The Origin of Empanadas


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 platos andinos para probar este invierno

papa andina

PH: emilia

La cocina andina es conocida por sus platos suculentos hechos con ingredientes locales tales como el maíz y la papa. Esto la hace ideal para el invierno, pero también es una manera de acercarse a las culturas locales de Sudamérica y de preservarlas. A continuación, detallamos cinco platos andinos para probar este invierno.

Humita: El ingrediente principal de este plato prehispánico es el maíz que se combina, según la región, con otros ingredientes tales como queso, huevo y especias varias. La preparación de maíz se envuelve en una chala y se hierve antes de servir bien caliente. En Argentina, la humita también refiere a un tipo de empanada rellena de choclo y ,generalmente, con salsa blanca o bechamel.

Charqui: Esta carne secada y salada, originalmente de llama, y en la actualidad por lo general de vaca, fue uno de los ingredientes clave de la cocina incaíca.

Ajiaco: Nuevamente, según la región en la que se prepare este plato, se encuentran muchas variaciones. En Cuba, tradicionalmente se prepara con ají picante, distintos cortes de carne y verduras. En Colombia, se prepara con pollo, diferentes variedades de papa, y hierbas locales. En Perú, el ajiaco se hace con papas de distinto tipo, ajo, ají panca y mirasol y otras combinaciones de hierbas.

Locro: En este guiso potente de la zona andina se combina maíz, legumbres, papas, zapallo y diferentes cortes de carne. Es popular en toda la región, especialmente en invierno, y en Argentina siempre se prepara para los festejos asociados a las fiestas patrias.

Llauja: Esta salsa picante típica de Bolivia es el complemento ideal para elevar las temperaturas en invierno. Se hace con tomate, un ají picante local llamado locoto y a veces con ajo, cilantro y otras hierbas.

Estos platos típicos andinos se pueden probar durante todo julio en UCO restaurante que diseñó un menú especial de cuatro pasos armado en base a estos sabores.

5 Andean Foods to Try this Winter


PH: _Koba_

Andean cuisine is known for its hearty, filling dishes that feature corn and potatoes as some of its key ingredients. Not only does this make it ideal for winter, but it is also a way of getting to know the local South American indigenous cultures, and preserving them. Below, our pick of five Andean foods to try this winter.

Humita: This pre-hispanic dish features corn as its main ingredient, and, depending on where it is prepared, it may include cheese, spices, or other ingredients. The corn preparation is wrapped in a corn husk and boiled, then served, piping hot. In Argentina, humita also refers to a type of corn empanada filling that usually comes with bechamel sauce. 

Charqui: This dried and salted meat, originally llama, and more commonly nowadays beef, was one of the ingredients of Inca cuisine.

Ajiaco: Again, depending on the region, this hearty dish has many variations. In Cuba, it is traditionally prepared with hot pepper and a variety of meat cuts and tubers. In Colombia, it is prepared with chicken, different potato varieties and local herbs. In Perú, ajiaco y quite different and is a preparation of different potato varieties, with garlic, panko and mirasol chillies, amongst other herbs.

Locro: Another hearty stew, this dish is prepared with corn, beans, potato, pumpkin and meat cuts. It is popular throughout the whole Andean region, specially in winter and in Argentina, it is always prepared for festivities associated to national holidays.

Llauja:  This hot and spicy salsa, typical from Bolivia, is the ideal complement to raise the temperature in cold winter days. It’s made with tomato, a local spicy pepper called locoto and sometimes garlic, cilantro and/or other herbs.

 To get a taste of these special Andean dishes, stop by UCO to try our special July 4-step tasting menu that features these typical local foods.


Humita: Traditional Flavors from the North West

(Photo by suzienewshoes)

One of the most typical Argentine foods, from the north of the country, is a corn dish called humita. This warming and satisfying dish dates back to pre-Hispanic times, and was an Incan staple, which is why it can be found with different variations along the continent.

In Argentina there are two ways of preparing this dish; one is a la olla (in a pot), and the other en chala (wrapped in corn husks). There is also a  popular variety of corn filled empanadas that are called empanadas de humita.

The recipe for humita is quite simple. It calls for a large amount of grated raw corn (approx. 1 dozen), 1 sautéed onion, 1 red bell pepper, paprika,  ½ cup of basil, ½ cup of lard, goat cheese (optional) and salt. Everything except the cheese is mixed together forming a paste, and then for the chala version two cornhusks are overlapped forming a diamond-like shape and in the center a few spoonfuls of the corn paste are placed along with a square of goat cheese. The husks are folded and tied with a small strip of the corn leaves.  Then the wrapped up humita is introduced into salted boiling water for approximately 45 minutes.  To cook a la olla, the mix, without cheese, must be cooked in a pot for approximately an hour. Many recipes include butternut squash for this version, and milk to make the stirring easier.