Tortillas have been a staple of the Nicaraguan diet for centuries. Within a 5 block radius of my house in Batahola, there are at least 4 tortilla stands where you can buy delicious fresh off-the grill tortillas. And they’re not the kind you buy at the grocery store in the States, either. For starters, they are made of corn, and are much thicker and more flavorful. Having fresh tortillas with my breakfast every morning is definitely one of the things I’ll miss most when I leave Nicaragua
When Doña Amanda, who has been the host mother to several generations of Batahola volunteers, offered to teach me how to make tortillas, I was thrilled. Last Saturday, I walked over her house with a bag of maseca (corn flower). Doña Amanda learned from a neighbor when she was a girl, but no one else in her family can make them. Below are Doña Amanda’s instructions for making tortillas.
You will need:
Maseca (NOTE: traditionally, tortillas are made through a more complicated process involving boiling corn kernels, but today many people use maseca)
Comal (a round griddle used for making tortillas)
A plastic bag, cut into 2 squares
Cloth for wrapping tortillas
Place the comal over the stove and use the rag to dab a small amount of oil on it. While the comal is heating up, pour the maseca into a bowl, and gradually add water while mixing with your hands until it has a soft, moist texture.
Then, form the dough in to balls about the size of a tennis ball. Place the ball on top of the plastic squares and begin pressing it down with your hand. Then, place one hand on the side to form the edge and your other hand to continue patting down the tortilla until it’s about 1-2 cm thick.
When it is ready, place the tortilla on the comal. After about 2 minutes, flip the tortilla over.
Once it has cooked for a minute or two, use a wet rag to press down on the tortilla. When it begins to bubble up, you’ll know it is ready. Wrap the tortilla in a cloth to keep it warm. Enjoy with a plate of gallo pinto and cuajada (Nicaraguan cheese).