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Recipe

A Jalisco Recipe for Tortitas de Camarón Con Nopales, Mexico’s Delicious Shrimp Fritters Served During Cuaresma (Lent)

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]f you were to distill the Mexican cuaresma—lent—experience into a single dish, it would be tortitas de camarón with nopales. Those deliciously spongy fritters made from whipped eggs and dried shrimp then stewed in a fresh nopal stew fortified with dried chiles. On Fridays, in Mexico and abroad, you can count on every Mexican kitchen in both homes and restaurants offering the unique dish.

In Los Angeles, La Casita Mexicana in Bell is known for making one of the best versions in the city. The secret to their sazón? Toasting whole dried shrimp in a pan, pinching off the shrimp’s eyes, and then blending it to create your own crushed dried shrimp. 

“The eyes impart a bitterness that can be offputting,” Ramiro Arvizu tells L.A. TACO. He is one half of the chefs behind the pioneering regional Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, along with Jaime Martin del Campo. They’ve been serving their tortitas to their loyal customers since they first opened in 1998. Along with the lenten bread pudding, capirotada, and chiles rellenos, these three dishes form the cannon of meat-free sustenance that many depend during for the 40 days of lent.

Jaime Martin del Campo, left, and Ramiro Arvizu, right. Photo via La Casita Mexicana.

Arvizu, who has a deep love for Mexican food history, tells L.A. TACO that the dish can be traced back to the 1700s in Mexico’s “Virreinato” era when Mexico was still called “Nueva España.” The dish is a prime example of the mestizo foodways that occurred after the conquest, with eggs, onions, garlic and spices from the New World blended with Mexico’s prehispanic indigenous ingredients like tomatoes, shrimp, and nopales. This era in Mexico is also famous for having the influence of nuns who created their own style of Mexican food, which is responsible for the sweet and salty flavors in mole Poblano and true capirotada; the version laced with cheese and in some cases, onion.  

Arvizu learned the recipe from his grandmother Doña “Chuy” Maria de Jesus.

Arvizu learned the recipe from his grandmother Doña “Chuy” Maria de Jesus. As a child, Arvizu helped prepare the dish with her in his hometown Tecolotlàn, a smal town in the highlands of Jalisco, where oceans of deep-blue agaves dot the clay-colored foothills.  

“Shrimp has always been expensive, but my grandma still found a way of feeding so many people with just a small amount,” Arvizu remembers. He remembers his grandma would blend in a little bit of crushed beans into the fritters to stretch out the shrimp. “She would also add a handful of dried shrimp powder into the tomato broth, it was absolutely delicious.”

Arvizu informs L.A. TACO that salting and drying shrimp was very common during this era to extend the life of the precious crustacean, especially when shrimp was not in season or when trading the shrimp for goods in the inland of Mexico. “It was either salt it, or lose it back then.”

Along with tender nopales, it is an iconic and timeless dish of Mexico.   

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Tortitas de Camarón con Nopales

Nopales

1 ½ lb of cooked cactus cut into strips or little cubes

1 Garlic clove

¼ White onion

Salt to taste

Preparation

In a pot, cook the nopales in one cup of water for approximately 15 to 20 minutes until nopales change color and the water has evaporated. 

Set aside.

Tortitas de Camarón

8 oz of dried whole shrimp (remove the shrimp eyes to avoid bitterness in the shrimp patties)

In a blender grind the shrimp in, and once ground toast lightly in a pan to bring forth the flavor and to remove the strong smell of dried shrimp. Set aside two spoons of ground shrimp these will be added to the salsa to give it a more delicious flavor.

2 tablespoons of ground bread crumbs, or cooked and mashed beans will make the patties fluffier, and reduce some of the saltiness of the shrimp.

4 eggs, separate the whites and the yolks.

Preparation

Beat the egg whites until they peak and then add in the egg yokes slowly and fold them in. 

Lastly, add in the ground shrimp and ground bread.

Put cooking oil of your preference, vegetable or corn, into a pan enough to fry the patties. 

Once the oil is hot, use a soup spoon to place the mixture into the pan and fry for approximately 30 seconds on each side. Remove from oil and place and on absorbent paper towels to remove excess oil, and set aside.  

Salsa

12 dry guajillo chiles, seeds removed and soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes.

8 chiles de Arbol (optional, and if you want your shrimp patties spicy/spicier).

2 ½ cups of water

¼ medium white onion

3 garlic cloves

Preparation

In a blender grind all of the ingredients until well ground and set aside

Put 2-3 spoonfuls of oil and fry half a white onion cut in ¼ inch slices and until transparent.

Once cooked till transparent add in the already ground salsa, and 2 soup spoons of corn masa for tortillas diluted in water to thicken the salsa, and now add in the 2 spoonfuls of ground and lightly toasted shrimp set aside earlier.

Cook for approximately 10 minutes.

Next, add the shrimp patties and about 10 (sprigs?) of very finely chopped cilantro. Adjust salt to taste?.

Lastly, add in the nopales and cook for approximately 10 minutes.

Can be paired with Frijoles de la Olla (Mexican bean stew), or with white rice.

Buen Provecho!

Enjoy! 

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Tortita de Camarón Con Nopales

Nopales

1 ½ lbs  de nopales cortados en tiritas

1 ajo

¼ de cebolla

3 hojas de tomatillo verde

sal al gusto

PREPARACIÓN

Cocerlos en su propio jugo por aproxidamente 10 a 15 minutos, moviendolos de vez en cuando para queue see peguen hasta que se cocinen y se hayan cocido.

TORTITAS

8 oz de camaron seco entero  (se les retiran los ojos para que no amarguen)

Se muelen en la licuadora y una vez molidos se tuestan ligeramente para realzarles 

 el sabor y se les quite un poco el fuerte olor de camaron seco. Se le retiran dos cucharadas del camaron ya molido y se reservan para agregárselas a la salsa y tenga un sabor mas delicioso.

2 cucharadas de pan molido o de frijoles cocidos y molidos para que queden mas esponjaditas y se les quite un poco lo salado al camaron.

4 huevos separados claras y yemas.

PREPARACIÓN

Se baten las claras hasta que se levnten muy bien, enseguida se le agregan las yemas de una manera lenta y envolvente.

Por ultimo se le agrega el camaron molido junto con el pan también molido.

En una cacerola, se ponen aceite de su preferencia vegetaL/maíz suficiente para freir las tortitas.

Una vez que el aceite este bien caliente con una cucharada sopera se toma del batido y se frie en el aciete aproximadamente 30 segundos por cada lado. Se sacan y se colocan en unas toallas de papel absorbente para quitarles el exceso de aciete y se reservan.

SALSA

12 chiles guajillos sin semillas y remojados en agua hirviedo por 5 minutos.

8 chiles de árbol (opcionales si quieres tus tortitas picositas)

2 ½ tazas de agua

¼ de una cebolla mediana

3 dientes de ajo

PREPARACIÓN

Se muelen todos los ingredientes muy bien molidos y se reservan.

PREPARACIÓN DE LAS TORTITAS DE CAMARÓN

En una cacerola se ponen 2-4 cucharadas de aceite y se frie media cebolla blanca cortada en plumitas y sea acitrona.

Una vez acitronada se agrega la salsa ya molida junto con 2 cucharadas soperas de masa de maíz para tortilla  diluida en agua para que espese la salsa y las dos cucharadas de camaron molido y tostado.

Se guisa por aproximadamente 10 minutos.

Enseguida se le agregan las tortitas y unas diez ramitas de cilantro picado picado. (se rectifica la sal)

Por ultimo se le agregan los nopales y se cocina por aproximadamente 10 minutos.

Se puede acompañar con frijoles de la olla o con con un arroz blanco.

Buen Provecho!

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