Mention tortilla chips in the US, and immediately you think of the big bags of corn chips, scoops, or Doritos sold in every chip aisle and convenience store.
Cruising in Mexico, we often didn’t find big bags of tortilla chips in the local stores – particularly small ones. But wait: aren’t tortilla chips Mexican??
Well, yes and no. Tortilla chips are – we got them in just about every restaurant we went in, often with fiery salsa (note to self: take a tiny bit of the salsa with the first bite). But commercially prepared big bags of chips are just starting to be popular and are not available in many places.
Cruisers, of course, quickly figured out two solutions, based on what was available and what the locals did.
First was to break up tostadas. These are 6” round tortillas that are commercially baked until crisp. They typically come in a plastic sleeve, similar to a loaf of bread, that’s about a foot long — see the photo above. A tostada is actually sort of an open-faced sandwich that Mexicans make with these as their base . . . we almost never used them for that, but they work well as chips when broken into bite-sized bits.
We loved these – great texture and taste and they stay good practically forever. And if the package gets knocked around a bit and a few break, it’s fine because you were going to break them into bite-sized pieces anyway. Still it’s best to store them in a semi-protected place.
In Mexico, you’ll usually find tostadas in the aisle with bread (note the word “usually” — not always!). In the US, you can often find true Mexican tostadas in Mexican or Latin groceries.
In US supermarkets, you’ll find Ortego, Old El Paso and other mass-market boxes of tostadas. They’re not bad, but they’re somehow just not the same (sort of like the difference between “real” potato chips, baked chips, and Pringles).
The other option is to make your own tortilla chips. That’s how most restaurants do it and it’s really not hard:
Preheat oven to 350-ish (the exact temp is not important, so if it’s on for something else, it’s fine). Take a stack of 4 to 6 small flour or corn tortillas and cut the stack in quarters, then each quarter in half again to make wedges. Spread them on a cookie sheet, baking dish or piece of aluminum foil. If you wish, sprinkle with salt or Lite Salt, cinnamon sugar, garlic powder, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, lime juice or anything else that strikes you. They’re also good plain if serving with a dip.
Bake about 15 minutes (depends on how thick and moist the tortillas are, can vary from 10 to 25 minutes but is most often around 15 minutes), mixing the chips up every 5 minutes. Done when nice and crunchy but not burnt! Serve warm or let cool – but they don’t store well, even in an “airtight” container, so only make as many as you need.