Empanada is a stuffed pastry made of either pastry dough or bread that is native to Latin American and South European countries. It is generally served as an appetizer during various occasions, including Super Bowl. The stuffing used in these pastries could be that of fish, meat, vegetables, fruits and at times even sweet fillings. Cheese is a popular ingredient used in the savory filling. The word ‘empanada’ is derived from ‘empanar’ (a verb), which means to wrap or coat in bread with a stuffing made from meat of choice. Today, the recipe of this pastry has many variations to suit varied palettes and every recipe is specific to the region it originates from. Cheese and Ham Empanada and Sweet Potato Empanada are some popular Super Bowl appetizers. In fact, sweet stuffed pastries are enjoyed by many in South Asian countries and some Latin American versions even use fruit fillings. Chorizo, Pork Picadillo, Apple, Spicy Chicken and Cheese, Black Bean and Plantain and Pumpkin Empanadas are some popular recipes of the dish.
Empanadas have a history that dates back to the time when Spanish colonists introduced the recipe to Latin America. In fact, the stuffed pastries that are popular in the American countries today have their roots to the Galician and Portuguese countries as well. In Galicia, the recipe included making the pastries with dough patty similar to the pie, which was cut into smaller pieces for easy portability. This was part of a heavy meal of the Galician and the same is true till date in the countries that have been influenced by this cuisine. This recipe has many variations and has different regional names. Today, other than Spain, Portugal, Latin America, even Philippines and the Caribbean countries are popular for these stuffed pastries.
Preparation of the Dish
Empanadas are usually made with pastry dough and at times with bread. The recipe uses wheat flour and butter/lard that are kneaded into dough and filled with stuffing of choice, which could be any kind of meat, fish, vegetables and at times even a sweet filling. The dough is prepared and set aside and the filling is prepared with the desired meat/vegetables that is cooked with onions and tomatoes (mostly) along with certain spices. The filling is cooled and placed on the rolled out dough, which is then folded into half-moon shaped pastries and deep fried in oil or lard, as desired. With innumerable cultural influences, today there are many variations of the pastries. In fact, they are prepared as per the theme of an occasion, which is a common feature during theme parties as seen during Super Bowl.
Variations of Empanadas Recipe
Empanadas are quite popular with a lot of people world over, where this savory snack is served as a starter and even in the main course. With so many cultural influences, the recipe has had its share of variations that are in fact delectable. Some popular regional Empanadas recipe variations are –
- Argentinean Empanadas – These pastries are usually served as a starter and even as a dessert, depending on the filling. Depending on the region where this dish is made, the filling changes from chicken or beef and spiced with paprika and cumin and at times even with onions, raisins, egg, and olives. The pastry recipe in this country also includes making the snack with fruit, sweet corn and white sauce or spinach and also fish filling. The dough is usually made of wheat flour and butter mixed well. Baking and frying are some methods of preparing the pastries.
- Brazilian Empanadas – The stuffed pastries made in this country have a rich buttery pastry base with fillings made of seasoned ground shrimp, hearts of palm and also cheese, seasoned ground meat, shredded chicken and certain other fillings. Olives and tomato sauce are common constituents of the fillings used in these pastries.
- Indonesian Empanadas – The stuffed pasties of this country are known as panada or pastel. The panadas are made with thick fried bread with a filling made of spicy tuna and chili peppers. These snacks have a bread texture, unlike those made with wheat flour dough. On the other hand the pastels have a thin crispy crust with fillings made of finely diced carrots, potatoes, green onions, chicken, garlic and white pepper. At times even curried chicken with or without potatoes and also quail egg is part of this version of the recipe.
- Jamaican Empanadas – The patties made in this country have a flaky shell which has a golden yellow tint on the shell because of the inclusion of turmeric in the egg yolk mixture that the pastry is coated with. Though made as a turnover, the more common form of the pastry recipe in this country is the savory version. The stuffed pastries made in this country usually contain fillings made of seasoned ground beef with cheese, vegetables, shrimp, lobster, fish, soy, and also ackee. These patties are usually served with bread and when made as bite sized patties, they are referred as cocktail patty. Other than Jamaica, this version of the patty is also popular in Costa Rica, Haiti, and other Caribbean countries.
- Kibbeh of Lebanon, Deep Fried Momos of North East India, Cornish Pastry of England, Samosa of India, Kenya and Pakistan and many more other versions of the recipe are also quite popular. These variations of Empanada from various cuisines are also popular during the Super Bowl season.
Empanadas are also made with a sweet filling made with grated and sweetened coconut and dry fruits, especially in India and some popular examples of this sweet form are Karanji of Maharashtra, Gujjia of Gujarat, and Kajjikaya of Andhra Pradesh.