Mexican Topopo Salad

Lorena Deiters

By
@DeitersMom

When I was first introduced to El Azteco's Topopo Salad, it was more than 20 years ago in their original underground restaurant location just off the MSU campus in East Lansing. You had to take a narrow stairway to the dark, dusky restaurant below, and there always seemed to be a line of both students and yuppie couples waiting for a table. (You know the food is good when people are lining up to eat in a basement!) My future husband introduced me to this "whole in the wall," and we've loved it every since, dragging family and friends with us whenever possible.

Although the underground location has since moved into a trendier spot in an area strip mall, we can still get a taste of the old days at their Lansing location. With its ancient mock-adobe exterior, plaster parrots and tattooed, pierced and dyed staff, it’s like stepping back in time. Nothing has changed, including the menu!

Unfortunately, we can't get our "El Az" fix as often as we'd like, so I dissected my restaurant Topopo salads in an effort to recreate them at home. A little internet research to the rescue and here you have it! Our friends and family who have enjoyed the original say this recipe is spot on!

This salad is always a hit at parties. I've even had coworkers request it for our office potlucks. It makes a great main dish or works as a side with other Mexican fare. (It's a little messy to serve, though. I prefer the stab straight down with a fork and scoot onto your own plate method.)

I like the rice vinegar, but others have tried distilled white and apple cider vinegars, too. This recipe is truly flexible and can be altered to fit your tastes. Experiment and enjoy!


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Comments:

Serves:

2-4 as a meal

Prep:

15 Min

Ingredients

SALAD

1
lettuce head, iceberg (or package of shredded lettuce)
8 oz
frozen peas, thawed
1 c
mexican blend finely shredded cheese
2 c
chicken, cooked and finely shredded (we use leftovers or rotisserie chicken)
1-2
jalapenos, finely chopped (seeded or unseeded, as desired)
1 bunch
green onions, finely chopped
2
fresh tomatoes, diced

SALAD BASE

tortilla chips (for the bed of the salad)
2 can(s)
refried beans (32 oz. total)
2 c
cheddar or monterey jack cheese, shredded
2 c
guacamole
8 oz
salsa

VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

1/2 c
canola oil
1/4 c
rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp
sugar

Directions Step-By-Step

1
Mix salad ingredients together in a large bowl.
2
In a small bowl, mix vinaigrette dressing.
3
Add a small amount of vinaigrette, no more than 1/4 cup, to salad mixture. Use just enough to hold it together and mix to coat.
4
Make a salad base! On a large plate, place a hearty layer of tortilla chips. Warm refried beans and layer evenly over chips. Top with cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese and set under the broiler to melt. Top melted cheese with guacamole and spread evenly, and then spread a cup of salsa on top.
5
Time to put the salad together! A true Topopo is presented with the salad on top of the nacho base in a pyramid, like a volcano. Begin piling your salad mixture on top of the nachos to cover completely, gradually adding less and less as you build upwards to form a pyramid.
6
Serve with additional chips and salsa on the side.