A wise man once told me,
a torta is a torta, and a torta will always be a torta, but is that actually the case? After a recent fact-finding mission to Jalisco, we can only say
Guadalajara is an experience different from what one might expect from Mexico’s second biggest city. It feels deceivingly small, with short buildings and a relative quietness; a far cry from the country’s more touristy areas. Start exploring, and you will find a city of art, culture, and, possibly most importantly, food. Specifically, the ahogada, Guadalajara’s signature torta.
I’m not entirely sure where we tried ours—it was a stop on the Street Tour, a recommended three-and-a-half hour mural and art walk—but you can find versions of it all over town. And if you’re in Guadalajara, it is of the uttermost importance you do so.
(Update! It was Tortas Ahogadas Las Famosas.)
Two main facets make the sandwich unique:
First is the birote bread, which is solely baked in the Guadalajara region. It looks like a baguette, but that’s where the similarities end. Eating the bread by itself would be hard—literally. It was designed to be drowned in sauce to become chewable, which is also the ahogada’s second differentiator. After filling the bread with the standards—pork, onions, etc.—you pour the sauce over, and the result is almost magical. No matter how much you use, you can still eat the bread with your hands. Sure, there’s the option of a spoon, but I’d consider that a mere backup. I ate the sandwich with my hands just fine.
Any ahogada shop worth its salt will give you multiple choices of sauces, too. I went with a spicier variety, but a more middle of the road variety was also available, as was one based on beans. Throw in your pick of pickled vegetables, and your torta is something different from anything I’ve tried before.
It’s hard to really compare the ahogada to a
regular torta. The concept is the same, but the drowned birote is the polar opposite of its more common sweet, soft counterpart. All respect to the latter, but going back to it could prove to be a painful experience.
Can we recreate something similar here in Seattle, then? Make our own equivalent, or something close to it? In the next few weeks, we will try. Stand by for your Tortillaphilia™ report, coming soon.
Ahogada is, in fact, Spanish for