Food. / Good Times

Breaking the Scales: Empanada Obsession & Peruvian Fast Food Chicken

As I began discussing in my last post, this weekend’s study-madness, after driving me stir-crazy, riled me up into a ravenous state of hunger that could only be quelled by one thing:

A hot, soft empanada. And I wanted only the best I could get-but, once again as previously mentioned, (sorry for the recap) the ravely-reviewed Casa de las Empanadas allegedly located at 201 Angamos Oeste in Miraflores has, apparently, moved locations…or just shut down, I really don’t know which. In either case, literally just down the street, I managed to stumble upon the new Empanada Kid on the block–El Buen Recado Emapandería, located at…401 Angamos Oeste, Miraflores.

Despite the fact that the restaurant is designed to function more like fast food with a nice ordering counter and trays to carry your food to your table, the interior is a lot like being in the living room of someone’s house–very cozy and inviting, more like a café where you would be expected to linger a while. The menu, however, is a nice fluorescent reminder that your food is probably pre-made and waiting to be baked up fresh. (Better than sitting under a heat lamp for hours, at least.) There are several different kinds of empanadas to choose from-3 traditional styles (“ají de gallina“, “carne” (meat/beef) and “pollo” (chicken)) along with about 9-12 gourmet filling options that come from various other Peruvian cuisines–for example, there’s the Empanada Lomo Saltado which, predictably enough, is filled with just that, or the Empanada Chinito filled with Chinese-takeout style veggies/noodles. There were also two sweet dessert empanadas, one that seemed to basically be an apple turnover, and another that was filled with bananas and melted chocolate. What I found intriguing, however, was something I couldn’t seem to pick out in the pictures called “ricaditas” but that seemed to be served as a side in a combo meal.

Note: Since I decided to go here spontaneously, I didn’t have my camera with me. I have every intention of going back and will update this post accordingly–but until then, I SERIOUSLY encourage you to look at some of these pictures from the menu.

Most of these hand-sized empanadas run for 6-7 Soles (about $2.40-$.280), but I went for a combo of one ají de gallina (Peruvian chicken stew/gravy, seriously delicious) filled empanada with a side order of 6 ricaditas and a chicha morada cremolada (slushy, from what I could discern) to drink, all for about 17.8 Soles, or around $7.12. Reasonable. Why?

Because it turns out ‘ricadita‘ is Spanish for ‘piece of ()#*$_@_*&#%* heaven!!!!’. These are tiny, thumb-sized pastries of empanada dough stuffed to the BRIM with some of the softest, meltiest cheese I’ve EVER had in my life. They’re not crazy strong in flavor, though lightly salted, but the cheese is just…ridiculously good! It actually sticks to your lips like bubble gum and oozes out of that delicious, soft dough in a pretty fantastic way. Also, as mentioned, they’re about thumb-sized so 6 of these would have been almost enough for me anyway. The empanada itself was made of equally soft, chewy dough, and the filling was delightfully creamy and hot. However, the flavor of the ají de gallina was a little on the weak side, it could have used some salt or pepper or something. At least, if it wanted to keep up with the ricaditas, that is. However, I thoroughly enjoyed both, and you bet your bottom dollar I will be back there soon–there is another apparently super-delicious empanadería in Miraflores, so I’m going to have an empanada throw-down one of these days!

After such success Saturday, on Sunday I was once again inspired to try a new restaurant (as opposed to going to Ali Baba’s, for example, or just buying whatever caught my fancy in the grocery store, as I was otherwise unprepared food-wise for the day at home.) But I decided that this time I’d like a little company, so I hit up my Norwegian friend to see if she wanted to do dinner–she did, and brought our other Norwegian friend + German roommate with her!

My only rule for the night was that I wanted to try something new for me, which left a lot of options as I almost always eat at home (contrary to what it seems like after all of my posts here, I know.) My Norwegian friend was recently shocked by the discovery that I had not yet tried Peru’s absolutely signature fast-food and national idol, pollo a la brasa, so we decided to pop in to one of the biggest pollo a la brasa chains, Pardo’s Chicken, to initiate me in a cultural experience.

Waiting for food…and wondering why the hell he associates with a weird American who pulls out a gigantic camera during mealtimes.

Pollo a la brasa is more or less rotisserie style chicken that is known for being decadently moist and flavorful, with the disastrous result that I’m not sure I’ll be able to stay away from it now. Honestly, in the United States the nights when my mom used to be so busy that she’d have to buy rotisserie chicken from the grocery store were actually some of my FAVORITE nights for dinner. I am addicted to rotisserie style chicken…especially the darker pieces of meat and salty skin. Can’t. Stop. Eating. Mmmmmm!

The biggest chains for pollo a la brasa in Peru are probably Norky’s, Roky’s, Pardo’s Chicken, and possibly Miami Chicken Grill, although to be honest there have got to be at least a dozen smaller chains as well, not to mention singular establishments. (Let’s not even talk about the KFC and Popeye’s invasion here. Do Peruvians worship chickens, or is it just me?!)

While one Norwegian friend opted to be healthy and go with a salad, the other ordered a large piece of grilled chicken (with obligatory papas fritas (french fries) on the side. I, however, decided to go with the typical platter that one gets at such an establishment–1/4 pollo, served with a side of papas fritas and several dipping sauces. (I understand that at most restaurants there is also a small salad served with this typical plate…not at Pardo’s, though.) I actually ordered the plate that came with 1 palito (kebab stick) of anticuchos as well, because I was sharing my plate with my german friend and we figured a little more meat couldn’t hurt.

…Why did I not zoom in on the sauces? Because by the time I knew how good they were…they were gone.

Although the plate didn’t come with an actual “salad”, there were a few pieces each of chopped carrots and beets and a few green beans. While I’m not opposed to any of these things by nature, I honestly probably wouldn’t have bothered with them if it weren’t for the fact that by the end of the plate, I was literally trying to grab almost ANYTHING of substance to dip in those delicious sauces.

Of the sauces there were 3–one was your typical yellow lightly spicy crema de ají sauce, which I am literally going to die without when I go back to the united states. One was what looked like a plain white sauce, and I think it was some sort of sour-cream based dip. It wasn’t exactly sweet, but moreso than the other two, and was a nice contrast when I needed a break from the heat. (Not that the other two were horrendously spicy or anything.) The third…well, I still can’t figure out what it was. In appearance I first thought it was ranch, but it was a little bit spicy as well.

Oh, just kidding, I just googled those sauces and now I’m pretty mad at myself. The plain sauce was mayonnaise…I have hated mayonnaise my entire life (both in taste and theory), even the thought of it is gross to me, and I have NEVER understood people who use it to do things like dip french fries in. So…now I totally feel like a hypocrite. A really grossed out hypocrite.

The other white sauce was a tartar sauce. I can deal with that.

In any case, as I said, the sauces were heavenly. Even…the mayonnaise. The fries I was using to soak up those sauces could have used a bit of salt if I were eating them plain, but given their true purpose I didn’t care too much. I do generally like my fries a HAIR crispier, but they got the job done.

The anticuchos were acceptable. Nicely layered with a bit of grease, salt, and not too tough to chew–but frankly, nothing will ever compare to those I had at Mistura. Once again great for dipping though. 😉

There’s actually a serious amount of chicken hiding under those fries. Don’t be deceived.

Onto the main event!

The chicken wing/breast piece that I shared with my German friend was appropriately succulent and moist. I really, REALLY hate eating dry fowl–be it chicken, duck, or turkey–which is probably one reason why I like rotisserie style chicken so much in the first place. The skin had TONS of flavor it it (much of which was possibly salt…not that this displeases me in the slightest) and while the skin could have been a hair crispier if it wanted to be the BEST I’ve ever had, I definitely liked it.

Overall, it was a good experience (20.90 Soles for the entire plate–about $8.36 and it was DEFINITELY enough for two people) , and I only walk away regretful that if I eat that kind of meal as often as I now would like to, I will gain fifty pounds and have a heart attack within a month. For a once-in-a-while affair, however, I will certainly excuse the extra tight pants in the morning. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Breaking the Scales: Empanada Obsession & Peruvian Fast Food Chicken

  1. Pingback: Weekend Wrap Up: Koreans and a Cough | Becky Abroad

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