“What’s important is what’s inside.” We are taught this at a young age. The same, fortunately, applies to the empanad. Whether they’re fried, baked, stuffed with carrot, or vegetarian – or labeled as “pastel” or “empanadil” or otherwise – you know that when you see it.

The roots of the empanadas date back to at least 1520 in a Spanish cookbook called “Libre del Coch” (which translates as “Cookbook”). However, many countries have variants of empanadas, which makes determining its true origin a bit difficult. Despite all the names and methods, empanada is just a turn of confectionery filled with an ingredient of your choice and then baked or fried, usually in the shape of a crescent that can be held in your hands.

The size of the treat allows you to perform multitasking, regardless of whether you eat empanad and ride a bike, paint the house or write an article about empanad.

Lancaster County empanads can trace their roots from Peru to the Dominican Republic, from Uruguay to Cuba. While you don’t need a holiday to celebrate a dish, National Empanado Day on Friday is a good occasion to explore how similar and diverse they are.

Here’s a brief look at versatile food with hundreds of years of history and an unlimited number of taste profiles.

What’s in the empanad?

It depends on who, what and where.

During the survey, many Lancaster County restaurateurs said that beef and cheese varieties of empanadas are their most popular sellers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t offer many interesting and sometimes very specific options.

For example, O&J Deli Grocery on Walnut Street owner Nelson Rodriguez offers meatballs empanadillo and Italian empanadillo filled with ham, cheese and pastrami. Rodriguez says the Italian empanadila has fans at City Hall who ordered 60 of only this variety for a party in December.

Empanada Gourmet at 46 Prince St., 46, with 14 varieties of empanadas, offers everything from corn and feta cheese to caprese with basil, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, six of which are vegetarian or completely vegan. While beef and chicken are the most popular, some eateries add other meats such as pork empanadila in old San Juan or shrimp and octopus empanadas at El Jibarito restaurant. So empanadas can create a kind of ripple in the food universe – for example, pizza empanada more pizza, or empanada? The world may never know.

Of course, even the category of “beef” is diverse – there is a variant of ground beef in El Jibarito or marinated pieces of steak that can be found in Lomo empanada Frisco, which in itself is a popular Peruvian beef dish, Lomo Saltado.

Finely chopped ingredients such as onions or potatoes mixed with unique spice blends can be the difference between a delicious empanad and an unforgettable empanad.



Fried and baked empanadas from a food establishment in Lancaster on Friday, April 1, 2022.




Baked versus fried

As in most big debates, the concept of empanadas “baked versus fried” has pros and cons on both sides.

“This is how we eat them in Uruguay; we bake them, ”says Ivanna Arambillete, co-founder of Empanada Gourmet. “We also wanted to do something better for you, a little healthier. We make the dough by hand every day and it is 100% vegan. Sometimes, if you have fried empanada, it can feel a little heavy in the stomach. ”

At Espino’s Pizza, 323 W. Lemon St., where there is also Latin cuisine, the homemade pastel recipe of founder Ramon Espino gets a deep fryer.

“Now, baked, I don’t know if it will be good, because if you fill the cutlet with meat inside, if you bake it, it may cook incorrectly,” says Espina. “I baked them sometimes, but I still need to fry them a bit. This oil penetrates both the dough and the meat, otherwise, if you do not do it, it will be half cooked.

Although there is no “right” way to do this, most Lancaster empanadas are fried, creating a signature crispy look.

Sauce

The filling for empanadas is a lot of spice, but empanadas are usually not “sharp” (in the “hot” sense).

Here comes to the aid of sauce to stratify the flavors. Favorite sauces vary by location.

In Frisco’s Chicken, 454 New Holland Ave., owner Francisco Gomez says that aji sauce with huakata (a South American herb) and Peruvian yellow aji pepper is the most popular snack.

At Empanada Gourmet, Arambillete and staff offer homemade chimichuri sauce to tweak empanada. Old San Juan offers homemade spicy sauce as well as a spicy ketchup blend option. If all else fails, a few ointments from the standard Cholula sauce should work as a last resort.

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