To make the sauce: Wash the chiles and remove their stems, seeds, and veins. Bring the water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan and add the chiles. Cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Soak for 1 hour, or until softened, then drain, reserving the soaking water. In a blender, combine the chiles and their soaking water with the garlic, onion, cumin, salt, pepper, sugar, and oregano. Puree the sauce until smooth, adding a little more of the soaking water if it is too thick. In a wide saute pan large enough to fit the diameter of the tortillas, heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the sauce and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly. Taste for seasoning, cover and keep warm at the back of the stove. To make the enchiladas: In a mixing bowl, combine the cheese, chiles, cilantro and the onions and toss to mix. In another large skillet, heat 1-inch of canola oil over mediumhigh heat. When it is hot, fry the tortillas, one at a time, for about 30 seconds, or until slightly golden but still pliable. Drain on paper towels.
Preheat the oven to warm. Ladle some of the sauce in the center of a warm plate. Coat each tortilla with sauce by dipping it into the pan, then place it on the plate. Scatter about 1/4 cup of the cheese chile mixture over, then dip and stack another tortilla. Scatter with the cheese and make another layer in the same way. Top with a fourth dipped tortilla and keep warm in the oven while you finish stacking the dipped tortillas and cheese to make 5 more servings. Top each stack with a little more sauce, some of the crumbled panela, and a few sprigs of cilantro and serve immediately.
c.1997, M.S. Milliken & S. Feniger, all rights reserved