A few days ago, my friend Jesica told me about a video she’d seen on YouTube. A Mexican guy had filmed a short segment on Tostilocos, a street food in which a bag of nacho-flavored Tostitos are cut open along the vertical and then topped with the following: cucumber, pickled pork skin (known as cueritos), lime juice, Valentina hot sauce, chamoy, tajín chile powder, salt and Japanese peanuts. Japanese peanuts are a popular Mexican bar snack — they’re regular peanuts covered in a brown, crunchy shell.
“Es una bomba de sodio!” Jesica exclaimed, a little gleefully. Translation: It’s a sodium bomb!
We are both advocates of eating healthy. But, you know, this whole idea of taking a bag of chips and topping them with various condiments fascinated me. This dish recalled Frito Pie — the Texan specialty in which chili and cheese are poured over an open bag of Fritos — but it was so much crazier, all the salty condiments so insanely Mexican. I wondered if I could recreate this magic dish at home, maybe using bacon instead of cueritos. It’s not that I didn’t want to use cueritos — I personally enjoy their rubbery texture — but I wasn’t exactly sure where to find them at my local supermarket.
Before I get to the recipe part of this post, you really must watch the Tostilocos video. My favorite part is the end, when the host chews thoughtfully and says, in a manner that recalls an Iron Chef judge, “Wow. This is a completely new taste. The mix is — just spectacular. You can become addicted to this.”
So anyway, yes. The video enchanted me. So much so that I walked in an enchanted daze to Superama, where I promptly snapped out of my reverie in the chips section. (There is no chips “aisle” at my local grocery store; just a small area with a few rows of chips.)
The nacho cheese Tostitos — sheathed in a blood-red powdery substance — were truly horrifying. I couldn’t buy something so blatantly fake. I wanted to, for the sake of keeping with the Tostiloco (loko?) tradition. But my hand would physically not reach out and grab them. I stood there staring at the chips for a few minutes, moving out of the way of a young woman and her son, before I finally chose the regular tortilla chips instead. There was only one brand. Funny how many varieties of tortilla chips are available in the States.
I bought my other ingredients: thick-cut bacon (really, practically ham with a ribbon of fat on top) to mimic the cueritos — something like tripa probably would have worked too, but I didn’t want to go there, as I am a tripa cooking virgin. Bought one mango, because they’re in season and I ached for one more fruit to add to the list of sodium-bomb ingredients. Also got the cucumber, the peanuts and the various salty sauces.
I realized when I got home that my own little interpretation of Tostilocos was a cross between two things: American nachos — not for the cheese, because this dish didn’t have any, but the idea of taking tortilla chips and layering them with various toppings — and popular Mexican street snack of spicy fruit, in which cucumber, mango or jicama are drizzled with chile powder or hot sauce.
In my Tostiloco variation, I quickly discarded the chamoy and extra salt, because they made the dish way too salty, at least for my palate. Piled everything else on top of the chips — the lime juice, the diced cucumber and mango, the Valentina, the cubed bits of bacon and the Japanese peanuts.
You know what? It was pretty kick-ass. I wasn’t sure I’d like it in the end. But I could definitely see serving these fruity, salty nachos on a Sunday afternoon if we were having friends over, or as a snack to munch on while we’re watching the NBA playoffs. Served these with Indio beers when Crayton got home and he gobbled it up. Don’t worry, we’re eating salads today.
Just one question for you: now that I have this new dish, what should I call it? Tostilocos doesn’t seem to fit, because these are a bit tamer. (Some Tostilocos in Ensenada come with raw onion, clams and clamato.) Crayton suggested “totopazos” but I’m not 100 percent sold. Any thoughts?
Note: The original Tostiloco video shows the boy dressing the chips with lime after putting on the cucumber and cueritos. I’ve found it’s better to put the lime juice on first, directly on top of the chips. It results in a tangier, brighter flavor. Also, I’ve peeled and seeded the cucumber below — peeled strips of cucumber are often sold on the street in Mexico — but you don’t necessarily have to do that, if you’re pressed for time. Taking the skin off doesn’t change the flavor.
This recipe is wide-open for you to experiment with as you like. That’s the beauty of the Tostiloco tradition!
4.5 ounces thick-cut bacon (about 125 grams) 1 medium-sized mango 1/2 large cucumber (my grocery store only carries massive ones) A bag of salted tortilla chips 1 lime Valentina hot sauce About 1/2 cup of cacahuates Japoneses, or Japanese peanuts
1. If you happened to have bought beer to drink with this dish, chill it now.
2. Dice the bacon into 1/2-inch pieces and cook in a heavy-bottom skillet over medium-low heat, until it reaches the desired texture. (I like mine a little chewy.) Drain on paper towels, or a dish towel if you have given up paper towels to be Green. Set aside.
3. While bacon cooks, prepare fruit. Peel and dice mango, and peel and dice cucumber, if you’re doing that. Set aside.
4. Arrange tortilla chips attractively in a bowl. (Or, alternately, just pour ’em in the bowl.) Cut lime in half, and squeeze over the top of the chips, making sure as many chips as possible get some lime juice. You may need to use the other lime, too, depending on how ripe it is.
5. Top lime-drenched chips with diced cucumber and mango. Drizzle with Valentina sauce, then bacon, and then Japanese peanuts. Take a chip and eat it when no one’s looking. Ohhh. So good.