Two weeks ago on an overcast Saturday, Mack and I headed to south Edmonton for a tour of El Mercado corn tortilla factory. You may already be quite familiar with their product, as it is used in several popular restaurants in the city, including Tres Carnales, Rostizado and Glass Monkey. El Mercado also produces a line of corn tortilla chips.
A spread at Tres Carnales
We’ve picked up their tortillas and chips in the past for home use, usually at Tienda Latina, though they are also available outside of Latin markets at about two dozen locations in the city, including Save-On Foods and the Italian Centre. Impressively, their distribution runs even further south to Red Deer and Calgary.
The opportunity to tour the factory, however, meant not only seeing the production in action, but also getting to taste fresh tortillas off the line, something neither of us have done before.
Masa ready to be loaded into the machine
El Mercado imported a tortilla machine from Mexico in 2010, and had to adapt it to meet local safety guidelines. But the mechanization of the process results in an incredibly efficient system – once staff have prepared the masa (dough made from corn flour and water), they feed it into the machine which flattens, cuts, bakes, then cools the tortillas, all in 8 minutes. El Mercado generally produces 12,000 tortillas a day, two to three times per week.
They employ uses three different roller sizes, creating 14 cm and 10 cm diameter tortillas, as well as the triangular shapes that are prepared into chips.
Tortillas feeding into the oven
Three levels of heat bake the tortillas
We had the opportunity to try a white corn tortilla still warm from the line, which Karla, our volunteer tour guide, demonstrated how to eat it Mexican-style. First, we sprinkled the surface with salt, then rolled it up in the palm of our hand. They were surprisingly pliable, and tasted almost like a flour tortilla.
Karla demonstrates the technique
The tour was a bit of a trial run for El Mercado; depending on the interest of the community, they are considering the possibility of selling freshly-made tortillas straight from their factory on a monthly basis. Let’s hope this happens so more people have the chance to try El Mercado’s products as they were meant to be enjoyed.
Ready to go!
We picked up a bag of their new flavoured tortilla chips (spicy, though sweet was also an option). Mack hasn’t stopped eating them since, finding the seasoning of onion, garlic, and chili powder extremely addictive. If you’re looking to purchase El Mercado’s products, check out this handy list.
Snacking on the spicy tortilla chips
Thanks to Karla for the invitation, and to El Mercdo for hosting us!
Check out Cindy’s post about the tour as well.