Torta Cubana
Testing Kitchen

Torta Cubana: Mexico City’s Greatest Sandwich- Part I

Torta Cubana is Mexico City’ signature sandwich. And like this megalopolis, it is enormous, gigantic. A Torta Cubana is an entity where beef escalope, ham, cooked pork leg, frankfurters, chorizo, various kinds of cheeses, eggs, avocado, tomatoes and, maybe, even lettuce interchange and interlayer to create a sandwich sometimes as difficult to tackle as El Chapo.

There isn’t a fixed list of ingredients a Torta Cubana should have. Each stall and taqueria has got its particular version of it, with some extras or missings to make their torta special. But all of them coincide that a Torta Cubana should be impressive. However, some traders take this premise way too far, making 3 kg monsters. Ridiculous!

The Cuban Connection

Although very similar in name, a Torta Cubana has nothing to do with the famous Cubano Sandwich. Furthermore, there’s nothing Cuban in an actual Torta Cubana beyond the name, there isn’t anything alike in the Caribbean island. So, is there an actual connection? 

Mexican Chef Luis del Sordo believes that the Torta Cubana got its name because, like Cuban women, it has everything in it and its voluptuousness and lavishness remind of the outline of Cuban ladies. A bit weird of explanation. 

The restaurant where, apparently, Fidel Castro showed himself off. Source: Wikimedia

There’s also a diffuse story -more legend than story- that tells how the Torta Cubana was created in a place in Cuba Street, Mexico City, when they started to fill their sandwiches with everything they had on hand. They got so famous that even Fidel Castro, while planning his revolution, was a regular. But there’s more of a connection between the revolutionary and the sandwich. 

Fidel Castro, the Sandwich Maker

I think this is a pretty cool story. According to La Casa del Pavo -one of the two places in Mexico City that claims Torta Cubana’s paternity-, this sandwich was born in 1956 when Fidel Castro, guided the cook about how he would like his sandwich. A different version of the story tells that Fidel Castro challenged the cook to make a better torta than him. As Castro’s was a better sandwich, the owner put it on the menu. 

Torta Cubana from Tortas Don Polo. Source: Time Out Mexico.

For other people, this sandwich was born two years earlier, in 1954, in Tortas Don Polo, after its founder, Don Leopoldo Sanchez, had the idea to combine different ingredients in a Telera. A simple sandwich: just cooked pork leg, ham and cheese. And this, amigos mios, is the Cuban Connection.

Click here to read Part II of this little guide.

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  • Irene

    Great article! Just one comment: Don Polo opened in 1958, not 1954, so they definitely were not the first to make la torta cubana. However, they embraced the concept and made it their specialty, and continue to offer one of the best in the city. I love your concept and the name “Cantina Canalla” is awesome, too!

    • Boris Jodar

      Thanks for your comment, Irene! It was vey difficult for me to find the real date as there are different years on Internet. BTW, I like your page too. It’s one of my favourites. 🙂

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