Fried, juicy chorizo, gooey cheese and traditional Spanish spices all packed into a pocket-sized pastry. One bite and you'll swear you're walking through a Spanish street market. We are – of course – talking about empanadas. These delights top the menu at La Tabernita, one of many great restaurants serving up these traditional hand-held snacks for eating on the go.
The story begins centuries back in the northwest region of Spain. In 1520, Robert de Nola published the cookbook Libre del Coch, which contained the first documented mention of an empanada recipe.
Although his recipe mentions a seafood filling, these days empanadas can be stuffed with anything you can think of. But the typical Spanish interpretation involves folding pastry over a filling, crimping the edge for a tight seal – giving it that instantly recognizable crescent shape – then baking or frying. The word empanada comes from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning 'to wrap or coat in bread'.
Since the 16th century, empanadas have been gracing dinner tables across the world, so it should come as no surprise that from Mallorca to India, everyone has their own version. The people of Belize make the pastry using a corn dough, usually filling them with fish, poultry or beans, before deep-frying and finishing off with a zesty salsa topping.
In contrast, Chileans stuff their empanadas with pino – cooked ground beef brimming with onions, spices, raisins, black olives and hard-boiled eggs. Over in India though, their empanadas are a festival treat with a sweet, dried fruit filling.
Spanish people are passionate about creating an unforgettable experience when it comes to food, and the beauty of empanadas is that they can be enjoyed as a quick snack or as part of a banquet of tapas. They get that over at La Tabernita too, so they offer up the Super Picada sharing platter. It's packed with all sorts of goodies, including the beloved empanadas.
You'll get several empanadas to start, filled with minced beef seasoned with their secret spice blend, tender chicken breast or salty chorizo, all set to dip into homemade guacamole. It's no surprise that these crispy crescents are one of the most ordered dishes on the menu.