Okay so this day has hit a chord for me. Empanadas are my favorite Mexican food!!! Finding a great empanada is like finding a great croissant, or an amazing cheese, or a super fantastic slice of pizza. Beware, they are not good for you. If you can avoid getting addicted you are better off, but this Mexican stable is not something that you should eat every day. I have a ‘once a month’ rule for empanadas, it better be good when I have one.
I have had a lot of good empanadas but I continue to seek out better ones. My ‘once a month’ empanada gateway came last week and I found myself in Playa del Carmen. My all time favorite place to eat empanadas is closed during the day, Dona Mary Loncheria on 30th Ave and 28th Street. I decided to see what I could find at 15th Ave and Juarez just down from the ferry pier. In the park on the corner there are about 10 taco stands. I thought it was a hit or miss for empanadas but was willing to take the chance. I walked through the park gates and found three vendors selling me tacos. I asked if there were empanadas and was taken to the final cart on the right hand side. I looked at the guy overseeing the cart and said ‘two cheese empanadas, por favor.’ A woman stood up and started to make the empanadas by hand!! Normally street vendors pull already prepared and cooked empanadas from a warm cooler. But it seems I was in luck! Freshly made empanadas on the spot!
I will spare you the cooking details and the lovely conversation I had with the young man and his mother as she prepared my meal. They asked me about some English translations, I asked them where they were from. My empanadas showed up and I added salsa and pickled red onions to the dish. I promptly sat down under r a glorious tree and bit into the hot little piece of heaven. Perfect I tell you, perfect. Fluffy, cheesy, light and spicy.
When I was done I went back to the cart and thanked both of them for the delicious meal. In return I received big smiles, lots of gracias and I promised to return….in a month.
So an empanada Mexican style (there are variations found in Argentina) is like a mini Italian calzone, but different. A fresh corn tortilla, uncooked, (this is called masa) is filled with chicken, cheese, potatoes and sausage or just sausage. The tortilla masa is folded over so then you have a half moon shape and then deep fried. Traditionally the empanada is served with shredded lettuce, cream, and salsa. I add pickled red onions if they are around and opt in for a spicier salsa.
Average price per empanada, 7 pesos/40 cents.
Note: Argentine empanadas are very different, and you will find these all over the Riviera Maya. Don’t let yourself be fooled. These empanadas are made from wheat flour, have more complicated stuffing’s – corn and cheese, spinach and cheese, mushrooms, beef, chicken- and are baked not fried. Though these are better for you, I have to say, they are just a different treat and do not compare to the Mexican deep fried empanada that comes with all the fixings.
So which side are you on, the gluten free Mexican empanada or the baked wheat Argentine empanada?