It’s not easy to write about my hometown without sounding biased. I know that, like many cities in Mexico, it’s facing its own problems during these hard times, but there is something that Tampico has that no one can deny, a rich gastronomy. When you live abroad, or even in another state of Mexico, one of the things you miss the most is our local food. Our gastronomy is vast in seafood dishes, traditional dishes made with corn dough (called “antojitos”), and no one can forget the famous “Torta de la Barda”.
Many people will say that if you visit Tampico and don’t eat a “Torta de la Barda”, our famous local sandwich, it’s like you didn’t visit at all. Our food is a very important part of our culture, and when I go back to visit, my list of favorite places to eat is a long one. And Tortas de la Barda is on the top of that list.
|A view of the Marine terminal and the many Tortas sellers along its fence.
Photos Courtesy of Google Maps and Tampico, Tamaulipas Government.
This sandwich has been sold in small stands settled along the brick fence of the Tampico Marine Terminal and next to the Train Station since the early 1930’s (“barda” means “fence” or “barrier”, that’s were “Tortas de la Barda” got its name). This started when Mr. José Ma. Bracamontes and his wife Silvestre Martinez, who owned a taco stand, decide to also sell this sandwich to the marine terminal and train station workers. The original sandwich hasn’t change since then; the only variation is during Lent, when the meat fillings were replaced with canned sardines. Most of the population back then was Catholic and strictly followed their religious traditions. Within time and with the success of Mr. and Mrs. Bracamontes’ with the sandwich, their sons got involved with the business and later on started their own sandwich stands. Nowadays the 3rd and 4th generations of the family still are in the sandwich business, and there are many other vendors offering this sandwich. Mr. Bracamontes wasn’t a selfish person, so he didn’t mind people imitating his sandwiches. His motto, according to one of his sons, was: “The Sun comes up for everyone”.
In Mexico, “Tortas” are a type of sandwich made of crusty white bread rolls called “bolillo”, “telera”, “birote”, “pan francés”, or “pan blanco” depending on the region of the country. The sandwiches are consumed cold, grilled or hot pressed. Tortas are also known as “lonches”, a deviation from the English word “lunch”. It’s a popular meal between school children at recess time and workers for lunch due to their shape and size, which makes them convenient to carry.
4 SANDWICHES- TORTAS
For the Shredded Meat;
- 3/4 Lb. Flank Steak
- 1/4 of a white onion
- 1 bay leave
- 1 garlic clove.
For the Pork rinds in green salsa;
- 1 cup of pork rinds
- 4 tomatillos
- 1 jalapeño (or more if you like spicy)
- 2 small garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil
- salt to taste
The rest of the ingredients;
4 Mexican bolillos, small crusty rolls or French baguette bread cut into 5 inches long pieces.
- 1 cup of refried beans (recipe here)
- 8 Slices of Baked ham, thinly sliced.
- 8 Slices of Pork Cheese Head, thinly sliced*
- 8 Slices of American Cheese
- 1/2 cup of tomato, finely chopped or sliced.
- 1/3 cup of white onion, finely chopped or sliced.
- 1 avocado cut in slices
- 2 Mexican chorizos cooked (fried and crumbled)
1/2 cup of Mexican Queso Fresco-Ranchero Cheese or any cheese that crumbles.
Pork Cheese head has a milder flavor in Mexico.Here in the States the FUD brand is found at Latin markets. But if you don’t find the Mexican version, don’t buy the American since it taste completely different.
1. Place the meat in a medium sized pot with the onion and bay leaf, and cover with water. Cook on a low simmering heat until meat is tender and is easy to shred after cooled. This will take about 2 hours in a regular pot; if you use a pressure cooker, about 35 minutes. Once the meat is ready and shredded, season with salt. Set aside with the rest of the sandwich ingredients.
Pork Skin with green sauce
2. In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the chiles and green tomatoes, and simmer uncovered for 12-15 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid.
3. In a blender, puree the chiles, tomatoes, garlic and chopped onion, then add the reserved liquid if needed to get a saucier texture.
4. Heat the oil in a skillet, add the onion and fry,without browning, until soft. This will take about 2 minutes.
5. Add the blended sauce and fry over high heat, stirring from time to time, until reduced and thickened – about 6 minutes.
6. Add the pieces of pork rinds, season with salt to taste, and continue cooking over medium heat until the rinds are soft, about 5 minutes, depending on thickness and freshness of the pork rinds. Set aside to assemble the sandwiches/tortas.
7. Once you have all your ingredients ready, slice open the bread and smear each side with refried beans. Place 2 slices of ham, 2 slices of pork cheese head, and 2 slices of American cheese.
8. Top with the chopped or sliced onion and tomato. Then, add some slices of avocado, shredded meat and pork rinds in green sauce.
9. Finally, divide the crumbled cheese and cooked chorizo into the 4 sandwiches and fold/close it. Serve at room temperature with lots of paper napkins.
What is your favorite sandwich?