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Fresh masa items, made to order

Dried out corn tortillas rank down there with stale matzo. Er... or not-stale matzo.

Who is making corn tortillas to order, and using fresh masa from nixtamal rather than masa harina / maseca? Let's expand this thread to include huaraches, sopes, gorditas, etc. from fresh masa too.

There are scattered mentions from previous threads. Here are some recent mentions:

El Paisano Carniceria y Mercado, Redwood city. Tacos are made to order. Not sure about the sopes. The quesadillas are flour dough.

Uno Dos Tacos

Here's a thread about places selling fresh masa for home use:

Background: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masa

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  1. In SF, I'm pretty sure that both Nopalito and La Urbana nixtamalize their own corn and make their own tortillas. At La Urbana I've only had them in the taco garage, I don't know about the main restaurant.

    In the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, Taco Grill, El Grullense and Taqueria Campos make corn tortillas to order, although at the latter too you have to specifically request it. (There are more places than these in the neighborhood that make their own tortillas, but I don't remember them all.) I don't know for sure that the nixtamal comes from corn and not masa harina, but based on the flavor I suspect it is fresh.

    1. Now that I make my own nixtamal I'm totally spoiled. Anxiously await intel on places that produce fresh corniness.

      1. Some items (not necessarily tortillas) at El Huarache Azteca, Comal, Nido, and El Molino Central.

        Many pupusa places.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I'm wondering if you might be a bit more specific about the items available at the places you listed and the pupusa places that use fresh masa? Thanks!

          1. re: miss louella

            Gorditas, huaraches, sopes, sometimes quesadillas. La Santaneca makes pupusas to order.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Do they make fresh masa? I have never run across a Pupuseria that doesn't use dried flour, so will need to try this example.

          2. re: Robert Lauriston

            El Molino Central (Boyes Hot Springs, near Sonoma) definitely makes their own masa from scratch (no harina) and it's organic too. You can buy tortillas by the dozen from them as well. There are the super thick ones (mostly what you'll see in stores) and regular sized ones, which are awesome and freeze very well. You can also buy masa from them to make your own creations. They have tamales made with their masa but I've never tried them (they don't have a vegan version). Masa and tortillas bought direct from them are quite well priced too.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              El Espigo de oro, which sells fresh masa by the pound, uses fresh masa for their pupusas. The cheese one was so overflowing with oily Monterey Jack, that it was tough to fully appreciate the dough's flavor. But the texture was great.

              La Palma mexitassen a few doors down sells pupusas. I would assume use fresh masa as well since they crank out so many masa products.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                They had fresh masa in the cooler for take out the last time I was there.

                1. re: wally

                  You can get the same masa at Primavera's farmers market stands.


                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    True. Though they don't always have it. The stands are even less convenient for me than driving from Petaluma to Sonoma. But for many others, yes, way better.

              2. As an aside, I saw nixtimalized corn being sold by the bag at Mi Pueblo in Oakland a few weeks ago. I hadn't noticed it previously, so I don't know if it was a special, or a new thing.

                4 Replies
                1. re: ...tm...

                  Good find!

                  There was a report of fresh masa in their Mountainview Location several years ago saying that they sell fresh masa but the grinding happens elsewhere: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4343...

                  They mention selling "masa" for tamales on their webpage:

                  1. re: hyperbowler

                    The Fruitvale Mi Pueblo has prepared masa for tamales and tortillas all the time, as do many Mexican markets. Most East Bay markets carry the La Finca brand, which has it's factory down the street in Fruitvale. I'm interested in the nixtimal because I'm not sure I can detect when fresh-made masa items are made from masa harina or "fresh masa". In the past when I've made items from store-bought prepared masa I haven't detected a huge difference from when I just use masa harina. I figure getting the whole kernels will guarantee my starting point.

                    1. re: ...tm...

                      Same here... getting them made to order seems to be the biggest issue for me. At this point, I doubt I can tell the difference between fresh masa and masa harina, and that's partly because I don't know which places use masa or masa harina. It's not advertised.

                      Whatever they use, La Santaneca's cheese pupusas are consistently the best I've found in SF (the corn based ones, not the rice ones).

                      1. re: ...tm...

                        Fresh masa has a distinctive flavor that's missing from masa made from masa harina. Same goes for posole made from freshly lye-soaked corn and from dried or canned hominy.

                  2. Picante in Berkeley makes Tortillas and Huaraches to order with Fresh Masa

                    1. San Jose

                      I don't know if they use masa or harina, but Tropicana on Story has an in house tortilla factory, one can watch them process

                      Chavez on Blossom Hill has the ability to make fresh corn tortillas to order: ball of dough run through a roller then cooked on the flat top

                      1. newbie about terminology here. does fresh masa equate to that the masa is made from nixtamalized corn? or can fresh masa be made from non-nixtamalized corn as well. i am trying to parse the comments in the thread to see if the two are equivalent.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: ckshen

                          Traditionally you start with dried corn, boil it with lye, let it sit for a few hours, and rinse it, removing the hulls. You can use that to make posole or grind it to make masa, which you can use to make tortillas, huaraches, tamales, etc.

                          Masa can be dried and then powdered to make masa harina, which is to fresh masa something like instant potatoes are to mashed potatoes.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Thanks Robert. I take it that when folks say not many places around here now make e.g. tortillas from nixtamalized corn, that they actually meant the tortillas aren't from nixtamals/ fresh masa. because it sounds like even masa harina is made from nixtamalized corn- but the taste of product made from it just pales compared to those made from fresh masa. did i get it right?

                          2. re: ckshen

                            Robert is correct. Dough made from non-nixtamalized corn is just cornmeal.

                          3. I have always loved the fresh handmade tortillas at La Palma Mexicatessen on 24th in the Mission in SF, but I don't know if they're made from fresh masa or masa harina. But they taste really good.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: farmersdaughter

                              La Palma uses fresh masa.

                              Here's an interview on the Tacolicious site,

                              What makes a tortilla to be ashamed of?
                              "Maseca. It’s the powder you use when you can’t get corn, when you can’t get masa. And a lot of restaurants in the city do use it. It looks like pancake mix. You add water, lard, and salt."

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                I believe Maseca is a brand of masa harina.

                            2. Don't know if the tortillas are made to order or cooked earlier in the day, but I'll mention that Nopalito and Sabrosa both make their own tortillas from fresh masa.

                              For your list of masa products, you might want to add atole and champurrado beverages.

                              1. San Jalisco in the Mission uses fresh masa for their made to order tortillas. You can see tons of them puffing up on the grill on weekends. They're pillowy and pliable.

                                1. I've been asking SF pupusa places whether they use fresh masa or masa harina. Salvadoran places, including La Santaneca, Los Planes de Renderos, El Zocalo, Los Panchos, and Los Yaquis, use masa harina rather than fresh masa. I haven't been in a while, but Balompie's menu says they use masa harina. I didn't ask specifics at most places, but La Santaneca told me they didn't use Maseca brand.

                                  Two places that use fresh masa for pupusas are Mexican-- Espigo de Oro (cited upthread) and La Palma Mexicatessen, both of whom sell fresh masa by the pound. La Palma's cheese pupusa is excellent and not just for the masa-- it's flatter and wider than any pupusa I've seen in the Bay Area, nearly the diameter of a paper dinner plate. The cheese version is filled with a delicious salty cheese and chopped chilies. The dough is very pliable and I can imagine some people preferring a firmer texture. See pic below.

                                  1. Tamarindo Antojeria (old Oakland) recently had a huarache special with blue corn that was obviously made in house. Just spread with some salsa and thinly sliced radish ... it was a beautiful thing.

                                    Their specials are consistently wonderful. I am looking forward to Chile en Nogada coming into season, but I will call ahead because they vary the specials a bit.

                                    I also love their chilaquiles, which are of the sauteed totopos type (not layered lasagne type). They offer a choice of sauces.

                                    1. Two in the Mission:

                                      Loqui taco pop-up next to Tartine Bakery on 18th & Guerrero: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/986103 Friday/Sat 7:30pm-midnight

                                      Las Palmeras : pupusas made with fresh masa, not sure what other dishes. Corner of 23rd and Mission, closes at 9:30pm.

                                      1. La Estrellita in Redwood City (corn quesadilla pictured). They sell it by the pound too

                                        Street taco in the Haight http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/991189