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Sandwich of the Week: Carne Asada Gordita at La Superior in Durham, N.C.
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One of the best places to eat Mexican food in America today is North Carolina, and especially the city of Durham. The first big wave of immigration from Mexico and Central America came to the region in the early 1980s, in response to a shortage of local agricultural workers. Today, it is estimated that 8.7 percent of the state's population is Hispanic — and there are parts of Durham and the surrounding area, especially along Durham's Roxboro Road, where the taquerias outnumber the hamburger joints and pizza parlors.
There's even a massive Hispanic supermarket, La Superior, on Roxboro, and here, in addition to rows upon rows of canned and other packaged goods, a terrific meat market, and a tortilleria selling freshly made corn tortillas for $0.99 a pound, there's a counter dispensing first-rate tacos, tortas, and gorditas, with all manner of fillings.
Gorditas — literally "little fat ones" — are like thick corn tortillas, usually plump enough that they can be cut open and stuffed. They're not technically sandwiches, then. But La Superior makes them sandwiches by enclosing the filling between two separated rounds. The carne asada version (spelled carne azada on the signboard menu) is but one of the many great variations. The corn cakes, if you will, are full of flavor; the meat, marinated with lime juice and salt, is charred on a grill, and then cut into tiny ribbons; it goes between the rounds with chopped onions and cilantro and a generous showering of crumbled queso fresco. There's crema, the fluid Mexican sour cream, on the side, but even better is the tomatillo-based green sauce from the adjacent salsa bar.
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