Cemitas are incredible sandwiches that, if you’ve ever been to the Puebla region of Mexico, you’ve had the honor of trying. New Yorkers are sometimes told cemitas are just tortas with softer bread. It’s such bullshit. Here’s what makes a great cemita.
I honestly don’t believe that NYC only has bad Mexican food. Leave Manhattan/Brooklyn/LIC every once in a while and surprise, lots of options. Their’s definitely a higher concentration of better Mexican food in LA. Also, WHAT FUCKING MEXICAN FOOD? There are so many fucking regions. Kind of like this conversation we’re having. If NYC Mexican food is not as good as LA it’s because we have more people from Texas influencing our style. Like adding lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and shit like that to a taco. Talk to a Mexico City resident and ask them whats on a steak taco. They’ll fucking say steak… THATS IT. Ok, there’s also onions and cilantro, but’s that garnish. THATS IT. And don’t even bring up the fucking tortillas. Flour tortillas? That the Applebees of tortillas (this isn’t a compliment).
First, if you’ve never had a torta, it’s a Mexican sandwich that can literally have anything in it. One of the main features is the bolillo bread, which is essentially a short round french bread. It’s crusty on the outside and usually not too soft inside. It has a nice bite, not flimsy like a hamburger bun. Think if a baguette fucked a Portuguese roll. A cemita, which is the name of the bun and the sandwich which uses it, is closer to a brioche. It’s made with egg in the dough and has a sweeter bite. They also have sesame seeds on top. Serious Eats has a great recipe if you don’t live within a train-ride of a great cemita (MOVE!!).
Cemitas aren’t just the bread, it’s usually a sandwich filled with sliced avocado, meat, white cheese, onions, red sauce (not tomato) and papalo. Papalo is a herb that I would say tastes like the love child of a basil, cilantro and mint orgy. It’s difficult to pinpoint the flavor and some think it tastes a bit like perfume or medicine. What everyone agrees is that in a cemita, the papalo shines. It’s also the herb which SHOULD be in your guacamole. Stop using cilantro, rookies.