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What We’re Into: The sobaquera from El Ruso in Boyle Heights

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It’s hard to beat the earthiness and depth of flavor from a freshly sculpted corn tortilla, hot off the comal. But my fondness for flour will never abate, albeit for different reasons. Stretchy, elastic, pull-apart flour tortillas have simply no match as far as texture. Smooth and pliable, and decadently chewy, even when blistered on the griddle, they’re also the perfect vehicles to overstuff with meat and vegetables until bursting at the seams.

No one is crafting these lissome marvels better right now than El Ruso, a trailer parked semi-permanently in an industrial area off of Olympic Boulevard in Boyle Heights. And there’s no better showcase for the northern Mexican staple than in the sobaquera, a Sonora-style burrito wrapped in an almost comically oversize tortilla de harina, and the focus of this most recent episode of our video series What We’re Into.

Walter Soto and partner Julia Silva have run their business for the last six years on Mirasol Street, combining his years of taco-making knowhow (he started as a young taquero over two decades ago in Sinaloa) with Silva’s amazing tortillas, a tradition that she, in turn, learned from her mother in Sonora.

The sobaquera is a thing of abundance. The bedsheet of a tortilla folds in and over itself like skin on a Shar-Pei puppy, stuffed with beans, cheese and whatever meat you might want inside. At El Ruso, you might settle on the chile colorado, a rich and intensely peppery stew with chunks of braised beef, or perhaps the birria, a more straightforward showcase for the generous portion of shredded meat on the inside.

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There will, inevitably, be extra, uneaten tortilla. Don’t let it go to waste. I like to pick off chunks of it and treat it like roti, soaking up the pool of liquid that has formed on the plate, the meat juices mixed with dregs of lime and salsa.

Again, this thing is huge, probably two meals for most people. And eating it is a delicate operation. By the time you’ve finished the last bite of tortilla, your fingers likely will be stained irremediably orange by fat and chile. That white shirt you wore? Probably not the smartest choice. But you’ll know better for next time — because you’ll definitely be back.


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