I hate Religion just as much as the next person: from the kooky-but-accepted major ones that are often the cause of world craziness, to the just-plain-kooky minor ones that lead to individual crazies. I spit in all their general directions. Despite that, I always enjoy the arrival of the Catholic Cuaresma (aka Lent) for one reason only: the availability of the dish Tortas de Camaron. Since they have to avoid eating Cows, Pigs, and Chickens on the Fridays during this period you’ll often see some new but temporary veggie or fish related items on the menu, and the tortitas (as they are sometimes called) is usually the most popular one you’ll see.
From the little info I was able to find it seems this dish, popular in Northern Mexico, is considered a poor persons meal, and a glance at the ingredient list does not disprove that assessment. It’s not a torta as in the sandwich, it’s a whole different thing but with the same name. Basically, it’s an egg batter mixed with dried shrimp powder and fried up. Yeah, that sounds wrong but it ain’t that bad. They’re usually also covered in a red chile-tomato sauce but sometimes you’ll see them in Mole as well. And the final touch; some nice tender nopalitos. A very basic but satisfying meal, one that also seems to be an acquired taste. And since it’s only available on Fridays for the next few weeks, I’m going to sample as many versions as I can find in LH and see how they fare, follow along if you care. If you’re already starting to retch, please step outside.
This first entry comes by way of the good people at El Huarachito (3010 1/2 N. Broadway 323.223.5317)
They seem to be tripling their business now that they’ve expanded their seating into the store next door, site of the recently defunct shoe repair shop. I bet many skipped eating here before as the 5 extremely cramped tables were constantly occupied. Huarachito’s rendition of this dish sets the bar high for the rest to come, they cook a mean torta. The nopalitos were fresh and perfectly tender but yet with that perfect snap I often lose when I overcook mine. The tortas were proper with their familiar shrimpy taste, though they could have been a bit ‘fluffier’ or is it ‘airy’? Or were they just a bit greasy from not being fried in hot enough oil? Obviously, I’ll never find out as I know nothing about analyzing food and even less about writing a review. But what I do know is that the sauce they were swimming in was, ay jijo!, excellent. Or would that be fucking excellent? I don’t know much about them there grammar rules either, but one of those must be right. With a spiciness that was not hot, the sauce had a weird complexity which had me wondering what the hell was in it. Probably chiles and tomatoes and some demon spice, cuz there was no sense of holiness in this sauce, the vibrant red color points to some other forces. How can you be sacrificing with such an indulgent taste? I’m not going to probe any further, I wouldn’t want the local church to start investigating. One virtual point was deducted for the tortillas de maiz they gave me instead of the harina I asked for, which I still ate as I don’t like to complain about such petty things!
The Huarachito crew have pulled off another great dish, one that’s gonna be hard to beat. If you’re interested in trying out tortas de camaron, start here. El Huarachito is popular because it’s good and it serves food you’d think was reserved for the family kitchen. Eating here is like being in Ester’s (cook and owner) personal kitchen, it’s just disguised as a restaurant. It’s a bit more expensive than other local places but for the quality of the food, this place is a bargain.
Now i’m off to pray that my Veggie God doesn’t scold me for eating up all them poor little ground up shrimp. I must repent, repent..