Monday, July 13

The Mexican Torta: It's One Big Belly-Busting Sandwich

Mexican torta

Seems the latest food trend is food trucks, more specifically gourmet food trucks. Or as one San Fransisco owner calls his, "mobile bistro." From LA to Austin to NYC, dozens of urban, hip food trucks are charming epicureans with fare ranging from duck dumplings to pavlova with red fruit gelée. Hotdogs and hamburgers have been usurped by their more politically correct cousins, organic free-range chicken and grass-fed beef.

But what about the old food trucks and carts? You know the ones -- the quintessential LA taco trucks and the hot pretzel carts run by a gruff guys named Sully or Bobby. Are they being squeezed out? Last March in East LA, Mexican food truck owners, under fire from restaurants who claim they're hurting business, began a campaign called "Save Our Taco Trucks."

Personally, I'd like to see both camps succeed. Because, let's face it, getting affordable, healthful, organic meals from a food truck is terrific. So is getting an artery clogging carne asada (marinated steak) torta when the craving strikes.

I don't remember the name of the taco truck in LA where I tasted my first torta, but I do remember it was very late, I was very hungry, and the food was very good, soul-soothing good, actually.

A torta is a popular Mexican sandwich consisting of a split telera roll that is packed with any of various fillings ranging from meaty chorizo and pulled pork to vegetarian-friendly eggs and beans. In the US tortas have been called "American hoagies," "Mexican hamburgers," and "tacos on a bun." They're none of those; they are tortas, Mexico's beloved sandwich that comes in numerous regional variations. Like all quintessential Mexican street food, tortas are cheap, fast, and filling. They're also the new "It" sandwich if you trust author JJ Goode of Details magazine; he recently rung the death knell for the panini and bahn mi and christened the torta the "new best sandwich contender."

Mexican breakfast torta

If you don't have a good taco truck near you, don't worry. Here's how to make a great torta:

1. Go to a Mexican market, and buy a good telera roll -- a big, round, flat, mildly-crusty roll. (Bolilos are similar, but oblong in shape). Don't have a Mexican market? Use a Kaiser roll instead.
2. Choose your favorite filling -- maybe ham, chorizo, steak, fried fish -- and pile a lot of it on your telera roll. Lift the sandwich. It should be heavy and require two hands; if it doesn't, then add more filling.
3. Garnish the sandwich with a few toppings. Lettuce, tomato, and cheese are optional, but avocado, refried beans, and hot sauce must be included. Period.
4. Grab a big stack of napkins, a cold Dos Equis, and your oversized torta, then find a comfy chair. Plop yourself down on it, embrace your torta with two hands, and eat until your stomach hurts.

Egg and Chorizo Breakfast Torta
Makes 1 sandwich
Print recipe only here.

This breakfast torta pairs well a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a big mug of strong coffee. Of course, I wouldn't stop you from enjoying it with a cold Dos Equis.

1 teaspoon canola oil
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
¼ pound chorizo
2 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Few dashes of hot sauce
1 tablespoon Mexican crema,* optional
2 tablespoons canned refried beans
2 slices of ripe avocado or 1 tablespoon prepared guacamole
1 telera roll, split in half, lightly toasted*

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm oil. Add onion and chorizo, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until meat is browned and crisp.

2. In a small bowl whisk eggs, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Add to the skillet; stir frequently until eggs are cooked through yet still soft.

3. Place telera roll on a clean work surface. Spread both halves with Mexican crema. On the bottom half of the roll add refried beans; top with chorizo and egg mixture and fresh avocado slices. Serve immediately.

Shopping Note:
Mexican crema is a Mexican sour cream which is available in the refrigerator section of Mexican specialty markets as well as many major supermarkets. Regular sour cream is a good substitute.
Telera are available at Mexican specialty markets. A Kaiser roll or a soft crusted baguette are good substitutes.

You might also enjoy these articles about food trucks:
Food Truck Nation by Katy McLaughlin of the WSJ
In Defense of the Great Taco Truck by C. Thi Nguyen of the LA Times
7 Tasty Food Carts (and Trucks) from Across the Country by of Ariel Schwartz of SFWeekly
Twitter for Your Lunch by Gillian Reagan of the NY Observer
Foodies Flock to Twitter Savvy Food Trucks by Shaya Tayefe Mohajer of the AP, as seen on MSNBC

You might also like these sandwiches:

Italian Chicken Cutlet Sandwich with Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) and Provolone

Grilled Lamb Sandwich

Monte Cristo Sandwich


Andrea Meyers said...

Oh my goodness that looks amazing. I've never been to LA, but when the day comes I plan to take a tour of taco trucks and mobile bistros. My kind of street food.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Yes, we love truck food in NYC. And, I would not complain if one drove up and handed me a torta!

Maria said...

That is quite the sandwich!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Yum, yum! I wish a sandwich truck would cruise our neighborhood instead of the ice cream truck. I'd be all over that sandwich!

Karen said...

Oh, I miss tortas from the El Centro Mexican restaurants... nothing like them :)

Annie said...

I can't say I have ever had a sandwich from a truck, but I would like to try one now! I have, of course, had a hot dog from Haven Brothers! Remember them?
P.s. thanks for your kind words about my mom and sorry to make you home sick...You'll have to come home and visit soon!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Oh, yummy! That look soooo scrumptious and hearty!



Anonymous said...

Oh that looks simply amazing!! ((insert stomach growl here))

Ivy said...

Oh my goodness!! That looks delicious but that sandwich is enough to feed an army!!!

Parita said...

Oh my thats really one big sandwich...hmm looks tempting!

Heidi Leon Monges said...

what I would or could give for a torta in this moments of my life.....and you know in Mexico chorizo and egss torta is THE torta!.

♥Rosie♥ said...

Oh my goodness this is one very impressive sandwich - YUM!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

For Rhode Island readers, try the Dominican trucks on Broad Street in South Providence for their version of tortas. Delicious!

The Italian Dish said...

Oh I wish we had trucks like that here! Guess I'll have to make my own. What a fun twist on breakfast.

elly said...

I LOVE tortas. This sandwich looks so great!

Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

Man oh man, I want this right now, Susan! You should probably specify that you use Mexican chorizo for this. It's made of ground pork and is quite different from Spanish chorizo, which is made from roughly chopped pork and heavily seasoned with paprika.

Laura said...

Hard to resist egg, chorizo AND a big bun. Looks gorgeous, the next time I am feeling ravenous this will be my salvation.

we are never full said...

love it! you beat us to it, susan. this was on our list to make before summer's end. we have a place in our hood that makes AWESOME tortas. they are my guilty pleasure for lunch when i'm either hungover or just wanting to indulge. SO good. i take it this one is for the book? very delish!

Unknown said...

This sandwich looks delicious...this will be on my sandwich to try list! Wish we had a truck here.

Hillary said...

When done right, a torta can be delicious! The best torta I've ever had was from Frontera Fresco (smaller more casual Frontera restaurant by Rick Bayless) - their steak torta is killer!

Snooty Primadona said...

What I would give to have a good Taco Truck anywhere near me! Or even a bad one. I guess I'll have to settle for this sandwich. It looks totally delicioso! I would never have known about this if you hadn't shared, so thanks!

We spend a lot of time in Austin so I'll have to look for some *mobile bistros* next time we go there.

The Duo Dishes said...

Mmmm chorizo! There's no reason not to love this.

Unknown said...

That is one tasty sounding breakfast sandwich!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

andrea-That sounds like a plan!

tw-No kidding. I'd thank them profusely!


lynn-I agree. It's much better than a Popsicle. ;)

karen-I know what you mean.

annie-Oh, nothing to be sorry over. It's a good thing. :)

rosa-Many thanks!

delicedujour-That's sweet. :)

ivy-Well then I must be an army on one. ;)

parita-It is BIG and tempting!

heidi-I didn't know that. But now I feel so cool. ;)

rosie-Oh, thanks!

lydia-Thanks for sharing! I haven't eaten there before.

italiandish-When I first read it, I thought you meant "truck," then I realized you meant the torta. Haha.

elly-It tastes so great too!

terry-Thanks for the tip.

laura-You won't be disappointed.

wanf-Oh, you're so right. It's an awesome late night snack. Yup, it's in the book.

lynda-Now you can make your own!

hillary-I'm sure it's amazing.

snooty- "Or even a bad one." I love that. Yeah, there were several in the South of Congress district when I was there in May.

duodishes-Glad you think so!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

kevin-I'm glad you like it!

Abby said...

I have to admit that I still love a good panini, but this will do. (Fried fish? On a sandwich? You're speaking my Southern language now, you know.)

eatme_delicious said...

Haha I love your list of how to make a great torta, especially points 2 and 3.

Amy said...

Gorgeous pictures! I have a couple local Mexican places that serve great tortas. I might have to visit one tomorrow, come to think of it!

Karen Moore said...

My husband was passing by behind me and did one of those double takes at the picture. I'm thinking that the fact that he's still hovering over my shoulder means that he'd really really really like me to make this for him :D

Lickedspoon said...

This looks like heaven in a roll. I came to your blog from Foodie Blogroll and I'm so glad I did - I love your writing and the pictures are quite, quite delicious.

sunita said...

Susan, I think we all need something like this at times ;-) Yum :-)

veron said...

I love food truck food especially the taco trucks. And this is definitely one hearty sandwich.

Susan said...

Love me an egg sandwich with the works. Yours looks like the kind of breakfasts I used to get from the mobile diners and train stations when I was working in the corporate 'burbs. Didn't know food trucks have gone gourmet - in these parts, some of them were called...never mind...too gross...

farida said...

This looks so good! I love the ingredients that go inside the torta. Thank you for the recipe!

Maggie said...

Mmm. This really looks like a winner. I agree about both kinds of mobile food succeeding...though I sort of wish the cupcake truck wouldn't park in front of my office...too tempting!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

abby-Oh, it's so good, I know.


amy-Sounds good to me!

karen-Yeah, that's what I like to hear! :)

lickedspoon-I really appreciate that. Welcome!
I'll look forward to our future visits.

sunita-Yes, indeed, we do. ;)

veron-You can't beat those taco trucks for cheap, delicious grub.

susan-Yeah, there are a lot of gourmet mobile trucks now, so you'll have to check them out.

farida-You're so welcome!

maggie-Hah! I don't blame you.

Manggy said...

No, there isn't a taco truck, good or not, anywhere here :( But you've empowered me to come up with my own treats, thanks! :)

Nic said...

Whoa, that is huge!!

Ria Mathew said...

O wow! Now that's a huge and yummy looking sandwich!! Lovely pics Susan!

amanda said...

you make some of the most delicious sounding sandwiches, susan! the photos are just stunning. i don't think i've ever seen a torta look so beautiful. :-)

Anonymous said...

After reading this I'm ready to fly to LA or to your house! That is an uber-awesome sandwich!