This week: Pambazos from El Nopalito¿Como se dice?: The pambazo is the Mexican answer to a panini, minus the fancy presses that leave those perfect grill marks. Pambazos are generally served up piping hot from a food cart to you, like all good rustic Mexican street snacks (antojitos). Here in the States you have to find a Mexican eatery with Vera Cruz roots, like El Nopalito. Think of a pambazo as a torta with attitude, and if you like hot ham and cheese or even the standard grilled queso, a pambazo is probably a sure bet.
(sink your teeth into all the spicy details after the jump)
La Comida: The first thing you'll notice about El Nopalito's menu is that everything is cheap. So cheap that you can feast on several items and still keep it under the ten dollar mark. Just don't assume that the inexpensive price point on the pambazo means it's tiny, because it's a huge roll filled with cheese, lettuce, and crema. If you ask nice, they'll also pack it full of your choice of meat filling for a bit of extra dinero, try the al pastor, cabeza, chorizo con papas, or just some good old fashioned frijoles.El Sabor: Although a pambazo is essentially a pan-griddled torta dipped in guajillo chile sauce, you might be surprised to know that the heat isn't the least bit overpowering. The quick trip to the griddle results in a slightly charred, smoky hot sandwich filled with melted cheese and crisp toppings like shredded lettuce and crema. You may need a fork and knife to tackle this monstrous sandwich though, so be forewarned that it is not for the faint of heart. Also, if you like the torta ahogada, a similar sandwich drenched in chile sauce, you will love the pambazo.
Bring a bit of México to your kitchen: How hard is it to make a grilled cheese at home? The steps are essentially the same for making your own pambazos, with the addition of dipping the bread in chile sauce prior to cutting it lengthwise and stuffing it with fillings. There are as many variations of pambazo as there are fillings, but we recommend the chorizo con papas as a safe place to start.
Know of any Mexican gems in the Valley? Reveal your family secrets in the comment section.