It was on a sun-drenched sidewalk in a neighborhood on the fringe of downtown Mexico City, lined with mom and pop stores selling everything from new tires to fresh tortillas and dotted with apartments that stood overhead billowing the day’s wash from open windows like colorful patriotic flags, that I tasted my first sopes.
I was twelve or thirteen and just on the cusp of exhibiting signs of teenage annoyance, feeling slightly put out by our annual, month-long, summer treks to Mexico City; trips that were always capped by a week’s loll on the beaches of Acapulco. Cue violin. As frustrating as I believe this pubescent mindset must have been to others, I acclimated quickly every time... and remember my aunt’s sopes contributed greatly to that end.
While there are probably more than just a few schools of thought when it comes to making sopes, I updated what I could recall of my aunt’s delicious offerings. These are gluten free, non-dairy and vegan... with pinto beans, a quick-and-easy salsa, an avocado non-dairy crema, and fresh shredded romaine topping little masa harina saucers (made with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Masa Harina). Though you can certainly use canned beans, these are made with the real deal (using an easy day-of “soak and cook” method). And, instead of a deep fry, these masa rounds get a quick, light grill in just a hint of coconut oil... then a pinch to form rimmed edges... then a very quick fry in a few tablespoons of additional coconut oil. Though I don’t have a traditional comal, a flat grill or large skillet set over high heat does the trick. A good golden grilling on one side, then flip your disk of masa harina and lightly grill up the other side. Then remove it from the heat and pinch the edges of each “sope,” with the more grilled side up to form a slightly raised rim (careful as they are still warm... it’s as much pushing in and pinching up as much as anything… think Playdoh… using all your fingers, thumbs on the outside pushing in and fingers on the inside of the masa round pulling up and out). Then when ready for the second round of cooking, heat your coconut oil and quick fry each to finish them off, transferring to a paper towel to pull any excess oil out..
Some simple fixings... and they are ready to plate... table-side (or on a sun-drenched walkway) where your only care is wondering when the next batch will arrive.