Sopes are traditional Mexican patties made with masa — the same ground maize that tamales and corn tortillas are made of.  The patties are typically fried and thereafter have their sides pinched to allow the sopes to be filled with a variety of toppings that include: beans (or beef/chicken), lettuce, tomatoes, onions, salsa, and other ingredients.  Although fried, sopes are different from tostadas.  Tostadas are crispy and fragile; sopes are thicker and crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside.  They are also designed to withstand more substantial fillings or even liquids.
There are many variations to this dish, depending on what region of Mexico you visit.  Some sopes are small and thick, others are wide and thinner.  The toppings are as diverse as the thickness and even the shapes.  Some variations called Huaraches are shaped like the Mexican sandal they are named after.  Others include ingredients as wild as grasshoppers!  Some people fill them with pinto beans and others use black beans.  Some skip out on the beans or meat and will fill them with veggies.  The many variations in this dish make it fun to play with.
Sopes con Chapulines (Grasshoppers)
More traditional Sopes con Carne (beef)
The extremely large sopes of Oaxaca (Wa-Ha’-Ka)
Sopes are an easy dish to make and an easy dish to modify and modernize. One way of mixing things up can include adding one or two ingredients into the masa to give it a new twist: like corn or poblano peppers.  You can also drown the sopes in a sauce after cooking them to make Sopes Ahogados or Drunken Sopes.  For healthier versions of this dish, you can bake the masa instead of frying it.
For our CAMPUS Black Tie Event 2012, Justin and I decided to cook for the event instead of catering.  In the past, No Thai! generously supplied our food or we catered through the hotel that was hosting us.  Since we like to cook, we thought it’d be nice to take a shot at cooking for a large audience and see what it feels like to cook in a restaurant-style setting.  We had a blast.  It took us a week to prepare all the food in my home kitchen.  It took even longer to get rid of the “fry” smell that lingered in our kitchen after frying hundreds and hundreds of sopes.  When I told my mom that we were adding a different kick to the old school dish, she almost gagged at the thought of putting cucumbers and cold corn as a topping. However, I really liked the end result.  And others seemed to enjoy it too.
Our Black Tie Event menu consisted of sopes topped with beans and lettuce and a cucumber and corn relish.  We were originally going to use two sauces: a vegan poblano aioli with fresh lime and cilantro along with a vegan sriracha cream sauce.  In the end, we opted to skip the sriracha and instead drown the sopes in a homemade enchilada sauce — it made for a more colorful presentation and added taste without so much heat.  If you’re ever feeling bored and want to get crazy in the kitchen, go to your local grocery store, buy masa in the international food section, and make sopes.  They are super easy and fun to make.  Drop me an email with your pics and recipes if you decide to give making them a shot!