In the culinary world, the sope is a sort of cousin to the tortilla. They are made with the same ingredients as tortillas, but their size and thickness is much different. Sopes are smaller in diameter — only about 3 inches (7.6 cm) across — and they are significantly thicker than tortillas. Despite their difference in shape and scale, the two items are used in a manner. They can be filled with cheese, beans, avocado, guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, chorizo, and chicken, to name a few of the most popular fillings.
Sopes are made from a dough known as masa. This dough is made into little cakes and then pressed or hand-crafted into thick patties with raised edges. Once they have been molded into the right shape, they are lightly fried on each side in a pan with either vegetable oil or lard. It is important, when cooking them, that cooks make sure that they retain their shape in the pan. The purpose of the raised edge on the top perimeter is to keep the food on top from falling off, and any sauces from rolling down the diner’s chin.
Because of their shape, sopes are not used to wrap their fillings as tortillas are used to make burritos. Rather, the ingredients simply sit atop the base, making something like an open-faced sandwich. In fact, prefabricated sope bases can be purchased at many Latin markets. In general, the most time consuming part of preparing dishes made with sopes is making the dough, shaping them, and frying them.
Whether a cook purchases sopes at the market or fry them up at home, the most fun part about making a dish with them is deciding what to put on top. Many chefs begin by smearing the top with refried beans, but from there, people can simply build up their dream meal. Chorizo, sour cream, and pico de gallo is a popular combination, while chicken, guacamole, lettuce, and cheese can also make good toppings.
Because sopes are small, they are sometimes serves in batches of two or three. This allows diners to have a number of different flavor combinations on one plate. For example, a plate of three could include chorizo, chicken, and vegetarian options. People who are new to Latin American food might want to start with a sampler of toppings in order to taste the many flavors that this cuisine has to offer.