Today’s Delicious New Word: “Empanar”
Every culture, seems to have some variation on the notion of a crispy pastry surrounding cooked treats of some sort, whether seasoned meat or seafood or cheese, or savory vegetables. In Spanish, “empanada” is the word for “covered in breading or pastry”. On a recent trip to Latin America, myMEGusta enjoyed many, many empanadas.
The first encounter was in San Juan, at a “local” (vis: non-touristy) restaurant in the Old Town. Among the selection of small dishes was yucca empanadas, deep fried chunks of the root vegetable (also known as cassava) which were delicate on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside. What a treat!
Farther South, first in Punta del Esta, Uruguay, then ubiquitous in Buenos Aires, Argentina, were the classic empanadas. Like every beloved food of a country, the variations were infinite, in terms of fillings and the textures of the outer pastry, although all were delicious, steaming hot on the inside and baked crispy on the outside. Favorites of myMEGusta were at Cabana Das Lilas in the Puerto Madero district of Buenos Aires and at a polo horse ranch in the Pampas, a few hours out of town.
For a taste of authentic empanadas in New York, you will find an astounding variety at Empanada Mama. https://empmamanyc.com/cateringmenu.php And, they deliver!
We don’t normally think of this kind of food as a Chinese treat, but there they were at a recent Chinese New Year Festival banquet: char sui soh, richly flavored barbecued pork encased in a shatteringly thin pastry crust (similar to the steamed roast pork buns more frequently found on a dim sum cart).
Then there is tourtiere, the French Canadian meat pie which is a wintertime staple, and was the family’s traditional Christmas Eve treat: subtly seasoned ground pork encased in a shatteringly crisp crust, made by my grandmother the old fashioned way, with lard.
Traveling to Morocco, we find briks, baked phyllo dough triangles with savory stuffings, and bisteeya, a phyllo dough pie, golden brown phyllo leaves encasing spicy stewed chicken or other goodies.
The most recent incarnation of tourtiere at myMEGusta’s house incorporated the best of these two worlds: a phyllo pie made with tourtiere meat, a delicious fusion of Canada and Africa. Alas, this occurred a long time ago, before cell phone snapshots in the kitchen, so you’ll just have to take her word for it!