Gallery: Behind the Scenes: Making Tater Tots at R-Gang in San Diego

Popper Tots
Popper Tots

Most places focus on what's on their tots, loading them up, nacho-style with cheese, meat, and sauces, but at R-Gang, it's what's in the tots that matters.

Shredded Potatoes
Shredded Potatoes

The first step, which was determined by a lot of trial and error, is how to prep the potatoes. The best method is to shred russet potatoes and par-bake them in the oven, to remove some of the moisture. When the mixture is too wet, the tots have a habit of exploding as they cook (not good).

Tot Fixings
Tot Fixings

The main ingredients in the popper tots on display: sharp cheddar, cream cheese, fresh jalapeño peppers, and spices (jalapeño powder and coriander).

Tot Sauce
Tot Sauce

This plastic tub of magical goo is what binds the other ingredients together. The ratios of flour, buttermilk, sour cream, eggs, chile powder, and paprika have all been painstakingly calibrated to yield the fluffiest tots possible.

Jalapeño Prep, Part One
Jalapeño Prep, Part One

First, the jalapeños are blended, seeds and all.

Jalapeño Prep, Part Two
Jalapeño Prep, Part Two

Next, all of the excess moisture is squeezed out, using cheesecloth. Fun fact: one of the bartenders likes to drink the juice in his Sierra Mist.

Jalapeños, Ready to Go
Jalapeños, Ready to Go

Here's how the jalapeños look after they've been diced and squeezed out.

Mixing it Up
Mixing it Up

The par-baked potatoes go into the bowl. This is a small batch. A regular-sized batch has 20 to 30 pounds of potatoes.

Add the Cheese and Peppers
Add the Cheese and Peppers

The cheese (cream cheese and sharp, grated cheddar) and jalapeños go into the bowl.

Seasoning
Seasoning

A healthy shake of jalapeño powder and coriander are added last, along with the tot sauce (that slightly pink creamy stuff).

Mixing
Mixing

The ingredients are mixed up, by hand.

Panko Coating
Panko Coating

After mixing, the tots are portioned into balls using a scoop, then rolled in panko breadcrumbs and formed into little nuggets.

Ready to Fry
Ready to Fry

Tots are made in large batches, stored on trays in a fridge below the fryer, and made to order.

Frying
Frying

The tots take a dip in the deep-fryer until they're golden brown and crisp.

Ready to Eat
Ready to Eat

Tots are up! The final step is a sprinkle of salt (since there's none in the batter) and portioning out a vessel of dip, which is a cilantro chive crème fraîche for these Popper Tots.