Gordita is the classic Mexican antojito (street food) sold in street stalls: simple, cheap and delicious.
It is a small corn tortilla that is thicker than the standard tortillas, hence its name which means “small fattie” or “chubby” in Spanish. It is cut in half and garnished with various fillings.
There are indeed many versions of gorditas depending on the regions. The preparation or cooking techniques, the size and the filling can thus be different. For example, Mexicans prepare sweet gorditas, mini-sandwiches, with cream or corn as the recipe featured here.
The filling is often liquid like a guiso (a stew or a sauce) as the thickness of the gordita will allow to absorb it. For a very traditional version, you can go for chicharrón con chile, a spiced stew with fried pork rind.
Stewed cuts of meat, frijoles for a vegetarian version, cheese, mushrooms, salad or vegetables and salsa or guacamole are also used.
A good gordita must have a thick dough, dense and slightly elastic. The outside should be crisp while the inside is soft.
A gordita is very similar to an arepa, a snack that is popular in Venezuela and Colombia, but also close to the national dish of El Salvador, the pupusa, a thick tortilla that is stuffed with cheese, beans or chicharrón.
Gordita is a good illustration of the influence of Spanish settlers on the diet of the natives. There really was a mix of both cuisines that is characterized by the use of new ingredients brought by the settlers to make ancestral dishes.
The indigenous peoples were already eating gorditas before the arrival of the Spaniards but the filling was made of beans, squash or turkey. The settlers who were already breeding cattle, introduced filling the gorditas with pieces of beef, pork or chicken cooked in pork fat and cheese.
What is nixtamalization?
Gordita is made from masa harina, also called nixtamalized maize flour.
This flour is made with dried corn kernels, soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution such as lime water. Nixtamalization is the origin of Mexican culinary culture. This is a very old process, invented by the Mesoamerican people who realized that cooking corn in a mixture of water and lime (or ash) allowed to keep the masa longer.
Indeed, it allows to detach the outer part of the grain, called pericarp, which has the effect of slowing down the action of the enzymes responsible for rotting the dough.
It also happens that this process made their food more digestible and nutritious. Masa harina thus has an improved nutritional value compared to conventional cornmeal, in particular with the addition of calcium, but also thanks to the reaction between lime and corn which creates amino acids and also allows the body to better absorb vitamin B13 during digestion. This was very important for populations that only ate maize as it avoided the deficiencies responsible for pellagra.
The nixtamalization also changes the texture of the flour that can form a dough that can easily be shaped in a tortilla or gordita for example, unlike a flour that would not have undergone this treatment.
Finally, it changes the taste by providing a slightly sour flavor characteristic of real Mexican corn tortillas.
What is a comal?
Traditionally, gordita is cooked in a comal, a kitchen utensil typically used to cook tortillas.
The word comal derives from comalli, a word of the Nahuatl language spoken by the Nahuas, the native people who inhabited northwestern and central Mexico before Spanish colonization.
The gorditas can be either fried in a wok-shaped comal, or cooked on a classic comal, that is to say a round cast iron plate. Formerly, the comals were made with terracotta.
A few tips to prepare gorditas
Wheat flour and yeast will make it easier to work with a lighter texture than using only corn flour.
The dough must be soft. If it cracks on the edges when you spread it, it is a sign that it is too dry and you have to add some water by kneading it. Since it takes time to shape all the gorditas, it is better to cover the balls of dough with plastic wrap to avoid any drying.
Make sure to shape the gorditas in regularly, without creases or differences in thickness, otherwise it will cause irregular rising of the dough.
That’s it, now it is your turn to enjoy these gorditas!
- 2 cups masa harina (nixtamalized maize flour)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons margarine (melted), or lard
- 1 cup hot water (or more)
- 2 tomatoes , peeled, seeded and crushed
- 1 onion , chopped
- 2 red bell peppers , finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Juice of half a lime
- ⅔ lb ground beef
- 1 clove garlic , chopped
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 onion , chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 green bell pepper , cut into strips
- A few leaves lettuce , chopped
- A few leaves cilantro
- A few slices chorizo
Mix the maize flour and salt.
Add the margarine (or lard).
- Add the water gradually while mixing and kneading until a soft and homogeneous dough is formed.
- Divide the dough into 12 or 14 balls and cover them. Let stand 15 minutes.
- Using a tortilla press, rolling pin or by hand, press each ball between two sheets of parchment paper (or plastic wrap) to form a circle about 5 inch diameter and ¼ inch thick.
- To bake the gorditas, put each of them on a preheated comal (hot griddle or a pan) coated with oil.
- Bake each side for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned and fully baked inside.
- Once all the gorditas are baked, take each of them and cut them on one side with a knife soaked in water each time. Only half of the tortilla should be cut to fit inside, like a pita sandwich.
- Preheat the oven to 250 F.
- Line a baking dish with parchment paper. Place the gorditas on the dish and cover them.
- Place the dish in the oven, halfway up, to keep them warm.
- In a bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly and set aside in the refrigerator.
- In a skillet, heat the olive oil on low heat, and sauté the onion and green pepper for 10 minutes.
- Add the ground beef, sprinkle with thyme, garlic and cook for another 10 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring regularly.
- Season with salt and black pepper. Set aside.
- Heat the sauce slightly.
- Stuff each tortilla with the garnish, sauce, salad, cilantro and chorizo.