Sopes (pronounced soap-ays) are sort of a smaller, chubbier cousin to the corn tortilla. Both are made out of masa, a paste of ground corn, but corn tortillas are about the size of an open hand and very thin while sopes are about 3 inches in diameter, thicker, and have a thin wall around the edge to contain any of the numerous possible toppings. Sopes are cooked in oil to develop an outer crust that complements the smooth masa innards. They are a traditional food of Mexico where they are often purchased hot from street vendors and eaten for lunch. Sopes are becoming more popular in America where they are largely served as appetizers.

Sopes are first quickly cooked in a dry griddle like a corn tortilla, shaped while still hot, and then cooked again in oil and brushed with lard or bacon grease to make a flavorful crust. Sound tasty? Below is a fabulous recipe for homemade sopes. The main ingredient in these sopes is fresh ground masa, which can be purchased at Hispanic grocery stores. I highly recommend taking the time to locate a store that sells fresh masa. However, if this is not possible you can substitute masa harina flour, which is sold in the flour section of most supermarkets.

This recipe will make about 16 sopes about 3 inches in diameter.

You will need:

  • 2 cups of fresh ground masa or 1 3/4 cups masa harina mixed with about 1 cup warm water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • melted bacon grease or lard, or more vegetable oil

Mix the masa and salt together in a small bowl. The masa should be the consistency of a soft and smooth cookie dough. Add some water if necessary to make the dough softer. Divide the dough into 16 balls and place the balls under plastic wrap or a lightly moistened clean towel to keep them from drying out.

Take a ball and gently flatten it with your hand or the bottom of a plate until the piece is about 3 inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick. Plastic wrap will help keep the dough from sticking. Heat a fry pan or griddle over medium high heat. Add the flattened circle and let cook for about 2 minutes or until it is lightly browned. Flip and cook the other side for about a minute. Remember, you are just partially cooking the sopes to make them easier to shape, so don't cook them completely.

Remove the cooked sopes and let them cool slightly, just until you can handle them. Pinch the disc so you form walls all around the sides that are about 1/2 inch high. Let the sopes cool and then cover them with plastic wrap again.

Add enough vegetable oil to the skillet to cover the bottom and when the oil is hot add the sopes to the skillet flat side down. Lightly brush the top of the sopes with the melted bacon drippings or oil and let cook for about 2 minutes or until the bottoms look brown and crisp. Serve immediately.

I guess sopes can be eaten plain, but they are really meant to be vessels for all sorts of toppings. Since sopes have such a simple flavor the toppings should be homemade and as fresh as possible. Some possibilities for toppings include:

Fresh salsa (check out the salsa node for great ideas)
Cheeses of all types, especially Mexican cheeses like queso blanco or queso fresco.
Whole or refried beans
Meat cooked with Mexican spices (beef, chicken, pork, even shrimp) or chorizo
Guacamole or sour cream
Cooked or raw onion, garlic, cilantro, chili peppers, etc.

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