Tortilla Tuesday: Evan Kleiman on El Toro Meat Market!

el_toro_meat_market_santa_ana.jpg
Sorry for the lack of a tortilla photo, but this shall do...

Southern California food goddess and host of KCRW-FM 89.9's Good Food Evan Kleiman rarely ventures into Orange County, but when she does, she's usually hanging out with my chica. One time for a segment, Evan went to El Toro Meat Market in SanTana, and has never fallen out of love with it, especially their tortillas. So rather than one of us wax poetic about the famous place, I'm turning over the mic to her...take it, Evan!

I love tortillas. No wait, that's too understated. I have a lifelong deep craving for corn tortillas, that's deeper than what I feel for bread, rice--yes even more than pasta. The dry, slightly sweet corn flavor, the charred aroma of a tortilla freshly heated atop the gas burner and the texture. Ah yes, the texture. And there we come to the conundrum, the disappointment, the betrayal of the modern mass-produced tortilla. Who thought it was a good idea to devolve the disk of life for Mexico from a springy, toothsome song to corn into a mealy thing that doesn't stand up in cooked dishes and has an off-putting sour taste?

Which is why we must give homage to the few places still left where a discerning eater can get a decent tortilla. Like El Toro in Santa Ana, where the magical process of corn transformation called nixtamalization happens every day. The labor of submitting field corn to an alkaline bath does more than soften and liberate the dry corn from the hull; it changes the chemical structure of the corn to allow it to hold together in a dough and gives us that incredibly satisfying bite of yielding firmness of the traditional tortilla (as well as making its nutrition accessible to the human body). Walk into the back of El Toro where the tortilla-making process begins, and you see huge troughs of corn soaking with "lime", then being washed, drained and ground into the masa that will create thousands of tortillas (and tasty tamales) in a day.

Of course, El Toro also sells a cornucopia of foods ready to tuck inside that fresh tortilla and sauces to garnish it all. Don't miss the bags of chips made from slightly thicker tortillas--they are so dense each bite satisfies like you're chopping down on meat. Be careful. They are addicting.

GRADE: A-/B+, only because they're made by machine, not handmade.  That's too much to ask for the volume they produce

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Location Info

El Toro Meat Market

1340 W. First St., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

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7 comments
Fern @ Life on the Balcony
Fern @ Life on the Balcony

You know...Tu Padre's response is kind of sad because it basically confirms what a lot of white people think Latinos think about them. I read Gustavo's article about why the grocery store tortillas suck and was excited to see that there was a place he recommends that is near me where you can buy really good tortillas. I want to eat good tortillas! I want to support local businesses! I want to tell my friends about places where you can buy good tortillas from a locally owned business! What I don't want is to be called a whore just because I'm white (and a yuppie?) and want to venture into El Toro Meat Market.

DanGarion
DanGarion

Why you of course, Gustavo. I've passed by you many a times at the last two Patchwork festivals and have purchased things from RLT.

DanGarion
DanGarion

I got 10-1 odds that Delilah will kick Rote's ass. I met her and if she can put up with Gus, she can take on Rote.

Rote
Rote

If Rick Bayless is the Michael Bolton of Mexican food, Evan is the Roslyn Kind!

Delilahsnell
Delilahsnell

Dear Rote, i will show you broke you pathetic POS ...come visit me -i am so mad and disgusted by your post that i can hardly write this. come visit me cockroach: DELILAH SNELL 125 n broadway suite c SANTA ANA come and pick on this woman...i will be waiting for you.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Oh, and learn to spell. Evan speaks your language better than you do, apparently.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Mira, escuincle, you know better than to talk when the adults are talking. Who told you everyone reading this was immersed in tortilla history before now? And who says a non-Mexican can't know about tortillas? And then you threaten her? Hang your head in shame. Real men don't threaten women. Cuánto más nos hablas, más nos muestras tu estupidez.

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