Sope is a term that refers to both a type of Mexican fried bread and a dish that uses the bread as a base for different toppings, constituting a snack or street food. Basic sope — made from corn flour, water and sometimes baking soda and formed into a small circle of dough — is fried in oil. The outer edge of the finished sope is then pinched to create a rim that is used to help hold ingredients on top. There are numerous toppings that can be used, although chicken and refried beans are popular, as are salsa and roasted meats such as carne asada.
The bread version of sope, which is not unlike a thick tortilla, is made from masa. Masa is essentially ground corn flour mixed with some lime juice, and it is used extensively in Mexican cooking. The masa is mixed with warm water and occasionally baking soda. The flour is kneaded and formed into small spheres. The spheres are flattened and pressed until they form wide, flat discs.
A heated pan is filled with a shallow layer of oil and the sope dough is placed inside. The dough browns on both sides, but is not cooked long enough to fully set the dough in the center. This gives the bread a heavy feeling and a resilient texture that can be folded without breaking. As soon as the dough has finished frying, the edges are pinched while it is still warm to form the distinctive raised edge on the bread.
Different toppings for sope can vary from one town to the next in Mexico. They can be simple, such as shredded chicken. The toppings also can include traditional Mexican or Tex-Mex ingredients such as tomatoes, ground meat, refried beans and hot peppers. The sturdy structure of the bread allows it to be covered in some toppings that are very liquid, such as wet salsas, chili sauces or even the barbecue sauces used to accompany some meats.
Slow-roasted, prepared meats such as carne asada can be placed on top of the bread along with roasted peppers and onions before being sprinkled with queso fresco for a rich flavor. The dough also can be made into a sweet base by adding sugar before cooking and then covering the finished sope with cinnamon or sweet syrup and fruit. Sope is usually made no larger than the palm of the hand, and is often sold as a snack from street vendors or from small roadside stalls.