"Los Angeles is the tortilla capital of the world," says Daniel Robles, who ought to know. He and his two brothers own La Reina, one of the city's largest tortilla factories.
"There are more tortillas made and consumed in Los Angeles than in all of Mexico," said La Reina's Francisco Morales. "In Mexico they use a type of roll called a bolillo, not tortillas."
There are about 40 tortilla factories in the Los Angeles area, including Ramona's in Gardena, Mission Foods in Canoga Park, Arga's in the City of Industry and Linda's in Orange County.
All use machines to grind, cut and bake the round bread staple. But while a mechanized "tortilleria" might punch out 1.2 million tortillas a day, there are some small shops that still make tortillas the old-fashioned way-- a mano, by hand.
At La Colonial in Monterey Park, El Capiro in East Los Angeles, Rogerios in El Sereno or Las Chiquitas in Rosemead, the workers arrive before dawn to begin shaping the tortillas.
At the tiny La Corona Tortilleria in San Fernando, Teresa Torres employs three women who make tortillas, standing over a metate , a stone table whose shape was formed in antiquity, pushing a piedra, a large oblong stone, through a pile of dough.
"It takes about 4 or 5 minutes to make one by hand," Torres said. In a day's work, the women will produce 30 to 40 dozen for customers who stand in line to buy the thick, warm tortillas.
Most of the hand-made tortillas are maiz or corn, and Vincent Soltero who owns El 5 Puntos Market and Tortilleria in Boyle Heights says the hand-made tortillas "are the French roll of the Mexican diet."
According to Marisela Robles Para of La Reina, Angelenos consume about four flour tortillas for every corn tortilla.