Whenever I’ve told my Mexi friends about stacked enchiladas, they’ve assailed the dish as a casserole catastrophe. The mistake is totally understandable; since Anita’s Restaurant in Fullerton shuttered years ago, there haven’t been many (if any!) restaurants in Southern California to introduce people to New Mexico’s way of eating enchiladas.
Thankfully, Panxa Cocina in Long Beach offers a take that will leave the uninitiated satiated. The alta cocina’s menu features Navajo tacos and Chimayo pozole, but with the holiday season in full-swing, order the Christmas-style stacked enchiladas. With a choice of short rib, pork or chicken to fill the layers, the plate is a satisfying portion without being hefty. And don’t forget to order it with a fried egg on top—it’s well worth it, as the creamy yolk works its way into every bite, accentuating the flavors.
For whatever reason, my family ditched the sunny-side-up-egg topper generations ago. My abuela didn’t bother when she made stacked enchiladas for my abuelo, who hailed from La Union, New Mexico; my mother also served them without their crown of yolk. But now I know what I’ve been missing! Not only does the egg add another runny texture to the red and green Christmas-style salsas that slather the dish, but it’s practical, too, because the hatch chile don’t play! A couple of gabachos seated behind me on my last visit sniffled and coughed their way through the dish, but if they had just spent the $2 more, they would have learned how the yolk becomes a flavorful way to neutralize the heat at the right moments. No enchilada casserole can claim all that!
Now, if only sopaipillas returned to Panxa Cocina for dessert, it’d be a true land of enchantment!
Panxa Cocina, 3937 E. Broadway, Long Beach, (562) 433-7999; panxacocina.com.
Gabriel San Roman is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and tallest Mexican in OC.