In my previous post, I shared a recipe for a traditional sweet from Colima. Colima is a small state along the Pacific coast of Mexico, known for its salt industry and coconut crops, as well as its mountainous regions and volcanoes, such as Volcán de Fuego (The Fire Volcano), which is still active and the Nevado de Colima (Colima’s Snowy one). When the Spaniards arrived to Colima in 1522, the lands had been inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous groups, as indicated by archaeological evidence dating as far back as 1500 BC. A period of great development emerged around 500 BCE, characterized by shaft tombs and the distinctive ceramic style of burnished red clay. After this era, the peoples of Comala created more refined burnished red pottery, focusing on human and animal representations, including the iconic hairless dogs, believed to be of the Mexican breed of the Tlalchichis; from archaeological evidence, these chubby canines have been identified as an important element in pre-Hispanic death rituals, sometimes offered as substitutes for human sacrifices. A particular pose of these dogs is the Dancing Dogs, an aberration which some archaeologists have interpreted as a wise elder transferring knowledge and wisdom to a young one; there is a giant sculpture of the Dancing Dogs in the capital city of Colima, and small reproductions of this sculpture, or copies of ancient figurines, are sold as souvenirs, such as the one shown in the photo below:
In the 1970s, Colima’s beaches of Manzanillo were the destination of choice for honeymooners, but declined in popularity after the rise of Cancun and the Maya Riviera as top touristic attractions; later on, Manzanillo made the switch to an attraction for retirees, due to its golfing and sportfishing activities. Comala continues to provoke interest as an archaeological and architectural site, being the only Pueblo Mágico (Magic Town) of the state, while Villa de Álvarez, just North of the capital city of Colima, is famous for its delicious Sopitos.
Colima Style Corn Dough Rounds – Sopitos estilo Colima
Ingredients (for 6 portions)
For masa (corn dough):
2 cups corn flour (masa harina, not starch)
1 ½ cups water
1 tsp salt
1 lb ground beef, preferably lean
3 cups water
4 tomatoes; washed, with a cross scored on the bottom side
1 white onion; peeled and sliced in half; one half cut into chunks, the other finely chopped
1 clove garlic; peeled
2 cascabel peppers (optional); wiped clean
4 tomatillos (optional, I did not use any); papery wrap removed, then washed
½ head cabbage or lettuce; washed and shredded
1 bunch radishes; washed and sliced finely
2 cups grated cheese, such as cotija, or light feta
Lard or vegetable oil
Salt, to taste
Prepare masa: Mix corn flour, water and salt to form a soft dough. Form into a ball and allow to rest, covered.
Divide meat into quarters and form each portion into a ball. In a pot, bring 3 cups of water to boil over high heat, then add meatballs (photo below, left). Bring to boil again, then lower heat to medium, and cover pot; cook meatballs for twenty minutes, turning halfway to cook evenly. Uncover pot, set heat at high again and add tomatoes (photo below, right):
Boil tomatoes for a couple of minutes, then add cascabel peppers and tomatillos, if using (photo below, left). When tomato skins become wrinkled, transfer to a bowl, along with the tomatillos, if using (photo below, right):
Continue cooking peppers until skin is soft, then transfer to the bowl (photo below, left). Lower heat to medium and allow the meatballs to cook for a little longer.
Meanwhile, remove and discard skin and stem end from tomatoes, slice tomatillos in half (if using) and stems from peppers (if using) (photo below, right):
Pour all the contents of the bowl into a blender jar, and add the chunks of onion, the garlic clove, and one teaspoon of salt (or to taste), as shown in the photo below, left. Process until completely blended and smooth; reserve. Transfer meatballs from the pot to the bowl; now the water in the pot has been seasoned into a nice broth. Continue cooking and pour sauce from the blender into the pot (photo below, right):
Bring back to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until serving time. The sauce will thicken but it will still be runny at serving time; this is also called caldillo (brothy sauce).
Shred meatballs into small bits using a cheese grater (photo below, left); season with salt, to taste. The texture is much finer than if they were simply crumbled (photo below, right):
Reserve grated meat.
Uncover masa and divide into quarters; work with one quarter at a time, keeping the rest covered. Divide the piece of masa into eight portions, forming into balls. Press each ball into a thin disc, using a tortilla press, or a cutting board or flat-bottomed dish on top of a flat surface; cook on a dry grill (comal) or skillet over medium heat, flipping once (photo below, left). Remove from heat and pinch all around the edge of each disc to form a rim; use a kitchen towel to avoid burning fingers (photo below, right):
Continue forming sopito discs with the rest of the masa (makes 32).
Fix sopitos: Add one tablespoon of lard (or oil) to the hot skillet, still over medium heat (photo below, left). Fry sopitos in batches, flipping once to crisp both sides (photo below, right):
Transfer to a large plate, rim side up. Top with a scoop of grated meat, chopped onions and cabbage (or lettuce), then pour a generous amount of simmering sauce on top:
Finish with grated cheese and radish slices:
The crispy discs and layered meat and fresh veggies come together with the caldillo for a perfectly balanced mix of flavours and textures:
I initially plated four sopitos per person, but both my husband and I ended up having more, so I am listing the nutrition facts for a more realistic portion of five sopitos:
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I am joining Fiesta Friday # 355 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday, this week co-hosting with Jhuls@The Not So Creative Cook. Extra thanks to Angie and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas and Spoons for featuring my Layered Bean Tamales at this party.