Where did the torta come from? Basically, it’s a Mexican sandwich, which may or may not have come about due to French influences. In fact, the history of the torta is rather sketchy.
There is speculation that during the French occupation, Mexican bakers took inspiration from the French baguette, which is a hard crusty bread. They used similar bread dough to create smaller loafs called bolillo and telera. The bolillo is oval shaped and has a crusty exterior and soft interior while the telera is slightly larger, rounder and has a crease or two in the middle. A great torta is defined by the bread having enough texture to hold up, being soft enough to bite and large enough to contain a plethora of ingredients.
Tortas will also take on distinct flavors based on the Mexican regions where they are made. In Guadalajara, rolls filled with roast beef, ham or milanesa (breaded steak) are dipped in a large jar of thick, hot salsa. In Monterrey and the state of Sonora, the favorite is the carne asada torta. In Tijuana, milanesa and turkey tortas are favored.
Out of Mexico, you may encounter more westernized tortas with ingredients that could include anything from smoked salmon to grilled vegetables to ham. Not being traditional doesn’t make them any less delicious. Come into Bolillo to try for yourself!