Whether your favorite local sandwich is a pastrami on rye, jambon-beurre, bánh mì, or the torta ahogada, there’s no regional sandwich that can reach its potential without the local bread, whether artisanal or straight off the shelf of the neighborhood market. It’s all about the bread when it comes to sandwiches, and Jalisco’s birote salado, a hard, salty bolillo roll, is the main ingredient in one of Mexico’s most iconic sandwiches. Don Luis de La Torre, owner of Tortas Ahogadas El Güerito, claims his father created the sandwich in the mid-1930s in the center of La Perla Tapatía, a nickname for Guadalajara.
The original recipe is simple: a birote salado spread with refried beans and stuffed with carnitas (in Jalisco, you’ll find other fillings, like hog’s maw, beef tongue, panela cheese, and shrimp), which is then drowned in a heaping ladle of tomato sauce. Next, the cook pours over salsa de chile Yahualica, a hotter, more vibrant regional variety of chile de árbol from Yahualica, Jalisco. The torta is then garnished with slivers of pickled red onion and a lime wedge. It’s one of the rare Mexican dishes, along with the aguachile, where lip-scarring heat is part of the dish rather than a condiment, and if it isn’t hot enough, ask the tortero to turn up the heat.
Tapatío cuisine has always been present in Los Angeles, with most Jalisco-style restaurants serving antojitos as well as their signature tortas ahogadas. But in the last decade, the sandwich has become more prominent due to the rise of local bread makers. Many tortas ahogadas spots source their bread from Jaliscan bakers providing excellent birotes salados, like Wilmington’s Tortas Ahogadas La China, a recently opened stand that only serves the classic combo — tortas ahogadas, and tacos dorados — just like at a street stand in Guadalajara. No matter where you live in LA, there’s bound to be one of these proud Jaliscan vendors nearby, where you can find and try Mexico’s most fiery torta.Read More