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Fried Eggplant Pambazos (Mexican Guajillo-Soaked Sandwich) Recipe

pambazo sandwich on table
pambazo sandwich on table - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

If you've never had a pambazo, it's time to roll up your sleeves and give it a try. Roll up your sleeves, we recommend, because pambazos aren't exactly a tidy affair. Pambazos are Mexican sandwiches made with large round rolls and stuffed, typically, with chorizo, potatoes, lettuce, and sour cream. This large and super-stuffed sandwich is already reminiscent of a sloppy Joe, but it gets better. The bread, intentionally left to get stale, is soaked in a bright red chile-garlic sauce and pan-fried, becoming a fiery outer layer for the pambazo. But that chile sauce? You can't go without it, nor can you slather it on inside and get the same result. No, this is a sandwich meant for napkins.

Like many culinary favorites, pambazos were most likely created as the answer to an economic problem. According to the Sandwich Tribunal, even the name seems to point to the traditional bread used, pan basso, which was considered a poor man's bread and needed salsa guajillo to become edible. Stuffed with common taqueria ingredients, the bread turned into a sandwich so good, that it's sometimes referred to as a "meal fit for an empress."

The many variations of pambazo sandwiches offer options for vegans and vegetarians, all while keeping the same guajillo-soaked bread and messy toppings. This recipe developed with Michelle McGlinn is a filling vegetarian alternative made with thick slices of fresh eggplant. Fried crispy, the eggplant makes the perfect addition to the spicy sandwich without losing any of its salsa-soaked charm.

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Read more: 20 Plant-Based Meat Brands Every Vegetarian Should Know About

Gathering The Ingredients For Fried Eggplant Pambazos

ingredients on a table
ingredients on a table - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

To make the guajillo sauce, you'll need guajillo chiles, chiles de árbol, garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. You won't find these chiles in the produce aisles, though, because they're sold dried. Look for dark red, dehydrated chiles -- large ones for guajillo, and small, thin peppers for árbol. While the chiles de arbol can be swapped or omitted, we don't recommend leaving the guajillo chiles out.

For the sandwich filling, you'll need a large eggplant, flour, egg, breadcrumbs, oil for frying, shredded lettuce, sour cream (or crema), cotija cheese, and ripe avocado. The most important ingredient, of course, is the bread, which you'll want to try and source a few days before cooking. For this, look for telera or bolillo rolls, which are both dense rolls that resemble giant hamburger buns. If you can't find these, use hamburger buns and make smaller pambazos.

Making The Guajillo Sauce

pouring sauce into strainer
pouring sauce into strainer - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Because Guajillo peppers are sold dried, the chiles need to be rehydrated before using. The good news, though, is that the rehydrating liquid can be reused to flavor the sauce. Simmer the peppers in water until they are soft and bright red, then transfer to a blender with garlic, onion, and the spices. Add some of the rehydrating liquid, then blend until very smooth. Straining the sauce is up to you; if you have a great blender, your sauce may be smooth enough to use as-is. If you'd rather strain spare seeds out, simply run the sauce through a fine strainer.

Frying Eggplant

eggplant coated in flour
eggplant coated in flour - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

If you've ever made eggplant or chicken parmesan, you'll be familiar with this step. Set up a dredging station with the eggplant slices, flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs. Dredge the eggplant first in flour, then in egg, and then finally coat it generously with breadcrumbs and set aside. The breadcrumbs will start to soak into the eggplant, so try to dredge quickly right before frying.

To fry, pour enough oil to coat the bottom of a skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the dredged eggplant and fry until golden brown on either side, then remove and drain onto paper towels.

Frying The Guajillo-Soaked Rolls

cooking soaked bread in skillet
cooking soaked bread in skillet - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

There are two ways you can do this, and neither way is wrong. First, you can pour the guajillo mixture into a saucepan and add the bread, soaking each side in warm sauce. You can also let the bread soak in guajillo sauce, then heat a skillet and fry the soaked bread until crispy and browned. The first method will result in a softer sandwich, while the second will yield a crispier bread.

Stuffing And Serving Eggplant Pambazo

pambazo sandwich on plate
pambazo sandwich on plate - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

With the bread soaked and the eggplant breaded, you can start building the sandwiches. Add the eggplant slices to the bread, then top with a mound of lettuce and a generous drizzle of sour cream. Sprinkle with cotija cheese, then spread sliced avocado across the top. Press the top bun onto the sandwich and wrap it in parchment or foil (this helps avoid staining your fingers). Eat as soon as possible -- not only is a whole sandwich hard to reheat, but the eggplant will get soggy overnight. Planning pambazos for dinner? Serve with refried beans and rice, chips and pico de gallo, and fresh margaritas.

Fried Eggplant Pambazos (Mexican Guajillo-Soaked Sandwich)

fried eggplant in sandwich
fried eggplant in sandwich - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Prep Time: 10mCook Time: 20mYield: 4 SandwichesIngredients

  • 4 Guajillo peppers, stemmed and seeded

  • 4 chiles de árbol, stemmed and seeded

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 tablespoon oregano

  • 1 tablespoon thyme

  • Salt and pepper, as needed

  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 large eggs, beaten

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced into ½-inch rounds

  • Oil, for frying

  • 4 day-old telera rolls, cut in half

  • 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce, for topping

  • ¼ cup sour cream, for topping

  • Cotija cheese, for topping

  • 2 avocados, for topping

Directions

  1. Place the peppers and chiles in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil until bright red and softened, about 10 minutes.

  2. Transfer the peppers and 1 cup of cooking liquid to a blender. Add the garlic cloves, oregano, thyme, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Blend until very smooth.

  3. Strain the mixture to remove seeds, then set aside.

  4. Prepare a dredging station. Set up the flour in one bowl, the egg in the next bowl, and breadcrumbs in a third bowl. Dredge the eggplant first in the flour, then coat completely in egg, then press into the breadcrumbs to coat completely. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.

  5. Heat about ¼-inch of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the eggplant and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with all eggplant slices.

  6. Heat the Guajillo sauce over medium low heat. Once warm, dunk the telera rolls into the sauce to coat. Divide the rolls onto plates.

  7. Add eggplant to each roll, then top with lettuce, sour cream, cotija cheese, and avocado.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.