Tortas Ahogadas: A Taste of Guadalajara’s Rich Heritage

tortas ahogadas
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Tortas Ahogadas: A Taste of Guadalajara’s Rich Heritage

Every time I go to my hometown Guadalajara, tortas ahogadas are the first thing on my mind.

There’s one specific place I always like to go to; I will let you know below in case you ever visit Jalisco’s capital city.

The secret that makes tortas ahogadas so unique is the smell and taste of the sauces, the freshness of the “salty bolillo” (a type of baguette only made in Guadalajara), and the doneness of the carnitas.

How long have Tortas Ahogadas been around?

tortas ahogadas
Salty baguette (bolillo), the key ingredient for tortas ahogadas

It is estimated that the dish was invented 80 years ago in Guadalajara.

“The torta ahogada (drowned sandwich) is a typical dish that identifies Jalisco; it speaks of food miscegenation due to the combination of ingredients,” said the coordinator of the Nutrition Career of the University Center of Health Sciences of the University of Guadalajara, Víctor Manuel Fletes Rábago.

Tortas ahogadas are excellent when you have a hangover, especially if accompanied with a cold beer.

It combines Spanish bakery with pork, introduced to Mexico since the conquest, and chile de árbol, characteristic of this region.

The salty birote (bolillo) is not made anywhere else in the world due to the altitude, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, and climate of Guadalajara.

For me, this dish can be used as a snack or a meal, if it is prepared in miniature birote, or as a main dish for lunchtime.

It is also recommended for breakfast if one suffers from a hangover.

If you ever get your hands on one of these tortas, try to eat it with your hands without using a spoon.

When you visit Jalisco, don’t be fooled. It is typical to tease visitors by giving them a taste of a torta ahogada dipped entirely in chile sauce.

Go ahead and order it half-drowned, or ask for the chile separately.

History of Tortas Ahogadas

tortas ahogadas

This mouthwatering torta has its origins in the Perla Tapatía (nickname for Guadalajara) at the beginning of the last century.

It is said that the recipe was born on a day when a laborer arrived home and, hungry, looked for something to eat, but all he found was a piece of bread, some mashed beans, chunks of pork prepared as carnitas, and a watery tomato sauce.

You may want to read: What is Machaca? A Northern Mexican Tradition

The man took the ingredients and made a rare snack, which he liked so much that he asked his wife to reveal the elements of the sauce, a crucial component of the torta ahogada.

Since then, there have been many recipes and variations used to make the sauce for the dish.

After a few years, the person who began to commercialize tortas ahogadas in Guadalajara was Mr. Ignacio Saldaña, “el Güerito,” 66 years old.

Owner of Tortas Ahogadas El Güerito, a business that has just celebrated 40 years of service in its central location at Madero 13, in this capital city, narrates the history of the succulent and original dish.

“About 80 years ago, the father of Don Luis de la Torre, the Güero, invented tortas ahogadas and started selling them in the Jardines de San Francisco neighborhood and downtown Guadalajara.

When Don Luis Sr. died, his son, el Güero júnior, continued the tradition and opened his business on the corner of Miguel Blanco and 16 de Septiembre, with a very elegant window display.

“Later, he moved to the famous place located on the other side of La Alemana restaurant, where the tortas ahogadas were supposedly born,” Mr. Saldaña explained.

A Family Tradition

Although he reserved the formula for tortas el Güero style, he indicated that the secret lies in the excellent quality of the bread and meat and the smell and taste of the sauces, which must be simply irresistible.

The dish consists of a salty birote spread with mashed beans, pork carnitas and a bath of tomato sauce and spices; a chile macho or “cola de rata” sauce, better known as chile de árbol, is also used to give it the typical tapatío flavor, according to the diner’s taste.

It is served with onions soaked in lime juice and salt, add a few drops of lime juice, and that’s it.

Depending on the amount of chile added to the torta, it will be drowned or half-drowned.

The birote will always be submerged in tomato sauce without hot sauce, but when it is a torta ahogada, it is completely immersed in the chile; unless you request only half submerged.

So if you want to try one someday, don’t ask for it completely drowned because you’ll get a kick out of it.

Tortas ahogadas are usually accompanied by crispy golden tacos with sliced meat on top and a beer.

Tortas Ahogadas Recipe

tortas ahogadas
A classic torta ahogada serving

Ingredients for 10 people:

  • 10 birotes
  • 1 kilo of pork loin or leg
  • 1/2 kilo of beans

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1/2 kilo of coarsely chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt to taste

For the hot sauce:

  • 100 gm of chile de arbol
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • Salt to taste

Preparation:

The birotes are split in half lengthwise but not completely detached, spread with beans, stuffed with meat, and bathed with tomato sauce.

The spicy sauce is served separately so that each diner can serve himself to taste. Keep in mind that the spicy sauce is very strong.

Tomato sauce:

Boil all the ingredients, let them cool a little, blend, and strain. It is served warm or cold.

Spicy sauce:

The chiles are cooked, deseeded, and liquefied with water, vinegar and salt.

Presentation:

Serve in individual bowls. It is convenient to bathe each torta only with tomato sauce, garnish with onion, and half a lemon on one side. The hot sauce is served separately.

My favorite torta ahogada

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned a place I always like to go to, and the tortas there are just so perfect.

I’m talking about Super Tortas Ahogadas Rober’s. If you ever go to Guadalajara, give them a try.

Tortas Ahogadas: Conclusion

Tortas Ahogadas stand as more than just a culinary delight; they are emblematic of Guadalajara’s rich heritage and cultural identity.

Through their humble origins and evolution into a beloved local delicacy, these “drowned sandwiches” encapsulate the spirit of tradition, innovation, and community that defines the city’s culinary landscape.

As we savor each bite of this flavorful dish, we not only indulge in its spicy taste but also pay homage to the artisans, cooks, and generations past who have preserved and perfected this gastronomic treasure.

Whether enjoyed in the bustling streets of Guadalajara or recreated in kitchens around the world, Tortas Ahogadas offer a savory glimpse into the heart and soul of Mexico’s culinary heritage, inviting us to celebrate the vibrant flavors and stories that continue to enrich our shared culinary tapestry.

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