I am on a quest to know become an encyclopedia of deliciousness. As part of this quest I am eating 100 items off of 7 X 7s Big Eat list in San Francisco. It’s hard work but someone’s got to do it. During Labor Day weekend my family traveled to SF for the weekend: gluttony ensued. Going to the city? Need first hand recs? Then click here. #48 Argentinean Beef Empanadas at Venga Empanada
Empanadas are one of those specialty foods that drive people made with lust. To be in this category the food should be a) portable b) relatively hard to procure and c)something that people beg you to bring around based on your ethnic heritage. See also: Lumpia. Whenever I tell people I'm half filipino the next words out of their mouths are "Oh my God. I love lumpia. Do you love lumpia? Can you bring some over?" If you aren't filpino you have said that to a filipino friend/ acquaintance/stranger you met on the street. Don't be ashamed, I don't hold it against you. I love lumpia too! And I have done the same thing with empanadas a million times.
It started in high school when my friend's Mom introduced the whole concept. She is an amazing cook. Even in Chile I almost never had empanadas as good as hers. I still dream of them. Each country makes empanadas differently so when my family found ourselves in the Mission we decided it was business time. There was only one empanda listed on the Big Eat but we sampled them at three places... for the blog of course.
First Stop: Empanada del Pino at Chile Lindo
Chile Lindo is a sweet little stand selling the relatively hard to come by Chilean empanda. (My first empanda love!) Chilean empanadas are large (2 would be a complete meal) and four-sided. The most common, the empanda del pino is filled with a savory ground beef mixture, raisins, a slice of hard-boiled egg and an olive. They are baked not fried.
I studied abroad my junior year in Chile and I think back on this time fondly as the no empanda left behind tour. Chile Lindo brought back some nice memories and made a solid empanda del pino. I liked the pebre (salsa) they served with it too. Recommended.
Next up came Venga Empanadas which was on the list. We had a spaz attack while ordering and tried three empanadas including the recommended argentine beef, a walnut and bleu cheese (!), a mushroom empanada, hibiscus drinks and some alfajores for good measure.
Venga empanadas is small, cute and clean. I'm guessing it's relatively new. Argentine empanadas are generally half circles baked with a crimped edge. The empanadas were served with chimichurri (green parsley-olive oil salsa) sauce. I'd classify that chimichurri as bomb-ass delicious. That's technical food taxonomy terminology.
My friend Dahlia described the meat empanada as having more Italian spices than the Chilean del Pino which makes sense since there are tons of Italians in Argentina. My son described it as "Can I have an alfajor if I eat all my empanada?" I liked it well enough but I prefer the flavor of the pino empanda from Chile Lindo. I think the places where Venga Empanadas excelled are the non-traditional offerings such as the blue cheese and walnut and the mushrooms. I recommend the alfajor cookies too. Fresh and not too sweet. Those cookies crumbled perfectly.
Verdict: Go to Venga Empanadas for variety, kick ass chimichurri and perfect alfajores. Go to Chile Lindo for pino/ground beef.
Our last stop was El Majahual for Colombian empanadas. To get there we smushed too many people in the car like clowns and made some illegal U-turns. Arnold said this was to "complete the Colombian experience." Heh.
Like most countries Colombia has many different varieties of empanadas. At El Majahual they serve empanadas vallunas which come from Cali, Colombia. Empanadas vallunas are made with a yucca-flour based crust and filled with red meat and mashed-potatoes. They are deep-fried, delicious and fit in the palm of your hand. Usually they are served with a Colombian salsa called aji. Like most things Colombian, I love them. As K-Stew would say "I love them. I love them. I love them."
On that slightly snarky note I'll conclude South American empandas 101. Any questions? Favorite empanada-related wisdom to share? Leave 'em in the comments.