So what is a torta ahogada? Basically, it’s a sandwich stuffed with cuts of fried pork bathed in tomato sauce. For foodies, though, there are some subtleties to consider.
First of all, the Spanish word ahogada means “drowned.” So the essence of a torta ahogada is the sauce. In some venues you will still find a cooking pot where the chef will take the torta with tongs and literally drown it in the tomato sauce in front of your very eyes. What’s more, there’s usually a cooking pot full of chilli sauce. If you are brave enough to try it, there are different levels that you can order: partially drowned, half-drowned and completely drowned. If you’re not used to spicy food, you need to be very careful!
There is a popular belief that this kind of spicy food is the best way to deal with a tequila hangover; that’s why you will find tortas ahogadas being consumed in the morning, usually accompanied by a beer.
The salsa is always made with tomato, but you will come across it cooked in a number of different ways. It is usually cooked and liquefied with a touch of vinegar, but you will come across some examples featuring salsa with raw tomato. The sandwich is often with onion, usually bathed in lime juice. Radish and avocado are optional.
Now, we come to the bread. It isn’t torta ahogada if it’s not made with birote salado (“salty bread”). Made only in Guadalajara, this is a product that makes tapatíos proud of their cuisine. You need the bread to be crispy and firm, so that it can stand up to the tomato bath; and you have to get a move on with eating it, if you don’t want to end up with a breaded tomato soup.
And what about the carnitas (fried pork)? The neighbor state of Michoacan is the Mexican home of the carnitas. There is a common tradition of eating carnitas (pork skin, cheek, tongue, ribs, etc.) on Sundays, fried in a big pan called a cazo. The huge demand for carnitas in Guadalajara has made it into something of an industry, but you can still find some places that use the traditional recipe.
Finally, accompany your torta with some tacos, or dorados (fried), or blanditos (soft). Now your meal is complete. Enjoy!