Around 1930, a street vendor in Guadalajara, capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco, accidentally dropped an entire torta into a vat of spicy salsa. After Don Ignacio “Nacho” Saldaña, the saleswoman, the customer exclaimed: “You drowned it.” – after that he ate it anyway – and the torta ahogada (the drowned sandwich) was born. The seller was Don Luis De La Torre and his son still makes the torta in his own shop in Guadalajara today. Soon, torta sellers across the City of Rose were dipping sandwiches into their own versions of the fiery red chili de arbol salsa, some thickened with pumpkin and sesame seeds while others used roasted tomatoes, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, and vinegar. The searing chili sauce wasn’t for everyone – another definition for ahogada is “suffocate” – so milder versions were developed. At the Cake drowned El Güerito, Saldaña’s restaurant, both a spicy and a mild variant are popular.
The bread of a real torta ahogada is a birote salado, a salty, crispy bun with a soft inside. The bread stays crispy despite the sauce and is the choice of the purists. However, it is very common to see the hoagie roll style bolillo used in Houston. These makes for a softer sandwich with a texture similar to a chopped barbecue beef sandwich.
Regardless of the preparation, sufficient napkins are recommended. In Guadelajara, the traditional filling is borrego (lamb). Carnitas are most common in Houston, but fajita meat, chicken, chorizo, black beans, sour cream, avocado, radish, pickled onions, or any combination are also popular.
In recent years, the sandwich has grown in popularity in cities across the country. Last year, José R. Ralat took off Texas monthly declared the torta ahogadas at Birote’s drowned cake in San Antonio to the best Mexican dishes of the year. Robert Rosenburg, AKA Chef Bob and former food writer for the Public news, predicted on its Facebook feed that the torta ahogada would be the top-copied Houston dish of 2021. “It’s a fantastic carnitas in a roll, soaked in a spicy tomato sauce, served with lots of pickled white onions and radish slices. It’s a delicious mess, ”he enthused. He strongly recommends the version below Proverbs Taqueria on Wayside as a perfect example. Houston has other great versions of tortas ahogadas and some notable variations on the theme. One is that Cake in mole of Fruit Ideas Micheladas, that is a torta with a meat filling of your choice, smothered in mole.
Despite their popularity in general, tortas ahogadas are still a rare find in the Houston area, but wWe’ve rounded up some key places to find this elusive and decadent sandwich. Do we know one that we missed? Please let us know in the comments.
Torta with charred pepper salsa at Cuchara. Courtesy photo.
spoon 214 view of the fair, (713) 942-0000: This Montrose restaurant has been honoring Mexico City’s street food since 2012. Two types of drowned sandwiches are offered during Saturday and Sunday brunch. The traditional one drowned cake is a bolillo filled with carnitas and garnished with a charred pepper sauce, and Her Majesty: Pambazo, that is Bread fried in guajillo pepper, filled with potatoes, chorizo, beans, lettuce, cheese and cream, then covered with spicy green salsa. There are even more options on weekdays like salpicón de res, a homemade tostada dish of shredded beef with tomatoes, olives, pickled peppers, cotija cheese, avocado, and crispy corn tostadas. The Ensalada de Pétalos de Rosa combines rose petals, pears, peaches, pistachios, mixed greens and cranberries with an orange and guajillo vinaigrette. The Negro Mole is a bathed turkey breast is a rich 34-ingredient mole (and served with a handcrafted wooden turkey that can be purchased for two dollars).
Extra hot sauce at Dichos Taqueria. Photo by Staci Davis.
Proverbs Taqueria 614 South Wayside, (832) 742-5669: This place is popular for its local Mexican food and convenient transit. It is Drowned Guadalajara-style cake comes filled with pork carnitas on a soft bolillo roll that is coated with black beans. A mild tomato sauce soaks everything, but adds the radish and onion side dish and a spicier arbol sauce. Do you need a starter? The Ceviche, filled with fresh fish cooked in lime and pico de gallo, is good to take away. The breakfast menu is extensive and includes rarities such as Eggs with mole, a sunny-side up egg draped over a sincronizada (ham and cheese quesadilla), and Veracruzanas Enfrijoladas these are essentially breakfast enchiladas, filled with eggs a la Mexicana, served with bean sauce, chorizo and sour cream. Don’t forget to pick up fresh water Horchata and melon juice have always been there since Jamaica.
Aguas Frescas in Saids Taqueria. Photo by Staci Davis.
Fabian’s Latin American flavors 301 Main, (713) 227-0440: every Wednesday downtown guests can visit the drowned cake on the open terrace of one of Houston’s last Victorian buildings, built in 1889. The torta consists of fried black beans, carnitas, queso fresco, guacamole and is dipped in a rich carnita sauce. The menu reflects favorites from Latin America, such as Puerto Rican Tostones, Plantains that have been pureed and fried to a crispy chip topped with shrimp in garlic sauce and queso fresco, and traywhich some consider the national dish of Colombia, consisting of rock steak, Colombian homemade chorizo, chicharron, sunny side up egg, white rice, pinto beans, avocado and relish.
Torta Ahogada on the terrace of Fruit Ideas Micheladas y Taqueria. Photo by Ben DeSoto.
Fruit ideas Micheladas 12625 Market, (713) 637-4166: This Birrieria (Birria saleswoman) and Michelada bar in Jacinto City is characterized by its colorful murals and fancy décor. There are two – sometimes three – versions of the drowned sandwich here. The classic variant comes with a mild chili de arbol sauce, sour cream, avocado, a bolillo roll and meat of your choice. The Drowned d’Borrego is filled with Borrego lamb, mozzarella and queso fresco. The Cake in mole is soaked in mole with either fajita, borrego, chicken or carnitas. Birria, A spicy jaliso dish, consisting of lamb or beef braised in a fragrant tomato sauce, comes in many forms such as Birria tacos, Birria ramen and Birria by the pound. The drinks are amazing and arrive adorned with shrimp, ceviche, beef jerky, fruits, chamoy and chili-lime spices and come in endless variations from tasty to healthy. The Camarochela is a michelada with six prawns, cucumber, jicama and chamoy. Soft drinks like that Champurrada, an atole-based (corn-based) hot chocolate and hot horchata are perfect for a refreshing meal on the terrace.
Carnita Torta Ahogada at Papparucchos. Photo by Jose Pineda.
Paparuchos 3055 Sage, (713) 212-3177: This lively bar near the Galleria is a popular spot for Latin music and margaritas, two things that go great with spicy pork sandwiches. cook Jose Pineda Pour a mild sauce onto a pork carnita filled bolillo, then add a more flavorful sauce. Have your tacos served Ahogada style on request. Select for fajitas Lemon Pepper Chicken or Ribeye fajitas served with rice and salad or french fries. On the lighter side is that Pina Colada Salad comes with chicken strips or coconut prawns and a salad and coconut dressing with a pineapple dip on the side. Guests can dine al fresco and enjoy a hookah with disposable tips.
Has this article been of any use to you? We rely on our readers and sponsors to cover monthly expenses such as authoring and social media fees, administrative expenses, web development, software, online services, website hosting, and more. Can you only deposit $ 5 a month to keep our coverage up? (Not tax deductible.) Thank you in advance for supporting local journalism! To become a sponsorship company and advertise on Houston Food Finder, send us an email.