By Shawna Wagman
Who would’ve thought it would still be soup weather in June? But with all of these cool, damp days, I can think of nothing better than a bowl of Mexican tortilla soup. In fact, this soup is so sunny and festive to look at and fun and interesting to eat, it might be considered in lieu of prescription mood enhancers. It is also like tuning into the “greatest hits” of Mexican cooking: there’s a bit of everything in there.
The base begins as a light chicken and tomato stock enhanced with smoky chipotle peppers and a popular Mexican herb called epazote. Assembled to order, you’ll find a generous amount of full-flavour diced white chicken within — enough to call this a complete meal (though it’s intended as a starter). The meat has been marinated with rosemary, basil, lemon, and mango juices along with various seasonings and spices.
The soup is then adorned with long crispy fried strips of corn tortilla that poke out in every direction from the hot broth like a bad hair day. Next, it gets a dollop of queso fresco (like a mild feta), a squirt of homemade crema (similar to sour cream), some diced ripe avocado, and the relatively mild pasilla pepper as a final garnish. Eating the soup becomes an interactive spoon sport. The rules and the texture change as the chips soften and thicken the soup. The chiles work their magic and the flavours marry as the cheese and cream add richness to the broth.
Mariana Torio (the chef) and Erick Igari, a couple from Mexico City, run the tiny taqueria that popped up in the Byward Market building about seven months ago. They give the bustling food counter a dose of warmth and character in spite of its steam tray table of taco fillings and tourist-trap surroundings. The brightly coloured table cloths and bar stools add lots of sunny appeal as well.
Tacos seems to be the food darling of the moment, but I’d advocate for a tortilla soup takeover!
Cost: $4 plus tax
Corazon de Maiz, 55 By Ward Market, 613-244-1661.