Torta a la Boholana

Subject of discussion at a dinner with torta1relatives in Bohol: breakfast comfort food that my mom used to cook… and top of the list was a ground meat torta, fried baby dilis (anchovies) patties made with egg, and other such goodies. The next morning, my brother and his wife invited me over for breakfast and they prepared a veritable feast that included fried fresh lapu-lapu, steamed shrimp that were alive minutes before, dilis patties and of course, a good version of mom’s old torta with ground meat. The name torta is really kind of bizarre because literally translated from Spanish it means pie or tart. And in Bohol, there is a very well known torta delicacy that is in fact a cake made with tons of egg yolks. So how did this egg and meat dish which is very close to an Italian frittata get its name? We may never know for sure…but it is delicious and very easy to make.

Every house probably has a slightly different set of torta2ingredients in their torta. Our house typically had these: ground or minced beef, eggs, onions (red if you want sharper flavor and color, Spanish onions if you don’t have anything else), red bell pepper (native rather than the fancy capsicums you find now), tomatoes, green onions, salt and pepper. Others like to put some minced garlic but I find the flavor a bit overwhelming. Chop the onions, bell pepper and green onions finely. Peel and de-seed the tomato and chop finely as well. Put whatever proportion of ingredients suits you. I find that I set aside the ground beef, then all other ingredients are a little less in volume than the beef before cooking.

To cook, heat up a medium sized non-stick teflon pan. Add some vegetable oil and when the oil is hot, saute the onions, tomatoes, torta3bell peppers, and green onions until they are just cooked. Add the ground beef and saute until the red is gone and the beef is well crumbled. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the mixture and put it in a bowl. Cool the meat mixture a bit for 2-3 minutes then add some beaten eggs and mix this all up. Add vegetable oil to the same pan (I like to use butter because it tastes better and browns nicely but you risk the torta sticking to the pan…) and turn the heat up. Add all of the meat and egg mixture and shake the pan to spread it out evenly. Keep over a medium high heat until it browns to your liking. The next step is the only hairy part. You need to place a plate over your pan and flip the torta over before sliding it back into the pan to cook a bit more. This is hairy as all kinds of mishaps can occur for the torta novice. To avoid this step, I think you can put the whole pan in a hot oven and that would effectively cook both sides without having to flip. But if you want to do it the way mom used to, do the flip. Serve soon after and yes, ketchup is the preferred partner along with hot steamed rice. Yum. It was our Sunday breakfast yesterday.


11 Responses

  1. hmmmm…. torta… one of my all-time favorite food. I can never tire of this. As a kid, I hated it when my grandma (the best cook EVER!) adds local eggplant to her delectable torta (tortang talong) but I have recently learned to appreciate it but I love it “as-is”, eggs and minced pork with seasonings… topped with a dollop of tomato catsup… YUM!

  2. hi,ever since i read the PDI story I make sure I open your website everyday, except if I was out of the country. Anyway I love your site. I love to cook at minsan nahihirapan akong makahanap ng ingredients. your site is really helpful.
    Just wanted to add, that you could also use a banana leaf in cooking your torta so it wont stick and it will smell good.

  3. Arlene thanks for that suggestion. Does the banana leaf stop the torta from getting a nice brown skin? Have to try that the next time. Thanks.

  4. The torta shaped on a banana leaf lining does not get to brown as much as the one on your picture. Maybe you can try it until the banana leaf burns just like in a bibingka. The banana leaf though is a great substitute for a non-stick frying pan.

  5. Yep! I remember that it will be a “torta” day whenever my granny comes home from the palengke with lots of banana leaves. (This was in the mid-70’s).

  6. When we make Tortilla de Patata (which is also made using the “plate” method) we use this “cheater’s” contraption that is made with two pans that you can hook together. So when it’s time to flip all you have to do is hook the pans together, close, and flip! The tortilla or torta is now safely on the second pan. I don’t know if you can get it here though, my mom bought it in Spain I think…

  7. this sounds like the perfect office breakfast….every
    friday we have “breakfast day” at work, each employee takes
    turns cooking breakfast for everyone. i would love to make
    this…how many servings does this recipe yield? if i were
    to do a casserole type “torta” and bake it in the oven, could
    you give me some pointers?

  8. Diaz you can make this as large or small as you want. A good sized medium torta would feed 8 easily. It can be made in an oven proof pan then popped into a hot oven if you don’t want to flip it over. This also works well with cubed potatoes (more like a frittata really). Ground pork or beef works as well. Good luck. I suggest you practice once or twice at home before taking it into the office!

  9. My Ma makes tortilla de patata, too. She browns the cubed and salted potatoes first then sautes diced white onions. Adds them to the potatoes then adds both to the beaten eggs. As usual, yummy with ketchup!!

  10. I’ve been trying to re-create my mom’s recipe for this and took a chance and did a search on your site – et voila! This is a good start, although, I think my mom puts ginger on hers and uses 10 eggs. The flip is indeed hairy and if you don’t drain the excess juices mid-flip, you will burn your hands (so I’ve learned!)



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