PHOTOGRAPHY JODY HORTON
At Suerte in Austin, Texas, executive chef Fermín Núñez celebrates masa, which he says “is the canvas of the restaurant, because it’s the canvas of Mexican cooking.” Here, he breaks down his addictive carrot tostada, “a vegan dish that can satisfy any craving.”
“We make our masa every day,” Núñez says of the 14- to 16-hour process. “We do it just like the Beatles: eight days a week.” The chef sources red corn from Richardson Farms and yellow corn from Barton Springs Mill, both in Texas, to make tortillas, tamales, sopes, and these tostadas, which are toasted on the comal rather than fried.
“When I think about a dish, I first like to see what’s around me in arm’s reach, and carrots are in season almost year-round in Texas,” Núñez says. “We do some roasted in bigger chunks and some pickled to have that different balance of texture and acidity.”
“Everybody loves avocados,” the chef says. “My crazy secret for the avocado is to keep it simple: onion, salt, lemon juice, and avocado oil. The oil highlights the avocado flavor and makes it creamier.”
Núñez tosses the carrots in what he calls “walnut yum yum sauce.” For his take on a traditional Veracruzan salsa macha—dried chilies, peanuts, sesame seeds, and garlic—he adds walnuts to get a richer, earthier flavor. “If I’m going to call a sauce ‘yum yum,’ it better be really damn good.”
“The garnish is always changing,” Núñez says. Here, carrot tops decorate the tostada, but sometimes he opts for pickled red onions or seasonal herbs.
While Suerte is closed right now due to Covid-19, the restaurant is now offering meal kits (shrimp tacos, anyone?) for pick-up. You can also watch chef Fermín Nuñez cook in his home kitchen on Suerte’s YouTube channel.