I was feeling lazy and lonely one night in San Diego, so I decided to order a delivery from a place nearby to where I was staying. I had had a sufficient amount of tacos by this time, so I went for something new – a Mexican torta – which a friend had recommended I try, but which I had not run into anywhere. So I called Bolillo Tortas and, after a brief miscommunication, they delivered to my door a ridiculous quantity of food for only about $13.
A Mexican torta is a sandwich served on a crusty, slightly hard, white sandwich roll called a bolillo. The filling can range from ham to pork loin to breaded and fried chicken/beef to chilaquiles and the sandwiches are usually garnished with avocado, chilis, tomatos and/or onion.
To round out the meal I got some other stuff too.
I got the Nopalitos Salad, only $3.80 for a half-portion, which makes sense considering there aren’t that many ingredients in there – chopped up prickly pear, tomato, red onion and queso panela. I’m no nopalito connoisseur, but the stuff seemed to be jarred instead of fresh, but this wasn’t too big of a problem for me, because they still had a crispy but gluey texture and a tart flavor which made the salad more interesting than had I ordered a House Salad… The nopalitos were very similar in both texture and flavor to chopped green beans. Their tartness was balanced nicely with the sweetness of the chopped tomatoes, and the spicy zing of the red onion. The queso panela, somewhat similar to paneer cheese in its soft, smooth texture took on the flavors of the salad nicely, itself being a bit of a blank slate. A very light, lime-y vinaigrette was also drizzled over the salad, but I would definitely recommend asking for this on the side and adding only a tiny bit of it, so that it doesn’t overburden the natural tang of the nopales.
The torta I ordered also came with two sides. One of these was an Elote (Mexican corn-on-the-cob). The corn was cooked nicely (not overcooked) to where the kernels were plump and juicy. They sweetness of the corn was offset nicely by the salty acidity of Cotija cheese, a generous amount of which was patted onto the surface. Cotija cheese is a hard, grainy, grating cheese similar in texture to Parmesan (though maybe a bit moister) and in flavor to Feta. I did think there was a bit too much cheese patted on and the saltiness was a tad overwhelming… For an extra hint of flavor and to curb this saltiness, some tajin powder was also sprinkled on. The latter added flavors of hot chiles and dehydrated lime juice to the corn. (The stuff is usually what the Michelada, one of my favorite vacation beer cocktails, is rimmed with.)
Alongside the elote, there was also a Stuffed and Grilled Jalapeño, wrapped in bacon. The jalapeño was nice, with the flesh caramelized from grilling and thus mostly sweet in a natural, vegetal kind of way. Most of the heat was gone, although a tiny bit still lingered, mixing with the char as an aftertaste. The pepper was stuffed with a chunk of what I think was queso panela, which melted a bit, but then firmed up again in the shape of the cavity inside the pepper. The pepper was also wrapped in a thin slice of bacon which was not too flavorful but added a fatty, salty tone to each bite. A nice little treat to go with my torta.
The torta I decided on was the Torta Ahogada, which is a traditional, very messy snack from Guadalajara, especially popular in futbol stadiums. How it is eaten in such a crowded place, I do not understand, since it is pretty much equivalent in its aesthetic to a Sloppy Joe – a Sloppy José, if you will…
The sandwich is based on two slices of bolillo bread, which is crunchy and hard on the exterior, but soft on the inside. Both slices are smeared with slightly sweet refried bean spread and then topped with braised and pulled pork carnitas, which is tender enough to fall into stringy chunks, but remains pretty juicy and moist. The beans add back some extra moisture and keep the whole thing nice and hydrated against the dryness of the bread. Alongside the sandwich were two containers. One contained a very rich, thick tomato-based blended sauce, mostly sweet, but with flavors of vinegar, garlic and oregano also very notable. The other had a darker red, more spicy sauce, which I later found out was based on ground Arbol chilies. This was also flavored with vinegar, garlic and other spices to make it hot. Apparently the sandwich can be served either “media ahogada” (half-drowned) or “bien ahogada” (well-drowned) in the sauce. I didn’t really know what I was doing at all, so I kind of just poured both sauces all over the sandwich. I think I should’ve actually let it rest a bit in each of the sauces, but I couldn’t wait long enough to do so, and as a consequence the bread did not soak up as much of the liquid around it as I believe it is meant to have. This meant that the bread stayed a little bit too stale and hard and so it texturally overpowered the carnitas inside. It’s a shame, really, because the carnitas in itself was deliciously moist and well seasoned, and I loved both of the sauces…
The lesson here: This is definitely not a sandwich to have delivered – it is one that is meant to be prepared for you at the place where the ingredients are slapped together.
I was also a bit disappointed, because while the torta ahogada is usually served with radishes and onions for some crunch and zing, as well as sometimes avocado for some freshness, mine did not come with any of these, so the comfy, warm tomato sauce was not woken up by any flavor contrast. I checked out the place’s website later on and noticed that their Torta Ahogada is pictured as being served with onions, so maybe it was just the delivery version that is onion-less.
Anyway, a good meal (especially for the price!), but I would’ve definitely enjoyed it more amidst a group of friends at the restaurant itself.