Tortilla Soup-Main

Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Spring/Summer 2007 issue.

The tortilla has been a staple in Mexico since, as the Mayan legend goes, a peasant made the first dozen as a gift for his king in 10,000 BC. And ever since the 16th century, when the Spaniards came to Mexico bringing their tradition of soup, as well as the chickens and spices from which to make flavorful stock, there has been wonderful tortilla soup. And no one has yet to come up with a better way to usestale tortillas.

Tortillas are flat cakes of masa, corn that has been soaked, cooked with lime or ashes, and then ground. Tortillas are seldom eaten alone, more often an ingredient in a whole repertoire of foods. Sopa de tortilla includes many of the best ingredients in Mexican cooking: fresh vegetables, cilantro or epazote, chilies and avocados, just to name a few.

Order tortilla soup at one of the many Mexican restaurants in Vallarta and realize that 1,000 years ago you could have been eating the same dish, although maybe not so comfortably. Finding a place to sample this delectable delight won’t be difficult. From gourmet eateries with silver and linens to the ubiquitous neighborhood hang-out with plastic chairs, tortilla soup will be on the menu, each rendition seemingly from its own special recipe, sometimes a family secret handed down through generations. Styles vary within Mexico, as well as among restaurants and families. Tarrascan-style soup from Central Mexico uses beans as a base for the broth, and in Vera Cruz seafood is often added to the mix.

If you’re cooking in your condo or villa, pick up a package of corn tortillas. Customarily, tortillas do not contain preservatives and taste best the same day they are made. But old tortillas are the base of this great dish, so don’t toss the tortillas from yesterday’s comida! Instead, find a formula and prepare this belly-warming broth.

Search for “tortilla soup” on the Internet and you’ll get more than a million sites — including several devoted to the popular 2001 movie of that name! Most recipes start with a tomato- or chicken-based stock, to which are added dried guajillo and pasilla chilies along with the tortillas, which are first cut into strips and fried. Or, take the easy way out and buy some canned tortilla soup and take it from there!

Traditionally, at home or out, the soup will be served with a plate of garnishes. Add more tortilla strips or chilies and pile on avocado and queso fresco, or crumbled cheese. Finally, ladle in some fresh crema and enjoy!!