Sandwich of the Week: La Más Cabrona Cemita
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In most of Mexico, sandwiches are called tortas (literally "cakes"). They're made with crusty rolls with soft interiors, round or torpedo-shaped, and usually involve meat or poultry — anything from carne asada to chorizo to sliced chicken or turkey — garnished with cheese and with avocado, lettuce, tomato, jalapeños, refried beans, and/or other vegetables; there is sometimes mayonnaise or mustard involved.
In Puebla, sandwiches are called cemitas, and they're served on plump, dome-shaped egg buns scattered with sesame seeds; some folks think their name comes from semillas, "seeds," in fact, though scholars maintain that it derives from acemite, an old Spanish word for "bran." The meats in cemitas are similar to those in tortas, but lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and mustard are traditionally banned. Instead, cemitas are usually garnished with sliced avocado, raw onions, cheese, and salsa.
At Pal Cabrón, on the edge of Koreatown in Los Angeles, the assorted cemita fillings include chicken mole, stewed lamb, and pork skin, as well as the more familiar chorizo, marinated pork loin, and such — but the masterpiece is the construction dubbed La Más Cabrona, which combines milanese (thin steak, breaded and fried), just enough thinly sliced head cheese to add a little sweetness and moisture, "a lot of" (actually, the menu uses a naughty Spanish word) avocado, a scattering of chopped chipotles or jalapeños, some panela cheese (think mozzarella), some leaves of papalo (sometimes called Bolivian coriander; it has a flavor between those of cilantro and arugula), and — for two bucks extra — generous shreds of another cheese, quesilla, imported from Puebla. It is an immense mouthful, packed with attractively competing flavors and textures — almost more an engineering project than a mere sandwich.
In the event that the Más Cabrona or some other cemita doesn't fill your gullet, incidentally, Pal Cabrón also specializes in tlayudas, which are more or less tostada-pizzas from Oaxaca — oversize crispy tortillas spread with bean paste then topped with shredded cabbage and various combinations of meat and cheese. They're pretty good, but, compared with cemitas, they're a little… er, flat.
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