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The Tortilla Map: 12 Ways to Eat a Tortilla in L.A., and Where to Find It

5:27 PM PST on November 13, 2019

Image by Monster One.

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he great Mexican standup comedian Sofia Niño de Rivera once joked about trying to explain all of the different antojitos and other tasty ways Mexicans eat tortillas to foreigners.

The monologue went something like this:

So what are chilaquiles?

“Chilaquiles are fried tortilla strips covered in salsa and cheese!”

“So what are flautas?” 

“Oh, they’re fried tortillas also covered in salsa and cheese.”

“And tostadas?” 

“Oh, they’re also fried tortillas covered in salsa and cheese, but that sometimes has beans!”  

The punch line is that when trying to explain the subtleties of all the manipulations of tortillas beyond tacos to someone who is not familiar, a lot of those different ways to eat tortillas end up being a version of crispy tortillas covered in salsa and something else. 

They're all delicious and different in their own ways!

While we pride ourselves in knowing those subtleties as the pioneering site advocating the Taco Lifestyle in Los Angeles, we understand that the vast tortilla landscape can be a bit confusing. This is why we teamed up with illustrator Monster One and crafted this trusty visual guide that defines and shows the differences between each tortilla beauty. Along with an L.A. Taco-approved spot to try each one of these fine tortilla specimens. 

After all: Body by masa, baby. 

Image by Monster One.

Tortillas: As they’re defined in Mexico: A thin, flattened disk of nixtamalized corn that is ground up and made into a dough, known as masa.

The L.A. Taco Pick for Tortillas: Kernel of Truth Organics, available for purchase at Sara’s Market and Cookbook Market.  

Tacos: A tortilla that is topped with a protein or guisado, folded over, and normally topped with onion, cilantro, or cabbage, along with salsa.

The L.A. Taco Pick for Tacos: We have a few

Enchiladas/Enfrijoladas/Enmoladas: Corn tortillas—usually of the non-handmade variety—that are briefly fried in hot oil until pliable and lightly crispy, then dipped and/or smothered in either a red or green salsa for enchiladas, velvety pureed beans for enfrijoladas, and a mole for enmoladas. They are sometimes filled with a cheese or chicken and sometimes they are simply folded over and topped with cheese instead. They are usually topped with thinly sliced raw onion and depending on the regional style, can be served with griddled potatoes and pickled chiles like in Michoacán. 

The L.A. Taco Pick for Enchiladas: La Casita Mexicana. 

The L.A. Taco Pick for Enfrijoladas and Enmoladas: Guelaguetza. 

Quesadillas: A corn tortilla that is stuffed with a melting cheese and folded over, cooked on both sides until the cheese melts. In southern states like Puebla and Oaxaca, they are traditionally filled with a guisado like squash blossoms or tinga

The L.A. Taco Pick for Quesadillas: Alejandra’s Quesadilla Cart.

Tostadas: A crispy, usually fried tortilla topped with either beans and meat, or topped with lime-marinated seafood. 

The L.A. Taco Pick for Tostadas: Mariscos El Faro.

Mulitas: A quesadilla but with meat usually made with two handmade corn tortillas, like a quesadilla sandwich. - Erick Galindo 

The L.A. Taco Pick for Mulitas: Teddy’s Red Tacos.

Flautas: A corn tortilla that is filled with a filling and rolled up tight in the shape of a tube, then fried until crispy and topped with salsa. 

The L.A. Taco Pick for Flautas: Los Dorados LA

Tacos Dorados: A corn tortilla that is filled with a filling, folded over once, and fried until crispy. It can be topped with cabbage, sour cream, or simply just salsa. 

The L.A. Taco Pick for Tacos Dorados: Mariscos Jalisco.

Totopos: Totopos is the proper name for tortilla chips, which are strips of tortilla that are fried until crispy.

The L.A. Taco Pick for Totopos: Coni’Seafood.

Chilaquiles: A traditional breakfast dish made from tortilla strips that are freshly fried and then smothered in salsa and usually served with beans, shredded chicken, fried eggs, and topped with raw onion. 

The L.A. Taco Pick for Chilaquiles: La Casita Mexicana.

Tortilla Soup: A spicy chicken soup that is served with crispy tortilla strips as a garnish, and sometimes cheese and avocado.  

The L.A. Taco Pick for Tortilla Soup: Cacao Mexicatessen.

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