Ahogada means drowned in Spanish, and this popular Jalisco dish is a pork sandwich drowned in a spicy tomato sauce. If you order your sandwich bien ahogada, you will get the entire sandwich completely submerged in sauce.
Torta ahogada is strongly associated with the city of Guadalajara, but is popular throughout Jalisco. Even tough the torta ahogada isn’t really suitable as a stadium food (you should ideally have access to a table, some utensils and plenty of napkins when you attack this dripping red beast), it is a very popular snack at the soccer stadium Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, where they are eaten with bare hands.
The bread used for torta ahogada is bolillo, a white bread made in stone ovens. It looks a bit like a baguette, but is much shorter (approximately 15 cm). In Guadalajara, the bread is also known as briotes and is usually made from sourdough.
The bolillo has a soft interior and a thick and crunchy crust, making it ideal for heavily filled and moist sandwiches. This bread is salty rather than sweet, and will hold together well even when completely submerged in sauce. The soft inside is called migajón.
Emperor Maximilian’s cooks are credited with bringing this type of bread to Mexico in the 1860s.
Recipe for torta ahogada (yields 5 sandwiches)
The recipe below calls for cooked arbol chilies, but don’t hesitate to experiment with other types of chili fruit when making torta ahogada, including dried, fresh or pickled chili peppers. Torta ahogada vendors will often have two versions of the sandwich available – one hot and one mild.
- 1.5 kg of loin or shoulder pork
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- Olive oil, enough coat the saucepan
- 1 cup of orange soft drink
- (Sometimes, a bit of water for cooking the pork)
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- The juice from 4 limes
- 1 kg tomatoes, diced and cooked
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cloves, minced
- Cooked arbol chilies, to taste
- Water (to blend the chilies)
- 5 Mexican bolillo rolls (or similar bread)
- Black refried beans (as little or much as you want)
- 2 avocados, sliced
- 2 tsp of Mexican oregano
- Cut the pork in chunks and season them on all sides with salt and pepper. (The smaller the chunks, the quicker the pork will cook.)
- Coat a saucepan with olive oil, and add the pork + the orange soft drink. Over medium-high heat, cook the pork until it is golden brown on the outside and the liquid has been absorbed. If the pork isn’t cooked well enough by now to be easily shredded, add some water and cook until the pork is ready.
- Shred the pork and set it aside.
- Place the sliced onion in a bowl and add the lime juice, plus salt to taste. Cover the bowl and leave it while you continue with the rest of the recipe. (The onion should ideally rest in the salty lime juice for at least 15 minutes.)
- In the mean time, blend the cooked tomatoes together with cloves and garlic to make the sauce for the sandwiches. Remove from the blender and set aside.
- Use the blender to blend the cooked chillies together with a small amount of water.
- Mix the tomato sauce with the chillies in a saucepan, and leave to simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering, prepare the bread (the bolillo rolls) by cutting them in half and hollowing out the bottom half of each roll to make room for filling.
- It is advisable to toast the bolillo rolls lightly, but this step can be skipped.
- How to assemble a torta ahogada:
- Place the bottom half of the roll on a plate, preferably one with sides high enough to catch any sauce escaping from the sandwich.
- Use refried beans as a bread spread for the bottom half of the roll. (It’s very individual how much refried beans a person wants on their torta ahogada.)
- Place shredded pork on top of the refried beans.
- Scoop about 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over the pork, and top with onions and avocado.
- Add the top of the roll to the sandwich, and pour ¼ cup of tomato sauce over the entire sandwich.
- Sprinkle the sandwich with Mexican oregano before serving.