This chef suggests devouring the Oaxacan staple with eggs and chorizo

Credit: Photo courtesy Añejo

I can’t even tell you how many mornings I’ve started with a tostada. Recently, however, I’ve gotten into memelas, another masa-based flatbread of sorts that's just waiting to be covered with breakfast toppings.

“A memela is a pre-Hispanic Oaxacan staple made from corn masa,” Chef Ricardo Camacho of New York's Añejo told me in an email. Characterizing the dish as a “larger, thicker tortilla,” Camacho explained that memelas are prepared similarly to classic corn tortillas—cooked on a comal (“a large concave pan typically made from cast iron or clay”) until chewy and charred in spots. “Memelas are a much heartier, thicker version of a tortilla. As a result they can handle longer cooking times on a comal, resulting in more caramelization, giving you a deeper and richer corn flavor,” Camacho said.

Camacho compared spreading unrefined pork lard on memelas with a spoon, hot off the pan, to spreading butter on warm bread. From there, he noted that traditionally a memela is topped with salsa or refried beans and fresh cheese. In some restaurants, memelas come a little bit more dressed: with roasted asparagus, black beans, salsa arbol, and quesillo (a semi-hard Oaxacan cheese.)

Camacho also had some ideas about leaning into the brunchier side of memelas: “Grab some potatoes and Mexican chorizo. Render out the chorizo fat and cook the potatoes in it add the meat back to the potatoes along with some diced sweet onion.” From there, he suggested spreading freshly pureed black beans on the memela, then spooning the potato-chorizo mixture, also known as “choripapa,” on top. To finish the dish, Camacho said you should spoon on salsa made with spicy, smoky, Oaxacan pasilla oaxaqueño chilies and a sunny-side-up egg.