Thursday, April 7, 2011

Las Leñas, Buenos Aires,Argentina: Empanadas Porteñas, Get 'em While They're Hot

While empanadas can be had just about anywhere in Argentina, the most typical places are at pizzarias, and little pizza and empanadas specialists. While strolling around San Telmo I came across Las Leñas, named for the the traditional cooking of empanadas over a wood fire; this is exactly the kind of place I love to visit all over Latin America, a virtuosic practioner of specialty foods.

Empanadas were brought to Argentina by Spanish colonists; the first documentation of empanadas was in Galicia, Spain, and in Portugal. There is a possible moorish connection to this food enjoyed all over Latin America, but Argentina has probably embraced the empanada more than any other Latin-American country .

Silvia has been making empanadas, pizzas, pascualinas(savory pies), tartas(a quiche), and other baked dishes for more than 15 years at her tiny shop. She only has one chair, and it seems when I arrive for my second visit that this restaurant only caters to me. Customers come and go while I sit in MY chair, hand proping up my chin as I giddily listen to Silvia talk about food from the countryside.

Her empanadas are porteña style, from Buenos Aires, known for their variety of fillings...Silvia has 12 different empanadas.

The process of baking empanadas throughout the day is constant, an every few moments Silvia politely excuses herself to attend her pizza oven, where Argentina's celebrated pastries are warming.

Many fillings means empanadas are folded in patterns, known as repulges, so the baker can tell them apart.Empanadas arabes(Arabic empanadas)are in the triangular shape of Middle-Eastern fatayer(pastries); roquefort empanadas resemble a white rose, perhaps it's because the scent of local roquefort that perfumes the Argentine air so beautifully.

Why not start with an empanada de pollo, pronounced posho in Argentine spanish? Silvia's little bundles of joy are consistently baked to perfection; firm, white pies scorched with brown spots on the top, and slightly blackened on the bottom. The chicken filling is moist from ample onion, garlic, and spices.Each of these amazing treats will only set you back $1 to $1.25.

The empanada de humita has a creamy corn filling, hearty and countrified. The jamon y queso(ham and cheese) is just as delicious as the previous empanadas I try.

Rare empanadas arabes,Arabic empanadas, from the city of Córdoba come in a drier pie,Middle-Eastern style shell, with ground beef and a spicing that hints to the east, but more from the use of citrus.

The local cheese doesn't get the recognition it deserves, but as one of the greatest meat traditions on the planet, you'd better believe the cheese is happening. I started ordering cheese everywhere I went on this trip, and jumped at the chance to have the empanada roquefort. The filling was oily, soft, and with those strong, cheese-locker odors so prized by the sensualist.

Another customer had the privilege of the lone seat the first day I stopped by Silvia's store, and was digging into a fugazzeta, the Argentine-style pizza of onions, and cheese,oregano, and olives--no tomato sauce. I would bet on the pizza here too, next time....

Silvia loves Argentina, and felt bad that it is represented so negatively in the press. I assured her that in Los Angeles, most people I know are dying to be in my shoes, sitting here in her empanada shop, and taking in all the rich Porteño culture. That made her day.......and her empanadas and congeniality made mine.

Las Leñas
mornings and afternoons
Tacuari, 996
San Telmo district
Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires
4300-4578(delivery,take-out, and dine-in for 1)


Anna A. said...

I would give (almost) anything for these empanadas!

streetgourmetla said...

Anna A.-Right?I dream about a place like that.

Clementina said...

I'm Mexican, not Argentine, but one of my favorite childhood recuerdos is eating Ada's empanadas while watching her and her husband Aldo dance el tango. . . sigh.

sewa mobil said...

Very nice, thanks for the information.

Argento Wine said...

You're making us hungry! Those empanadas look delicious... so fresh and hot. It's amazing the variety of ways to make and fill an empanada, and so interesting how it is done differently across various regions of Argentina. Some people say that empanadas are the best in Buenos Aires, but others prefer the other styles like salteñas from the northwest of the country. Daniel Neilson recently wrote about the wide variety of delicious regional cuisines that he discovered during his travels around Argentina... check it out:

Jakarta Hotel said...

Nice! looks yummy!