From behind a plexiglass window, Teresa Dorantes Hernández slices open a crusty Mexican bread roll called a bolillo, carefully lays down meat and stringy Oaxaca cheese on a sizzling flat top, and cuts up an avocado. Minutes later, she has deftly assembled the sandwich known as a torta — a towering monument to street food, replete with perfect layers of fat and flavor, crunch and spice. 

In a country that worships comida callejera, the torta is holy — a mainstay of the food groups known as Vitamina T, which includes other delicacies such as tacos, tamales, and tlayudas. Often stacked so high that they require jawbreaking bites, tortas offer the fuel for the lunch crowd, for partiers looking to soak up alcohol, or for people who just need an excuse for a long nap. 

Food stands like Hernández’s line the streets of towns and cities across Mexico. In 2018, the government estimated that over 1.6 million people worked in street food establishments, which represent almost 50% of total businesses in the country. 

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