How to Make Mexican Sopes
From the Authentic Mexican Cuisine series
In Mexico we traditionally eat many corn based dishes that have become a true staple food. I think the most well known item of the Mexican Cuisine is the “Tortilla” which is to Mexicans as bread is to French, or pasta is to Italians. The tortilla is nothing more than the corn kernels (white Mexican corn) mixed with lime and a bit of water & salt. This mixture needs to soak for a while and then it can be grinded into a flexible cornmeal that can be shaped into different forms and shapes such as the famous flat, round Tortilla. Tortillas can be as varied and different as bread can be, but they are always best when freshly eaten; straight from the mill they are just heavenly. The advantage with tortilla and other cornmeal based products -as opposed to wheat- is that it takes just a couple of minutes to cook. One variation of the basic traditional tortilla is the Sope, an item of which I talk about in this Mexican Recipe.
A Sope is a traditional food staple that can be eaten at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Every Mexican restaurant in Mexico has it as part of their menu, no matter how sophisticated it might be. They are also sold in food stalls throughout the streets of the country, from north to south. The Sope consists of a round cornmeal base (similar to a soft tortilla but a little bit thicker), covered with black beans and topped with chopped onion, grated fresh cheese, lettuce, a drizzle of cream and hot sauce. What I just described is the classic basic Sope, but there are many variations and additional ingredients to be added (for example some shredded chicken or chorizo).
The Sope is a very versatile food because it can be made in which ever size you want it; the cornmeal base can be custom made to a big diameter or a small one according to your needs. The little ones can be perfect as nibbles, snacks or party food, and the bigger the diameter gets, the more a formal dish you’ll get. Normally a meal can consist of 2 Sopes of about 10 cm in diameter. Another option is to have one as a starter.
Epazote: The Secret Ingredient
- 1 Package Yellow or Blue Cornmeal (Maseca or any other brand of your choice). In this case, I used blue cornmeal, but if you are going to go for the blue one, I would advise you to watch out for which one you buy because sometimes they just add artificial coloring to the regular yellow cornmeal, better go for the organic one.
- 1 green onion finely chopped
- 9 ounces (250g) Fresh White Cheese, grated (Mexican Panela Cheese, Covadonga is my recommended brand)
- Your choice of lettuce (Romaine, Iceberg or any other lettuce will do)
- 7 ounces (200g) Non Acidified Milk Cream (Aguascalientes is my recommended brand)
- Your Choice of Hot Chili Pepper Sauce, Red or Green. In this case I used a red hot sauce with “chile de árbol” or tree chili pepper.
- Black Bean Spread
If you can't find fresh epazote use the dried one
For the Black Bean Spread
- 8.8 ounces (250g) black beans
- ¼ green onion
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 1 stalk fresh epazote
- 3 liters water
- 1 teaspoon salt
Cook everything in a high pressure pan for about 1½ hours. Almost all the water will be consumed and the little that is left can be blended with the cooked beans to get a thinner spread. Use a food processor for this purpose. If you want the spread thicker, strain the beans before blending.
You can also buy the black bean spread canned if you want to skip this step (by the ones that are conservative free).
Procedure: Sopes Recipe
Make the cornmeal dough according to the package directions and to the amount of Sopes you are planning to make. The making of the cornmeal base is going to be a bit of a trial and error thing the first time, but once you’ve done 2 or 3 you’ll know the amount of dough needed for every Sope.
Grab a plastic bag from the market and use it as a surface to flatten the dough into a circular base. Take some corn dough with your hands and form a ball.
Place the ball in the plastic surface and start hitting it with the lower part of your palm. The ball will start to flatten until it transforms into a flat circle of about 2 mm thick. The bigger the amount of dough you grab to make the ball, the bigger the diameter of the Sope. For a more graphic explanation, see the attached video.
Visual explanation of how to make a Sope
Step by Step Instructions to Make a Perfect SopeClick thumbnail to view full-size
- Once you have the right size of cornmeal base, you can proceed to cook it using a flat, thin iron dish. Warm up the dish and once it is very hot, place the Sope base on top of it and lower the flame; flip it over and over every once in a while until it becomes harder and a bit brown. You’ll see the changes happening, don’t worry. It will only take a few minutes until the base is cooked, don’t let it get burned.
- Once the base is cooked, use your fingers to make an edge around the perimeter.
- Cover the corn base with the black bean spread.
- Sprinkle with chopped onion and grated fresh white cheese.
- Top it up with chopped lettuce.
- Drizzle with milk cream and hot sauce.
If you want to make several Sopes and keep them warm, place them in a hot oven before you top them with lettuce. They taste always better when eaten right away.
Simple Colorful Mexican Food
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