Essential T: Tostilocos at the Mercado de Los Angeles

Dig in to this (unusual) bag of tortilla chips topped with pickled pork skin, peanuts, cucumber, lime, and a zesty sauce called chamoy

The very best Mexican foods start with the letter T—tacos, tortas, tlayudas. Here we showcase the tastiest “T” bites from the streets of L.A.

You know you want ‘em… a bag of Tostitos brand chips with strips of pickled pork skin, cacahuate japonés (Japanese peanuts), slices of cucumber, a squirt of lime, and a big splash of chamoy—a spicy, briny, sour, sweet Mexican sauce that’s for pouring on fruit, ice cream, snacks, and these: tostilocos.

Tostilocos (aka crazy toasts) are regional in Mexico; beyond the combo I just described, I’ve seen them made with young coconut flesh and coconut water in Sinaloa, and I’ve seen jicama used in other places. They can have just about any number of crunchy components besides chips, fruits and vegetables, pickled pork skin, and chamoy.

A New York Times article last year said that tostilocos were likely invented in Tijuana, but their origins are in the highlands of Jalisco, where master food preservers sell artisanal pickled pig’s feet and skin in bags with tacos dorados (folded, fried tortillas), pickled onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and salsa roja. From this highlands treat, a sort of fast food version of it developed in Guadalajara, which then went north in Baja California and Alta California with massive waves of Tapatios (people from Guadalajara), gradually become the tostilocos we know today, that are now found everywhere you can find populations of Mexicans.

Here in East L.A., the best tostilocos are found at Un Mundo de Sabor (“A World of Flavor”) in the junk food alley next to the parking lot at the Mercado de Los Angeles. The owner prides himself on this lowbrow after-school snack, and likens his technique to that of constructing a great salad. There are other products that you can order loco-style at Un Mundo de Sabor, but his tostilocos—with the aforementioned Tostitos, lime juice, cucumber, peanuts, chamoy, and industrial pickled pig skin—should be crazy enough for ya.

“You better start eating,” says the elderly owner from under a wide-brimmed cowboy hat. “It’s going to get soggy.”

Un Mundo de Sabor, at the Mercado de Los Angeles, E 1st St. and N Lorena St., East Los Angeles