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Tortas ahogadas August 29, 2007

Posted by adrien in Food facts, Food in Vallarta, Mexican Cuisine, puerto vallarta.

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.