What Makes Sonoran Tortillas So Special? How to get the most our of yours.
Written by Gaby Rentería (Rise & Puff Cultural Ambassador - Mexico City)
Tradition is the key to understanding why flour tortillas are the most important food in Northern Mexican Gastronomy.
Northern Mexicans always debate which flour tortilla is the best. People from Chihuahua, Baja California, Coahuila, or Nuevo Leon will give all kinds of reasons why their local tortillas are the richest in flavor. They will defend not just their local recipe but their family one. All claim to own the best recipe for a flour tortilla. Take my advice, it’s best to say nothing.
But between us, many chefs, experts, and people who just love to eat will agree that flour tortillas from Sonora have no competition. What is the secret? How does a very simple recipe, with just four ingredients as a base, transform into something so spectacular in this specific region of Mexico? Some historical facts can help explain why Sonora became the “motherland” of flour tortillas.
Everything starts with the Spanish conquest of Mexico. It was 1542 when the Spanish brought wheat to Sonora and tried with no success to produce bread as they did on the other side of the world. All those failed attempts to make bread were not totally in vain: they gave birth to the zaruki, a mix of broken wheat and water that was a halfway point between a pita bread and a flour tortilla. This new bread/tortilla was an instant success because it was much more resistant and elastic than the corn tortilla that Mexicans used to eat, and it goes perfect with other northern dishes that are made mostly of meat, cheese and salsas.
Sonora bursts onto the scene.
In the early 1900s, in Sonora, something big was cooking, very big. In the small towns women started to prepare huge tortillas (15-24 Inches) to cover the food that they sent to their husbands during working days. The tortillas were made with just water, wheat, oil and salt. Nothing else.
They were cooked quickly in seconds over a wood-heated metal comal. The tortillas bubble and puff as they are cooked. They called them tortillas de agua (water tortillas) or tortillas grandes (big tortillas). To make it that big they needed to stretch the dough over their forearms. That is how, later in the 70’s, they got the name of tortillas sobaqueras, a slang name that refers to the movements the cooks make to extend the dough over their arms.
The texture and flavor of this type of tortilla is simply perfect. It is so light and flavorful that you can´t stop eating it. It is a perfect carrier for your favorite ingredients as it complements the flavors. That is the real secret of the Sonoran tortilla fame. A simple recipe that has been developed and refined over hundreds of years that conveys the history, tradition, and family love of Sonora, Mexico. In many ways it has parallels to how pizza was originally developed in Naples, Italy but that is for another day.
M&P Gastronomy is seeking to bring this amazing taste and experience into your kitchen.
Photographs by Sebastian Valdez