This Cemita Poblana Is the Crispy Fried Pork Sandwich of Our Dreams

published May 5, 2022
Cemita Poblana Recipe

Fried pork cutlet sandwich topped with strands of queso Oaxaca.

Makes4 sandwiches

Cook24 minutes to 30 minutes

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Credit: Ren Fuller

During my 2019 journey through all 32 states in Mexico, which inspired my cookbook, Mi Cocina, I passed some time in the city of Puebla. It lies about an hour southeast of Mexico City. I had walked to the Mercado Municipal La Acocota and was looking at ceramics when a crazy thunderstorm started. It shook the building and wouldn’t let up. I had not intended to eat there, but I was trapped. I didn’t want to walk in the rain and there were no taxis nor Ubers nearby.

I saw a woman at a cemita puesto (sandwich food stall) take balls of queso Oaxaca and pull them apart into long, thin threads of cheese — it was like watching someone pull apart a sweater into strands of fiber. Queso Oaxaca is similar in flavor to Monterey Jack with the string-like texture of fresh mozzarella — it is made by pulling the cheese into strands and rolling it up like a ball of yarn.

After unraveling it, the vendor took a handful of the cheese strands and used them to top the cemitas before smashing the avocado into the bread and closing the cemita.

I was in complete awe. I ordered a sandwich, of course.

This was also my first time tasting pápalo, an herb that has a flavor similar to the combination of cilantro, mint, and basil. It is pretty difficult to find, even in parts of México. So, if you can’t find it, and you probably won’t, just use a combination of herbs to mimic the flavor. But if you do see it, buy it and try it!

Cemita Poblana Recipe

Fried pork cutlet sandwich topped with strands of queso Oaxaca.

Cook time 24 minutes to 30 minutes

Makes 4 sandwiches

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4

    boneless center-cup pork chops (6 ounces each), excess fat trimmed

  • Morton's kosher salt

  • Freshly-ground black pepper

  • 1 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 3

    large eggs, at room temperature

  • 3 cups

    panko Japanese-style bread crumbs or unseasoned breadcrumbs

  • 1/2 cup

    vegetable oil

  • 2

    large avocados, peeled, seeded, and halved

  • 4

    cemitas poblanas, teleras, bolillos, or brioche rolls, halved and toasted

  • Chiles chopotles en escabeche, or sliced jalapeños en escabeche, plus brine from the jar

  • 1/2

    medium white onion (5.6 ounces), thinly sliced

  • 1 cup (packed)

    pápalo (1 ounce), or a combination of cilantro, basil, and mint

  • 8 ounces

    queso Oaxaca or fresh mozzarella cheese, pulled into thin strands or shredded

  • 8 ounces

    thinly-sliced smoked or cooked ham

Instructions

  1. Place a pork chop between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to a 1/4-inch thickness. Unwrap and set aside on a plate. Repeat with the remaining chops, then season both sides with salt and pepper.

  2. Add the flour to a shallow bowl (a pie plate works best). Place the eggs in another shallow bowl and beat to combine. Place the panko in a third shallow bowl. Season the flour, eggs, and panko with salt and pepper.

  3. Working with one at a time, dredge a chop through the flour, shaking off any excess and making sure both sides are well coated. Transfer to the bowl with the eggs and turn to coat. Lift from the bowl, letting any excess drip off. Add the pork to the panko, pressing it into the crumbs on both sides to adhere, then transfer the pork to a sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining chops.

  4. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1/4 cup oil. Cook 2 cutlets at a time until the coating is deep golden brown and the pork is just cooked through, for about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining 1/4 cup oil and 2 cutlets.

  5. Smash half of an avocado onto the top half of each toasted cemita so that it sticks to the bread. Set a pork cutlet on each bottom half. Top the pork with the chipotle, onion, pápalo, queso, ham, and a generous drizzle of chipotle brine. Top the cemita, cut in half, and serve.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted with permission from Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico by Rick Martinez copyright © 2022. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Ren Fuller. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.