tsp ground cloves
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
¾ cup (185mL) water
1 crusty bread roll
1½ cups shredded leftover
roasted pork shoulder
¼ small yellow onion, peeled
and thinly sliced
1 radish, thinly sliced

Cooking Method
1 Combine the chillies, vinegar, pumpkin and sesame seeds, oregano, salt, cumin, allspice, cloves and garlic in a blender and puree until very smooth.
2 Pour through a medium strainer into a bowl, discard any solids and stir in the water. This is the chile de árbol sauce.
3 Heat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
4 Split the roll and fill the bottom half with pork.
5 Place on a baking sheet and bake until warmed through and the bread is toasted, about 6 minutes.
6 Add the onion and radish and the top bun; pour chile de árbol sauce over the sandwich, and let it sit, so that the sauce soaks in.

Tasting notes
Connoisseurs insist that what makes a great torta ahogada is a good birote, the region’s crusty, salty bread that is able hold the contents AND to retain its crunch in spite of being drowned in salsa. Those new to the torta may consider asking for it only ‘half-drowned’, which means the spicy salsa is diluted with plain tomato salsa. On street stalls in Guadalajara they will serve you this street-food favourite in a bowl, along with a spoon and a handful of pickled onions. You can eat it with the spoon, which gets awkward, or with your hands, which get messy, so most people roll up their sleeves and eat it standing up, holding it away from their bodies.

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