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Tortas ahogadas August 29, 2007

Posted by adrien in Food facts, Food in Vallarta, Mexican Cuisine, puerto vallarta.
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I had my first torta-ahogada-experience three years ago in Puerto Vallarta, when I passed by a newly opened shop on Pancho Villa Street with a big sign that said: “TORTAS AHOGADAS”, which mean drowned sandwich. Amused and intrigued by the name, I came in and ordered my first torta ahogada. And I got it for lunch 3 times in this same week…

Tequila and Mariachis music have reached out the borders of Jalisco and became such an integral part of the Mexican Culture. But drowned sandwich is still the icon of Jalisco State. Invented 80 years ago in Guadalajara, where the drowned sandwich is more than a dish but an institution. The torta ahogada expands its boundaries: Puerto Vallarta has seen more than 10 new tortas ahogadas shops opened in the past 2 years.

tortas ahogadas
Tortas Ahogadas from Tortas Zamora, Guadalajara, served with some bones..yummy!

Basically, it is a bread called birote salado (salty bread) stuffed with fried pork meat, bathed in a chili sauce, served with big amount of tomatoes sauce, lime and limed or pickled onion slices.

The quality of the tortas depends on the birote, the sauce and the meat. Rumor has it that a good salty birote can only be made in Guadalajara because of its altitud, temperature, humidity rate and other related climatic factors. Some tortas shops in Puerto Vallarta bring their birotes from Guadalajara. It looks like old bread, a bit hard outside and a bit salty. If the birote is too dry, then your teeth will not like it, if it is too soft, it will absorb all the sauce and what you have is a sponge. The birote once drowned has to be crunchy outside and juicy inside.

The tomatoes sauce plays an important role in the success of the drowned sandwich. The flavor is very important, the spices and herbs used such as clove, oregano, laurel… need to be well balanced. The consistency of the sauce and the dryness of the birote will interact and give this crunchy-softy texture to the sandwich. The worst torta ahogada can be made with a soft bread and a watery sauce. You will have then a soup with chunks of bread and meats. Not too yummy!

The chili sauce is made from chile de arbol and cola de rata chilies

The difference of the meat from one place to other is the size and type of meat. While some make it in big chunks, other chop it more finely. Some just use the meat and other add chopped pork tongue and other parts.

It is important to precise when ordering how do you want your sandwich: well drowned (bien ahogada), the birote will be completely immerged in the chili sauce, I don’t really recommend it unless you like it very hot. Half drown (media) means medium or you can ask with chili sauce apart.

Purists will eat tortas ahogadas with bare hands but it is a bit messy because of the sauce and the size of the sandwich. If you are not comfortable with it, you can ask the sauce apart as a dip.

Drowned sandwich is far to be a health-conscious dish. You might like it or hate it, there is no half way. But it is interesting and deserves to be tried. Moreover, it is considered as a local dish. So if you want to discover further local culture, don’t hesitate anymore. And it is a very good remedy for hangover.

Emilio’s (a street stand in front of the Library Los Mangos on Pancho Villa), Torta Ro (near the Stadium on Pancho Villa), La Guera (in front of Versailles Movie Theater, on Pancho Villa) or TNT. those are the best place to eat drowned sandwich in Puerto Vallarta.

But the best tortas are in Guadalajara: Tortas Robert (near the Procuraduria General) or the historic shop Tortas Ahogadas El Guerito (guero is the nickname given to a blond or caucasian person, and lots of tortas vendors are gueros, partly by coincidence and mostly because the link with el guerito) at Madero Street No. 13 where Mr. Nacho Saldaña, grand child of the torta’s creator, sold the first Torta more than 50 years ago.

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The flesh of Vietnamese Cuisine August 27, 2007

Posted by adrien in Food facts, Ingredients, Vietnamese Cuisine.
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With more than 1600 miles of unspoiled coastline in addition to countless canals and waterways, which include the Red River, the Perfum River and the Mekong River (the most important river in South East Asia), it is obvious that seafood and aquatic products are such an important part of the Vietnamese alimentation. This ubiquity of water in Vietnamese landscape is reflected in the food by the extensive and systematical use of nuoc mam . In the same way, rice is omnipresent in Vietnamese landscape and Cuisine.

With its well irrigated lowlands and vast green uplands, the dramatic interchangeability of its landscape, Vietnam is a beautiful and fertile country, rich in agricultural ressources. Sixty per cent of its arable land is given over to the production of rice. Lush green rice paddies shinning under the sun dotted with water buffaloes and women’s conical hats is a picture that one can see everywhere in Vietnames countrysides, from the Red River Delta in the North to the Mekong Delta in the South, from the moutains of Sapa near the chinese border to southshore of Phu Quoc Island. Being the third exporter of rice after Thailand and the United States, rice has also an important position in the economy.

bai-rice-paddies.jpg

But it is in the Vietnamese kitchen that rice reveals the versatility of its use, the skill of those hands which turn this little white grain into such delicious tastes and forms, and the wisdom of a millenaire culture. As a matter of fact, the application of rice reaches far beyond the simple steaming, occuring in a diverse range of ingredients or dishes and not always recognizable as rice. In addition to being used in the production of wine and vinegar, rice flour is used to make noodles, cakes, dumplings, crepes, raviolis… Rice is also transformed into flat rice paper sheets for wrapping rolls and unumberable dishes; glutinous rice soaked overnight, steamed with beans or corn, then wrapped in an attractive way into a banana leaf with different garnishes such as shredded coconut, toasted sesame seed, sugar, crushed roasted peanuts, fresh coconut milk..it is xoi, the most healthy and delicious breakfirst ever. The same soaked glutinous rice can be also stuffed with mung bean paste, pork, then tightly wrapped with banana and cooked in water, it is called banh chung, a traditional “tamales” eaten during Lunar New Year holiday accompanied with cu kieu: preserved mixed vegetables (thinly slices of carrots, Daikon, green papaya , young shallots cooked in a nuoc mam based sauce).

Travelers often put steamed rice in a cotton cloth, press and compact it into a solid mass, then cut it in thick slices so that they can bring them in their travels. The Hmong, Dzao or Thai minorities in the northern Sapa often have with them a sealed bamboo tube which contains soaked rice with the appropriate amount of water. Just a fire is needed and fresh steamed rice is made with the most convenience everyhwere.

“Food” is all around. August 25, 2007

Posted by adrien in Food facts.
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“I feel it in my fingers

I feel it in my “mouth”…”

Well, in my Mom world, Love is all around, this song originally performed by the Troggs in the 60’s and made famous by Wet Wet Wet in the 90’s, would have sound like that; and probably would have been the soundtrack of ” Four entrees and a dessert”, also a my mom’s movie…

With my Mom, it is always about food. She can call very late at night (it happens often with the jetlag) or early in the morning, “have you eaten something yet?” is a sine qua non question. It is not a habit, it is not a tradition, it is my Mom’s way to tell me that she misses and loves me. Every time I visite her, there is always tons of food. No matters that we just finished lunch 10 minutes ago, she will come with another dessert, hors d’oeuvre or whatsoever and ask “do you want to taste that?”. And as a son, I will protest “Mom! We just finished the thousands plates you prepared for lunch barely 10 minutes ago”. She will smile at me and put the plate on the table and we both know that I will end up eating this plate in a short moment.

In Vietnam, food is available everywhere and at every hour of the day and night. And it is so light and healthy that you almost eat every 3 hours. Food is every where: food stalls on the sidewalks with clusters of tiny chairs and table; ambulant food vendors; neighbourhood restaurants which opened under french reign, prospered during the american war, shut down with the communist area, and now open again with the new market economy; food markets; fancy restaurants in old colonial houses; five star hotel’s restaurants… We were amazed how food venues are in every single street of Saigon, and most of them always packed, even at 11 pm. Most of people I know in Saigon eat at least twice a day outside.

When I was 5, I once get delivered in 5 mn a noodle soup at 1 am by the balcony of my room at the 3rd floor, without any phone call and in the absolute secret. My Mom probably will learn it reading this post, “too late Mom to blame me”. I will give you the secret. Night ambulant food vendors in Saigon go across a neighbourhood with one or two anouncers who preceed him, playing a rythm on a tiny bamboo bell. The rythm tells you what kind of food he sells. Just call him from your balcony and let him know you want one order, put the money in the basket, attach the basket with a rope and let it down. The anouncer will get back with the food, put it and the change inside the basket. Lift it up and enjoy!

Back on the blog August 25, 2007

Posted by adrien in Uncategorized.
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I wanted to post as often as I could during my Vietnamese trip. But there were so many things to taste, to discover, to see, to learn; too many peoples to meet, to share, to laugh and cry with. We never know enough about a country as well as we never know enough about a person, no matters how long is the acquaintance. And the more I learn about Vietnam, the more I realize there are still so many things I don’t know. However, it was a wonderful trip. Gerardo and his wife was delighted by the country.
So before to post,  I wanted to take some distance, reorganize the information, verify the accuracy…

Anyway, I am back again. And promised, new posts are coming.