The potato tortitas, or “patties” sold inside some of Oaxaca’s markets are superb — light on the inside, with a crunchy golden crust. This variation is typical of the region from Ocotlan south to the coast, ancinnd is served with a costeño chile sauce. The dried broad beans, or fava beans, ground into flour give the patties body and make them easy to shape, while the dried shrimp packs a wallop of flavor. Outside of Mexico, powdered dried shrimp is available in Asian grocery stores. Go easy on the salt, since the shrimp is salty.
For the patties
- 2 medium potatoes, boiled and peeled
- 1 pound dried broad beans
- ¼ cup dried shrimp powder
- 1 large egg, beaten
- salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
For the sauce
- 6 costeño chiles (or substitute guajillos)
- ½ medium onion
- 1 large clove garlic, unpeeled
- 1 tomato
- 1 whole clove
- 1 2-inch piece cinnamon
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 nopal paddles, cut into strips, boiled and rinsed (optional but authentic)
To make the patties:
Place the potatoes in a bowl and mash with a fork. Toast the dried beans in a dry skillet until they are dotted with small brown spots, taking care not to burn them. Place them in a blender, food processor or molcajete and grind them as finely as possible. Sift the ground beans through a strainer to remove any large pieces. This should be the consistency of cornmeal.
Add the bean powder to the potatoes, along with the remaining ingredients, mixing with the hands to combine well. Using wet hands, form patties the size of small hamburgers. Heat the oil in a large skillet and fry the patties until golden brown and crisp on both sides.
To make the sauce:
Toast the chiles on a comal, griddle or dry pan until just fragrant, being careful not to burn them. Remove the stems and seeds and soak the chiles in boiling water until soft. Roast the onion, garlic and tomato on the same dry surface, turning until all sides are browned. Peel the garlic.
Place the chiles, onion, garlic, tomato, clove, cinnamon and peppercorns in a blender with enough of the chile soaking water to move the blades. Puree until smooth.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and strain the sauce into it, pushing on any solids with a wooden spoon to extract as much as possible. If desired, add more chile soaking liquid, water or stock according to desired consistency and heat level. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Add the cooked nopales, if using. Serve the tortitas in shallow bowls with the sauce spooned over. Makes 8 tortitas, or 4 servings.
Market day in Ocotlan, Oaxaca: Gourmet grazing in Southern Mexico