Tostilocos: The Mexico street food nacho, Frito-pie hybrid

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?

Totopazos
Inspired by Tostilocos
Serves 2

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!

Ingredients

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.

Serve with cold Mexican beer or cold horchata.

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20 Responses to “Tostilocos: The Mexico street food nacho, Frito-pie hybrid”
  1. Kathleen

    Great! Personally, I will skip this one, as I don’t eat pork, but I’m glad you do so that we could all have a virtual experience of this new fusion cuisine. There are no rules in cooking! Provecho!

  2. Don Cuevas

    This I would like, but there must be sufficient cold beer.

    Saludos,
    Don Cuevas

  3. Kathy

    They sale these in San Diego, California. You can find them at the swapmeet, the ice cream men sale them, the people with carts or strollers on the street sell them and people even put up cardboard sign outside their homes or apartments saying they sell that and bolis inside. I live In Phoenix now and they don’t have any of that stuff here and Mexican food tends to be lower quality and more Tex-Mex although there are sone good places. Whenever I go to San diego I see people selling these at the swapmeet along with chicharrones (most peole know them as those little wheels that are fried) churro ( not the sweet kind but these little sticks in a bag kind of like chips) and a lot of other weird concoctions that are more over the top than tostilocos. Hot cheetos with nacho cheese and jalapeños used to be pretty popular when I lived there a few years ago and you could find them at the liquor stores and they even sold them at school. Of course I lived in an area where about 90 percent of the population is Hispanic and this isn’t found all throughout the city. By the way, I just found your blog a couple of days ago and love it.

    • Lesley

      Thanks Kathy! Next time I’m in SD I’ll have to go on a tostiloco scouting mission. And I’m glad you like the blog. Welcome! :-)

  4. Chennifer

    that seems yummy! Your posts always makes me hungry mama!!!

    Come by my blog and see where to protest against SB1070 and add more places!

  5. Graciela

    These seem like something we eat at baseball games in Sinaloa, Mazatlan, etc. It is served in a cup and has chunks of cucumber, chopped salchichas, chips, japonese peanuts, sesame sticks, mango, and then topped with a juice of lime, salsa ingles, chamoy and soy sauce. like a cocktel but without any seafood.

    • Lesley

      Yum! Your version is also a salt bomb, no? I think all you’re missing is some Jugo Maggi. Thanks for sharing!

  6. You can find the pork Skin in any convenience store in the cold meats area

    • Lesley

      Thanks for the tip Leobardo. I confess I’m never in the cold meats area much. (Except when my husband is craving hot dogs.) Heading out to the grocery store later today — will have to look for cueritos. Saludos!

  7. Sonya

    I was wondering what Tostilocos were! They are very popular in Mexico! Great post! I love it!

    • Lesley

      Thanks Sonya! I still haven’t seen them in Mexico City, but I have my eyes peeled.

  8. Louietheanimated

    Kathy is so right, San Diego is the place for Tostilocos. I’m a vegetarian so I don’t eat the cueritos, and I always get mine without them. And Lesley, Definitely check out Logan Heights when you’re in San Diego for your Tostilocos scouting mission. Once you have them, you can get on the I-5 North and take a trip to Coronado via the Coronado bridge. You can finish the night by hitting up the Gaslamp Quarter in Downtown San Diego. All three areas are really close to each other.

    • Lesley

      Oooh… Louie, I’m actually going to San Diego in a few days. Wonder if I should try to squeeze in Tostilocos somewhere? I’ve got a packed schedule and I don’t think my dad is a big street food fan like me. Do you happen to know of any intersections I could visit in Logan Heights?

  9. Jack

    The New York Times just published a piece, “Tostilocos, Tijuana Street Food, Hits the Mainstream”:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/21/dining/tostilocos-tijuana-street-food-hits-the-mainstream.html?_r=1

  10. El Jefe

    Looks awesome. Can’t wait to eat one!

    Frito Pies are from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    • Lesley

      Jefe: Really? I had no idea. Thought they were from Texas. Can I ask where you got your info?

  11. Cindy Ray

    How about tostilocitos? Might have to try them some time.

  12. Andrew

    check out our trip to downtown L.A. to get some TostiLocos!

  13. Mirna

    Hi Lesley, I found these in Arvin in the Central Valley yesterday. I didn’t know what cueritos with chips were and when I googled these words your blog popped up! Thanks! I am a food researcher and was collecting data!

    So they were being sold at an ice cream truck outside of a high school. I wasn’t sure what the many ingredients are. I am going to have to go back and see if they also use japanese nuts, pepino, and jamon. I think I only saw cueritos, lemon juice, chili, and the bag of chips cut vertically.

    Mirna

    • Lesley Tellez

      Hi Mirna: Glad I could help! :-) I don’t think it’s typical to use jamón by the way — that was just me being creative.

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