El origen de las empanadas

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PH: Philip Fibiger

En Argentina solemos decir que las empanadas son uno de nuestros platos típicos. Esto es cierto, hasta un punto, dependiendo de lo que se considere “típico”. En Sudamérica no siempre es fácil definir este término debido a las fuertes influencias europeas sobre la cultura. En Argentina, los patrones de migración que surgieron después de la colonización fueron particularmente particulares, y por ende, las influencias también. Como resultado tenemos pizza, pasta y helados “típicos” cuando son comidas que generalmente se consideran típicamente italianas. De hecho, es de Italia que recibimos esa influencia. No obstante, también es cierto que cada lugar toma lo que recibe y luego lo modifica y hace propio.

A la hora de buscar el origen de las famosas, y deliciosas, empanadas, podemos trazar un primer punto de partida en España. Pero, tampoco podríamos detenernos ahí porque es muy probable que España las haya incorporado de la cultura árabe cuyos deliciosos fatays,  sfijas y kibbes se parecen mucho a las empanadas. Antes incluso, los griegos ya habían importado de Constantinopla un plato similar pero hecho con masa filo llamado bougatsa. Y en Mesopotamia, parece que ya hacían una delicia del estilo cientos de años antes de Cristo incluso.  En Sudamérica, antes de la colonización, las culturas prehispánicas ya preparaban tamales y humitas, que siguen una lógica similar a la empanada si se piensa en la idea de relleno envuelto. De hecho, una de las empanadas que se hace en Argentina es la empanada de humita, con un relleno a base de salsa blanca y de maíz, ingrediente fundamental en la alimentación prehispánica.

Hay muchas más culturas que tienen su variante de la empanada. Independientemente del origen que podamos trazar, probar las variantes típicas argentinas, ya sean fritas o al horno, es un gusto que recomendamos darse en cualquiera de estos lugares.

Y, para quienes quieran pasar por UCO Restaurant para tomar un trago y picar algo a la tardecita, también ofrecemos nuestra propia variante de empanada rellena de mozarella, albahaca, tomates secos y salsa pesto para acompañar.

The Origin of Empanadas

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PH: Antonio García

In Argentina, we love to say that empanadas are one of our typical dishes. This is true, but to a point, it all depends on what you mean by “typical”. Of course, “typical” in South America is sometimes difficult to define because of the strong European influence. Migration patterns after colonization were particularly particular in Argentina, so it is even more notorious here and so we have “typical” pizza, pasta, and ice-cream too, when probably you would be thinking wait, aren’t all those foods typically Italian? Yes (relatively), in fact originally that’s where we got them from, however, then each place appropriates the influx and makes it into something of its own.

When trying to trace back the origins of the famous (and delicious) empanadas, first influx in Argentina of this juicy morsel would be Spanish.  Tracing back, the Spanish might have gotten it from Arab cultures which make similar mouth-watering fatays and sfijas and kibbes. Apparently the Greeks had already imported an empanada type phyllo-dough dish called bougatsa from Constantinople as well, and in Mesopotamia, meat pies were supposed to have already been popular several hundred of years BC. In terms of prehispanic South American cultures, humitas and tamales follow a similar logic to the empanada, if one thinks of them in terms of folding and stuffing. In fact, one of the typical empanada versions we have is called humita and stuffed with corn (a prehispanic staple) and bechamel sauce. There are many more cultures with their own version of the empanada. Regardless of their origin, if you are in Argentina, make sure to try the “typical” variants, oven-baked or fried, that are common here because they certainly are delicious.

Our top 5 spots for empanadas in Buenos Aires? Find our picks here.

And, if you happen to want an evening appetizer at UCO restaurant, make sure to try our own version of tapas sized empanadas filled with mozzarella, basil, oven dried tomatoes and served with Pesto.

5 Activities to Enjoy on Rainy Buenos Aires Days

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(Photo by Klaus Balzano)

April has brought water galore with it this year, and this makes walking the streets a little less appealing than usual. Luckily, although Buenos Aires has some beautiful parks and outdoor sights, it also has plenty to offer for indoor indulgences. Here is our pick of five activities to enjoy on rainy Buenos Aires days.

Try the Wine

Rain, sun, hail, snow, it’s always a good time for a glass of wine, and Argentina knows it. Options to try the best that the local scene has to offer included heading to one of our recommended wine bars, or, booking your place at a wine tasting event.

Learn some Spanish

Take an intensive day course at one of the local Spanish schools and then put your skills to test at the Spanglish Exchange events that take place in different bars around the city.

Travel in Time

Explore the beautiful Palacio Barolo and then stop for coffee and a game of billiards at the traditional Los 36 Billares, right across the street.

Make Empanadas

Taking a cooking class is a fun, hands on experience that will give you something to sample and savor from the local culture, and something to take back home as well. Try Norma’s Saturday empanada courses and forget about the rain.

Indulge in a Decadent 5 O’Clock Tea

Traditionally served at either Las Violetas in Almagro (better for the ambience than the cakes), or, at the much posher Alvear Palace Hotel in Recoleta, 5 o clock tea, locally known as la merienda is just another excuse to indulge your sweet tooth. Smaller cafes also serve great pastry options and Allie Lazar from Pick Up the Fork has done a good job of reviewing many of them here.

Argentine Talents: Mercedes Sosa

(Photo by Wuniatu)

Mercedes Sosa, affectionately known as La Negra, was one of the greatest local folklore artists in Argentina. Her voice was known in all of Latin America and she performed in New York, London and Rome in venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Coliseum, amongst others.

Her roots were typically Argentine, that is to say from mixed cultures, including Indigenous and French. She started singing at a young age and won a singing competition at 15 that would mark the beginning of a long and very prolific career in which she received national and international recognition and recorded forty albums.   During the military coup she was exiled and lived in both Paris and Madrid until she returned to Argentina in 1982.

In 2009, she passed away at the age of 74. A month later her album Cantora 1, was awarded with two Grammys. She is remembered for her powerful voice, and for one of her emblematic tunes Gracias a la Vida, which is part of a concept album from 1971 that was inspired by Chilean poet Violeta Parra.

La Negra’s brother, Orlando, has also graced us with some local culture but of the culinary kind. La Tucumanita, which specializes in regional empanadas and locro, has three venues in the city and is the perfect place to sample what Argentina is all about.

25th of May Celebrations in Buenos Aires

(Photo by PACHAMAMA FOTOS)

The 25th of May is one of the most important national holidays in Argentina. It commemorates the day in which the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata was overthrown and replaced by the First Assembly; one of the turning points in Argentine independence.

Festivities include typical dances in folklore peñas, and patriotic foods such as locro (find Hernán Gipponi’s recipe here), empanadas, and pastelitos.

There are also festivities organized by the government and this year they will take place at the Plaza de Mayo where the president will speak this year and there will be live bands, dancing and other celebrations.

ArteBA, the most important art fair in the country, and Feria Puro Diseño will also be taking place throughout the weekend at La Rural. And, of course, there will also be brunch at Hernán Gipponi Restaurant both on Saturday and Sunday.

Top 5 Culinary Tours in Buenos Aires

(Photo by Alaskan Dude)

Parrilla Tour: Meat eating is mandatory for most people who travel to Argentina and the Parrilla Tour is the perfect way to do it. There are two versions of this carnivorous adventure; one takes place in the San Telmo neighborhood, the other in Palermo. Both include stops at three different neighborhood parrillas, and dessert at an ice-cream parlor (newcomers to Argentina may not know it yet, but Argentine ice-cream is the best.) The guides have interesting information about Argentine cuisine and culture, and also make sure to recommend the top cuts. More information here.

Argentine Experience:  This lunch or dinner experience is a great way to get to known what the local cuisine is about. The event begins with a mate refreshment upon arriving and then, once clad in chef hats and aprons, continues onto the empanada-making phase. After that comes a delicious steak and wine lunch, during which some fun and games take place, and then a mate tasting and brewing class, and an alfajor making class, all with top notch information about the local traditions. The dinner option also includes all you can drink until 11pm and free guest list entry to a BA nightclub. Places must be booked in advance. More information here.

Fuudis Gourmet Food Tour:  The last ten years have seen a boom in the city’s gourmet culinary industry, and not only in the realm of steak.   This is the side of the city that Fuudis has set out to explore and share. Their tours include stops at various restaurants focusing on a different city neighborhood on each tour. The experience is not only culinary, it is also a fun social event and special way to get to know the city. More information here.

Cooking with Teresita: Different cooking class options are offered in this bed and breakfast in the city’s outskirts. Whether it’s a short empanada lesson, a one day food tour, or a chance to make asado you’re sure to enjoy this popular option, where you will be able to cook and sample delicious food and wines. More information here.

Buenos Aires Food Tour:  Pick Up the Fork is one of the best Buenos Aires food blogs in ciberspace; not only is it written in English, it reviews every restaurant and food stand in the city and from a sincere point of view. Recently, Allie, the taster and talent behind it, has started offering customized food tours to cater to each travelers preference, whether it’s off the beaten path restaurants, the best closed doors, or why not, where to find the best chori. More information here.

We Recommend: The Argentine Experience

(Photo by Dubber)

Foodies looking for a good time in Buenos Aires should definitely try The Argentine Experience; a meat packed event where Argentina’s culinary traditions are explored in a fun recreational atmosphere.

Options include a lunch experience and a dinner experience. Both begin with a mate refreshment upon arriving and then, once clad in chef hats and aprons, continue onto the empanada-making phase. After that comes a delicious steak and wine lunch, during which some fun and games are carried out, and then a mate tasting and brewing class, and an alfajor making class, all with top notch information about the local traditions. The dinner option also includes all you can drink until 11pm and free guest list entry to a BA nightclub.

The Lunch experience costs 60USD, and the dinner costs 75USD. Places must be booked in advance. More information here.