Eat a tortilla made from real, proper masa (corn dough), and you will immediately understand what is so terrible about those dry, factory-made discs you find sitting on a shelf in the supermarket. Ramiro Arvizu, one of the chefs and owners of the highly acclaimed restaurant La Casita Mexicana, tells us that the best masa in the city comes from Amapola, a small chain of Mexican markets and delis.

Amapola is one of the few producers left in the country that use just three ingredients to make their masa: organic corn, water, and slaked lime (an essential and naturally occurring chemical compound). They do not, unlike many other masa shops, use a dried, commercial powder reconstituted with water. The dough can be used to make a range of delightful foods, including tamales, sopes, and pupusas.

It is inexpensive too, with their tortilla masa costing just 65 cents per pound. When cooked, it turns into a light, supple, and almost bouncy thing, its flavors remarkably clean and pure. If you don't want to cook masa at home you can buy steaming hot, freshly made tortillas on-site. But either way, you should take a moment to let them fashion you a fresh taco filled with their fatty, crispy, and truly wonderful chicharrónes.

Amapola: 13733 Garfield Ave., Paramount, (562) 272-4516., 7223 S. Compton Ave., South L.A., (323) 587-7118., 7420 Florence Ave., Downey, (562) 776-0246.

Chicharrón tacos from Amapola; Credit: N. Galuten

Chicharrón tacos from Amapola; Credit: N. Galuten

LA Weekly