Empanada comes from the Spanish verb “empanar” or to enclose in bread, therefore the literal English translation is breaded. The idea of breading meat, vegetables or sweets isn’t uniquely Spanish. The British prepare Cornish pasties; Turks, börek; Italians, calzones; Algerians, brik; Arabs, fatayer; Americans, the hot pocket.
Argentina wasn’t the first country to invent the empanada, but it does have many unique variations of it. One of the most unique and delicious Argentine empanadas is most certainly from the province of Salta.
The history of empanadas salteñas is related to the first female Argentine writer, Doña Juana Manuela Gorriti. This Salteña writer, along with her family, was forced to flee to Bolivia in 1831 because of political division. Tradition says that there they suffered from poverty and empanadas were a simple way for the family to preserve the little amount of dough available.
Not surprisingly, Bolivians call empandas ‘salteñas’ because of the strong presence of the Gorriti family. Juana Manuela also shares an intimate relation with the history of Bolivia and Latin American gastronomy. She is credited with the recipe for empanadas salteñas in the quintessential Argentine recipe book “Cocina Ecléctica” in which 175 Argentine women shared their traditional recipes.
Your typical empanda salteña calls for the following ingredients:
1 kg of flour
200 grm. Of fat for frying
1 ½ kg. of lean meat
1 strand of green onion
Salt, cumin, pepper
What differentiates empanadas salteñas from empanadas from other regions are the potato, green onion and cumin ingredients. Local Salteña tradition also says that when you’re sealing the empanadas before cooking ‘simbar las partes del disco de masa’, you must never stop talking. The movement of the mouth and fingers should be in unision so as to produce a more harmonious meal. Inside the empanada, like a powder chest lays the trilogy of flavors, aroma and colors, away form the heat of the mud ovens, which were originally used to bake.
Because empanadas salteñas contain potatoes, they tend to be a bit heavier than the typical meat empanada one might eat in other provinces. They’re traditionally fried, but many people bake them nowadays as well. Adding cumin to the beef stock brings out the smoky and spicy flavors. This combined with the savory dough makes for a real culinary treat.
If you’re in Buenos Aires be sure to check out these Salteña restaurants and try their empanadas salteñas!
Tatú empanadas salteñas – Address: Soldado de la Independencia 1023
El Fortín Salteño – Address: Av. Cabildo 4702
El Rincón Jujeño – Address: Av. San Juan 2827
Los Cardones (it’s a peña) – Address: Jorge Luis Borges 2180
El Salteño – Address: Gascón 578