Saturday, February 2, 2008
In Search of Chilean Empanadas
I love empanadas but have been frustrated at the dearth of good ones in LA (and West Coast in general). I am partial to the baked Chilean variety (rather than deep fried), with ground beef, raisins, olives, hard-boiled egg and onions. On my recent trip to DC, I went back to my favorite empanada place in the US so far -- Julia's Empanadas.
Thankfully, Julia's stays open late (4am on weekends) and we braved the cold to walk past the night revelers and stand in line with great anticipation. The smell of freshly baked empanadas permeated the tiny storefront as we walked in and soon we were blessed with these piping hot creations to warm our hands. We got a good sampling, including Chilean, Jamaican, chorizo, spinach, turkey and vegetarian.
My favorite, of course, was the Chilean. Although not nearly as good as the beef ones in Santiago or seafood ones in Iquique, it sure beat all the ones I've had in the US so far. Julia is apparently Chilean, so I got lucky (Chilean shout-out: Te pasaste, Julia!). The ground beef mixture that tastes at once salty (olives) and slightly sweet (raisins) with the hearty texture of chopped hard-boiled egg that surprises you as you bite into the soft and crunchy dough. Simply the perfect (late-night) snack -- or breakfast!
I am a sucker for spicy, so had to love the Jamaican one that has curry and other spices added to ground beef and potatoes. I normally don't love turkey, but I liked this empanada -- probably because it contains jalapeños. As spicy goes, the chorizo was disappointing and the mushy texture was unpleasant. I wouldn't get that again.
The spinach and vegetarian ones are ok but nothing to write home about. If you want variety, get them. Otherwise, stick to the classics (or spiced up versions). I tried the sweet dessert empanadas with fruit but I wouldn't recommend them.
I have tried Empanada's Place, Empanada Factory and Grand Casino Panaderia & Cafe (I believe mostly Argentinean establishments) as well as empanadas sold in Rincon Chileno and Ciudad but none come close. I heard of an empanada place in Monrovia and Lake Forest that I would like to check out. If anyone else knows of a good empanada place in LA, please share.
Julia's Empanadas (multiple locations)
2452 18th Street NW
(between N Adams Mill Rd & N Belmont Rd)
Washington, DC 20009