Empanadas for All!

Now that I’m in Central America I’m gorging on one of my favorite foods: empanadas! An empanada is stuffed pastry that is either baked or fried. The dough is stuffed with just about anything: cheese, meats, vegetables and fruits. My favorite is the 4-cheese empanada, fried, and served alongside a cold beer = YUM!

The name of this tasty treat comes from the Spanish, empanar, meaning to wrap in bread. Originally from Spain, empanadas and their cousin the Italian calzone are thought to be derived from Arabic meat-filled pies called samosa.

Spanish and Portuguese seamen took the empanada along on their travels and it can now be found all over the world, including Iberia, Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines), African (Nigeria, Ghana, Cape Verde), all South American countries, most Caribbean islands and the Creole cuisine of the U.S.

Each localized version reflects local influences in the use of stuffing and preparations, and when people eat the empanada — as a snack, an appetizer or dessert. Here’re a few of Central American varieties:

• Costa Rica – The version is either filled with seasoned meats (pork, beef or chicken) or cheese, beans, and cubed potato stew. The empanadas are made with corn dough, first folded, than fried.

Costa Ricans also have a sweeter wheat dough empanada filled with tropical fruits or jelly.

• El Salvador – Salvadorians often use the term “empanadas” to mean an appetizer or dessert made of plantains stuffed with sweet cream. The plantains are then lightly fried and served warm with a sprinkle of sugar.

• Panamá – Panamanian empanadas are usually filled with ground beef but may also be filled with shredded chicken, white cheese or yellow cheese.

They are made of flour or cornmeal and usually deep fried, but can also be baked. (A sort of “anything goes” approach!) They are smaller than their counterparts elsewhere in Latin America and are considered snack, appetizer, or luncheon food.

Want to eat an empanada?

You can! They’re simple to make – just follow along as Lola teaches us how to make her secret empanada recipe from Bicol:

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GArF0ImYPVA

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 26th, 2011 and is filed under Food & Drink.

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