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What Is an Empalme?

A. Leverkuhn
A. Leverkuhn

Empalme is a type of Mexican sandwich that is particular to certain areas of Mexico, and generally is made from corn flour tortillas. This dish commonly includes refried beans and salsa, as well as pork fat. Other filling ingredients may also be added to create different flavor profiles or specialty versions of the dish.

The salsa filling for empalme is commonly made from diced tomatoes. This sauce may also include garlic and onions, as well as herbs like cilantro. These are commonly diced or minced for a fine textured presentation. The fresh salsa is a staple in regional cooking, and helps to make the overall taste of the empalme more vibrant.

Queso fresco, which can be used in empalme.
Queso fresco, which can be used in empalme.

To make the most essential ingredient of empalme, the corn flour tortillas, cooks generally start with corn flour and water. These are mixed until they form a kind of dough. This dough is then rolled or pressed into a thin flat tortilla. The tortilla is fried or otherwise cooked. The result is a soft, thin type of cake that can hold various ingredients; the tortilla is now commonly used around the world in modern food offerings including “wraps,” where the tortilla is tightly folded to contain various foods.

Salsa and refried beans are not the only possible fillings for this food. Hot peppers in various forms may be added to the dish. Some kinds of meats may also be added. One popular type of meat for this dish is the cured sausage called chorizo that is a regional favorite.

In addition to the above ingredients, some types of cheese may also be added to empalme. One popular cheese for this dish is queso fresco, which resembles a mild, soft farmer’s cheese. Cheeses may be grated or sliced and placed inside the empalme sandwich.

In general, the empalme is not unlike a stacked enchilada. This dish would differ from traditional enchiladas in that, instead of rolling up the tortillas with ingredients inside, cooks would simply place the ingredients between two or more tortillas. This simple presentation appeals to many who want to hold the food in their hands, rather than eating it with a fork and spoon. Some also compare the empalme to a “Mexican pizza,” which also includes layered tortillas with layers of other foods in between.

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    • Queso fresco, which can be used in empalme.
      By: osrodfe1
      Queso fresco, which can be used in empalme.