Sopes con Pollo Recipe
This month we’re coming to you from the city of Mérida, located on the Yucatán peninsula. While most of you are in the U.S. enjoying fall, we’re baking in the tropical sun and heat. It’s still quite warm here so we’re doing our best to enjoy the feeling of summer while we still have it. Over the past few months, we’ve been enjoying eating and cooking Mexican food. Save for a couple of frozen pizzas and a few salami and cheese sandwiches for lunch, we’ve been cooking Mexican food while we’ve been in Mexico. It’s been nice to completely step away from American food and fully submerge ourselves the world of Mexican cooking. Today’s recipe is a result of that exploration.
Today we’re bringing you a sopes con pollo recipe. Sopes are small flat cakes that are created from the same masa dough used to make tortillas. Something we’ve started to learn in our time in Mexico is just how many different uses and preparations there are of masa harina. Even if you’re not familiar with the term masa harina, you’re surely familiar with the product. It’s the traditional corn flour used in Latin cuisines to make things like tortillas, sopes, salbutes, paunches, and even tamales. The corn used in the flour has been nyxtamalized (treated with a lime and water solution), which softens the corn and loosens the hull. This is how tough corn kernels can be transformed into a smooth silky flour.
We first stumbled on sopes randomly in the grocery store in Mexico City. They looked interesting so we decided to try them. Thankfully our Airbnb host there told us that we needed to fry them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have tasted all that good, and we would’ve probably written them off as a failed attempt at branching out. But instead, we enjoyed them when we had them in Mexico City, mostly topping them with picadillo, scrambled eggs, and cheese. We hadn’t really had them again until we got to the Yucatán and realized they’re a popular item here. Since we were already familiar with them, we just dove right back in and said hello to a delicious old friend.
In the US, you may not be able to find pre-made sopes. In Mexico, they’re in basically every grocery store and are quite affordable. If you can’t find them in the grocery store but really want to try them, you can make them easily by making your own masa dough. Mely, of the blog Mexico in My Kitchen, has unknowingly been one of our educators on Mexican cuisine. She has a simple step-by-step recipe for making sopes from scratch. They’ll be worth your time, we promise. Since we’re in Mexico and could buy the pre-made ones, we did, but when we get back to the US and have no such option, we’re going to try our hand at making them from scratch.
Where we’re staying in Mérida is in the “newer” part of town, Itzimná, which is basically a suburb. It’s a modern, spacious, upper middle class area compared to much of the rest of Mérida. This being the case, we don’t have many small markets or a mercado close by, just convenience stores. We do all our shopping at big grocery stores, here, either the Chedraui or the Walmart. We’re still proponents of buying small and buying local, but here, it just hasn’t been as feasible. We’re doing all of our traveling without a car so we are limited by how far we can venture out for groceries. So, like most of our American counterparts, the things we need to buy for our meals are in large grocery stores. We believe strongly in making do with what you have, and right now, this is what we have… So we’re making do.
Ingredients + Preparation
Alrighty, let’s dive into the fun stuff: the cooking! In this section we’ll cover the ingredients along with any special preparation notes. Let’s first start with the sopes themselves. Whether you’re using pre-made ones or you’ve made them yourself, you will need to deep fry your sopes before serving. Just about an inch of oil in a pan works fine. Below you can see our golden brown sopes. Something to note is that sopes you make yourself will be softer and more pillowy than the mass produced kind like we have here. Basically, if you make them yourself, they will be of higher quality and taste better. Isn’t that true of so many things? Further, if you can’t find sopes and don’t want to make them, you can easily sub a regular corn tortilla here. You could fry it and make a tostada or just eat them as is and make them tacos. Heck, you could even use a flour tortilla if you like. It’s your dinner!
Now let’s talk chicken. Usually on the Yucatan, if sopes are made with poultry, they’re made with turkey. The Yucatán peninsula is home to a lovely native species called the ocellated turkey, and as such, turkey is a prized meat here since it’s not industrially produced like American turkeys. However, we’ve decided to use rotisserie chicken for this recipe. It’s easier to use than roasting your own bird and is quite an affordable way to eat chicken. Prior to coming to Mexico, we weren’t really “rotisserie chicken” people, but now we’ve been converted. Here in Mexico, for under $5.00 USD, we can get a flavorful, moist bird that yields nearly four cups of meat and all without turning the oven on (which is inadvisable when it’s 90 ºF out and you have no AC). Below you can see our prepared chicken (we used breast for this recipe) and salsa mixture. This is the star protein for our sopes. Quick, easy to prepare AND totally delicious. Win/win!
Finally, let’s talk about garnishes. Garnishes have always been one of our favorite parts of anything we eat, but here in Mexico, we’ve gained a deeper appreciation for, and understanding of, the importance of garnishes. Below is what we’ve used for this particular sopes recipe: pickled vegetables, salsa, cheese, avocado with Tajín seasoning, and refried black beans. These are a few of the traditional garnishes for sopes but you could also use sour cream, lettuce, tomato, and/or cilantro. They’re just like tacos: there’s no right or wrong here. It’s all about what you want and what you like.
Further into garnishes, we wanted to highlight this special little mixture we created. It’s a combination of diced fresh white onion, diced fresh radish, and diced rajas, which are pickled quartered slices of jalapeño with carrot slices and onion bits. Fresh sliced radishes and freshly pickled onion are traditional garnishes for sopes, and we love rajas so much that we decided to combine all three items to form a pickled super garnish! The color combination is beautiful and actually compliments the table tapestry quite well (in the photo below). We’ve been eating this garnish on everything now that we have it.
As has been the loose theme with all of our recipes here in Mexico, sopes are another great example of making do with what you have. Even today some people still make their own tortillas here in Mexico, which means they have masa dough on hand. Which means that maybe every once in a while, it’s nice to have something other than tortillas: hence, the sope! In Mexico, the name of the cooking game is being creative. It’s all about creating wholesome and tasty dishes from what you have, experimenting, and finding variety in limited choice. It speaks to the qualities of creativity and resiliency that we see exhibited all over Mexico. People often have so little here, but they make the most of it. That’s evident not only in their cuisine but also in their art, music, and architecture. We’re humbled and forever changed by what we’ve experienced and learned from the food, traditions and cities of the Mexican people.
Sopes con Pollo Recipe
If you don't have access to sopes, you can always substitute corn tortillas and make either tostadas or tacos out of this dish.
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 1/4 cup diced radishes
- 1/2 cup diced rajas (pickled jalapenos +carrots) (reserve packing liquid)
- 6 sopes (substitute corn tortillas, if needed)
- 1 cup oil
- 1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup your favorite salsa
- 1 cup refried beans (preferably black beans)
- Salsa, to taste
- 1 avocado, split in half and thinly sliced (with Tajín seasoning)
- Crumbled queso panela or queso fresco, to taste
- Additional optional toppings: sour cream, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, chopped cilantro
- Pickled veggies: Add the packing liquid from the rajas to a small bowl. To that, add the diced onion and radish, stir well, and marinate for about 15 minutes. Strain the onions and radishes and combine in a small bowl with the diced rajas. Mix well and set aside until ready to use.
- Frying the sopes: heat the cup of oil in a medium-sized skillet to 350 ºF. Cook the sopes two at a time for one minute on each side (or until light golden brown). Set on a plate lined with paper towels to drain, until ready to use.
- If you’re using tortillas, you can eat these taco-style and forgo the frying.
- If you prefer to eat this like a tostada, fry your tortillas for about a minute on each side, until crispy. Set on a plate lined with paper towels to drain, until ready to use.
- In a small pot skillet over low heat, combine the salsa and rotisserie chicken. Stir gently to combine. Cook only until heated through, and add more salsa if soupier consistency is desired.
- Reheat the refried beans on the stove over low heat or in the microwave.
- To assemble the sopes—eyeball-measure your ingredients to where you use about 1/6 of each item per sope:
- Place three fried sopes on each plate
- Smear the sopes with the refried beans
- Next add a dollop of salsa on top of each.
- Now add the cooked chicken and salsa mixture.
- Crisscross two slices of avocado on top.
- Then, add the crumbled cheese.
- Finish it off with the pickled veggie mixture.
- Optional: add any additional garnishes that you like.
- Serve and enjoy! Note that these are best eaten by hand like an open-faced sandwich but can also be eaten with a fork and knife, if needed.
- You can easily double this recipe to make four servings.
- The pickled veggie mixture is already enough for four servings.
Our recipe is inspired and informed by the following: