Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Mar 10, 2008 09:12 AM

Let's talk about Tortas

I am interested in tortas you have enjoyed in the past. What are the essential components in your opinion? Have you seen/ had any unique variations?

Is the cemita poblana the ultimate Mexican sandwich?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If the wiki article for 'cernita' is correct:
    "The root of the word cemita is said to come from "semite," referring to the Lebanese immigrants to Mexico who introduced the particular style of roll that goes into the sandwich."
    then 'cernita' can't be the ultimate MEXICAN sandwich since it has relatively recent immigrant roots. But then the bolillo and tellera used in most tortas are immigrants as well.

    The wiki article isn't clear on this, but I'm assuming the cernita is not grilled or pressed? Tortas often are.


    7 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      im not sure what a cernita is but now i know it is the ultimate MEXCIAN sandwich (I think you replaced g with an x in that word). :)

      im thinking its mexican enough

      1. re: paulj

        Yes... Cemitas are the result of Lebanese immigrant influences. In addition, to the Sesame Seeds there is a slight sweetness to them... and underneath the crustiness.... there is a very fluffy dough to them somewhat like Challah as pointed out by Silverjay... and I think this sweetness works will the Pueblas traditional flavors and is also a great counterpoint to the very pungent Papalo herb.

        Here are some Torta form variations that I know of....

        > Cemitas (as discussed)

        > Tortas Ahogadas (made with the very dense Birote Salado beer roll and dunked Enchilada style and served saucy


        > Pambazo (Crusty bolillo stuffed with a variety of guisos, dipped in Guajillo sauce then deep fried


        > Pepitos (French Baguttes stuffed with Grilled Meats - most commonly steak - and simply dressed with Salsas or Guacamole... very different meat to bread proportion than most tortas)

        > Perhaps my favorite are the style of Tortas (I can't remember any special name for them) that you can find in Highlands Jalisco, Aguascalientes and Northwest Guanajuato.... in which a crusty large Telera is sliced in half across the "belly"... a lot of the bread ripped out (used for soups)... to form two pockets then stuffed with a variety of things including Pickled Jalapenos and extra thick Crema, or Beans sauteed with Chorizo... or Mushrooms sauteed with Onions & Jalapenos, a variety of Guisos like Carne Ranchero, or Huevos con Chorizo etc.,.... I guess they are meant for saucy fillings... and I really like the textural contrast of the soft fillings with the crusty bread.

        Ultimately there is a great variety of fillings and most people forget that there are a good percentage of Deli Meat based Tortas as well that use a variety of cuts like Headcheese, Boiled Ham, Pollo en Escabeche, Jamon Serrano, Chorizo Seco etc, I've never had it but I have also read about Fiambre Tortas (Headcheese, thinly sliced Tongue & Chicken Escabeche).

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          Today for lunch we had our homemade version what I would call a Fruteria Torta (this are the Pressed sandwiches common at little Fruit & Juice stands),... Crusty Bolillo griddled without any fillings, then layered with Mashed Avocado (not Guacamole), thinly sliced Ham & Jack Cheese (proxy for Chihuahua), sliced Tomatoes & pickled Jalapenos.... the warmth of the bread against the cool fresh ingredients is perfect and the acid of the Jalapenos heightens all the flavors... such as a satisfying, light sandwich...

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            Satisfying is the perfect word to describe it! I know that had to been an awesome simple lonche! This post was actually prompted by a sandwich that was made for me by a coworker I had taken to Northgate earlier in the day.

            She used to run one of San Diego's best bakeries and is in love with Mexican baked goods. She bought up some boillos while we were there and later at work I found she had made me a sandwich.

            I never could understand why there is always a big rush of customers whenever a baker would bring out those fresh boillos to those bins. I understand now.

            Damn, this was one mighty fine sandwich - I adore that bread. Avocado, ham, cheese, tomato, red onion and cilantro sprigs - heaven! I just wished I had some of your jalapenos and maybe a nice spread of refritos and it would be downright sinful.

            Have you ever made mollotes EN for breakfast?

            1. re: kare_raisu

              Molletes? O yeah.... yesterday's bolillos, spread with Refrieds... shredded cheese baked. Very tasty, down home food.

              At Cantinas... Mollestes are often sliced into coins... and they get real creative with the toppings as a way to provide filling, complimentary bar snacks.

              1. re: kare_raisu

                Hey KR,

                Check this photo out... its of a large sandwich at a Lucha Libre themed Torteria in Mexico City (no, I didn't know it existed I just stumbled upon this post trying to research something else):



                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  That Torteria was featured in one of Rick Bayless's cooking show episodes a couple of years ago. Rick and his daughter ordered one of those huge tortas.
                  Between Patzcuaro and Morelia there is a torteria that makes really good torta milanesa for about the equivalent of $1.50 USD.
                  My favorite is torta adobado at El Coyotito #3 in Denver, however. Bolillo toasted in the grill, smear of refritos, spicy, succulent pork morsels, chopped avocado, tomatoes and grilled jalapenos with a smear of mayo on the top bun. Huge. DH and I share and always have enough.
                  Molletes are a favorite breakfast for me since I'm not an egg or cereal fan.

        2. I often get a "torta mixto", a mix of available meats and chorizo, covered on a creamy white cheese, a fried egg, and some peppers. I ask for slices of avocado if they don't put it on by default. And I have chopped lettuce too. Come to think of it, I'm not sure if I've piled this all on one sandwich or if it's a combination of several delicious memories.?.?.?. I've never seen them use a press to make tortas- they just use the spatula to press down.

          Cemitas, in my experience, use a bigger, fluffier, sesame bun made from eggs. Kind of reminds me a bit of challah. You can sure pile a lot of stuff on one of those- more than the shorter, doughier typical torta roll. The best cemita I had was layered with smokey chipotle peppers and a more thorough, thicker layer of cheese, than the tortas I have eaten. Actually, the "cemita ahogada" is something I'm dying to try. Read up on these puppies. If done right, they may have a good chance to be the "ultimate Mexican sandwich"- the UMS.

          1. avocado
            crema/sour cream

            1. quite possibly one of my favorite sandwiches (along with the banh mi).

              i used to go to this great el salvadorean place in boston and I always got the carne asada torta. I should've tried the tongue though, cause I heard that was amazing ):

              mine was on a buttered and grilled roll with sliced avacado, shredded jack cheese (or was it chihuahua?), smeared beans, carne asada, lettuce, mayo, and pickled jalapenos.

              soooo good

              1. Back in 2002, under a different handle, I posted about my love for tortas. Since then, I have had many other kinds, but my initial post at this topic describes what I consider (or at least did back in '02) to be a perfect torta. Here's the link.