This recipe showcases smaller, thicker tortillas with a hot, golden crust and a rich, creamy center that really let you savor the masa. Thicker tortillas are also more efficient to make at home. As they contain more masa per serving, you need less of them to make a meal, cutting down on your prep time.
Memelas are a version of a popular Latin American street food with dozens of regional iterations, including sopes, huaraches, gorditas, and picaditas. Memelas hail from Oaxaca, Mexico, which is home to 16 indigenous ethnic groups whose foodways trace back thousands of years before the arrival of the Spanish.
The basic memela sold on the street in Oaxaca is toasted on a clay griddle, topped with black bean sauce, crumbled queso fresco, and garnished with thinly sliced onion, cilantro, radish and/or avocado. Some vendors also offer heartier toppings like potato and chorizo, nopales, quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese) and my favorite, tinga de pollo – shredded chicken stewed in a sweet-savory onion, tomato and chile sauce.
The two key preparations that make this dish really shine are the homemade tortillas and salsa. The other components are simple and require almost no preparation. Corn is briefly boiled in lime water the day before, then rinsed and ground into masa dough using a food processor. Refer to the masa recipe here. The salsa is made from dried chili peppers that are rehydrated and blended with roasted vegetables – tomato, onion, garlic – herbs, spices and vinegar. The black beans are cooked and blended with water, herbs and salt to the consistency of sauce. For the classic version of “Chicken Tinga,” the roast chicken is shredded and combined with the salsa, but of course the variations and exact composition are totally up to you. “Crema” is sour cream mixed with enough water to give it a saucy consistency. A fun way to serve this to a group is to prepare the tortillas and various topping options, then let everyone build their own memelas at the table. See book preview below followed by the ingredients and directions in plain text.
Makes approximately 3 cups
Note: this sauce will keep well in the fridge and is easily enough for several meals.
Also, I love a version of this salsa without the tomato so the chili flavor is extra pronounced.
1 ounce each dried Kitchen Garden guajillo, ancho, and chipotle chiles, destemmed
1 head roasted garlic
3 cloves raw garlic
2 cups water
4-6 Roma tomatoes, or one can diced tomatoes.
Two whole onions, halved
¼ cup vinegar (I prefer white or rice wine vinegar)
½ teaspoon cumin
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
- Destem chiles. If you prefer less spice, remove the seeds.
- Hydrate chiles in 2 cups of water with three bay leaves.
- Combine roasted onions, roasted and raw garlic, tomatoes, hydrated chiles (including the water but not the bay leaves) and rice vinegar in a blender
- Add enough water to cover all but the top ½ inch of the vegetable and chile mixture.
- Add cumin, black pepper
- Blend into a smooth, thick sauce.
Black Bean Sauce
2 cups cooked black beans
2 teaspoons dried epazote
2 teaspoons dried hoja santa (available at Mexican or Central American food marts or online)
Salt to taste
- Cook black beans until done.
- Add to blender or food processor with epazote hoja santa, salt and pepper and blend until smooth using as much water qas needed to achieve the desired consistency. Should be a thick sauce like consistency.