Monday, August 03, 2009

Venezuelan empanadas

Empanadas again

In May, I started hunting for good empanadas. I didn't like strange crust flavor of the fried Argentinian empanadas at the Original Marini's. The fried hemp empanada at Ruggles Green were a little too greasy. The baked Argentinian empanadas at Manena's tasted best. Still, I had a feeling that I could do better.

Then a good friend offered to make her favorite empanadas from a Venezuelan recipe.

Feast of empanadas

When Lizzette brought out the platter of fried empanadas and arepas, I was a little overwhelmed.

Fried empanadas are usually heavy. So it is hard to eat more than one. Yet within 30 minutes, 5 people devoured the entire plate. Strangely, these fried empanadas almost tasted light.

There is no question. These empanadas were far, far better than the fried empanadas at Marini's and Ruggles. They didn't have the frozen burrito flavor. The crust had a clean, light flavor and a crispy texture.

Although we had a few varieties, my favorite had a filling of queso blanco and sugar cane. It was a striking contrast of sharp cheese flavors and with the sweetness of the sugar cane.

The secret - masa

Lizzette let me in on the secret of why these Venezuelan empanadas were so much better -- the crust is not made of flour, but masa corn meal.


The last batch was a real treat. Lizzette tired of rolling out and folding empanadas. Instead, she used the same masa crust to make arepas.

We cut open and stuffed our own arepas with guiso de pollo, a stew of chicken, raisins, and spices. We then topped them with a fabulous green sauce called guasacaca -- made with a pepper called aji dulce, avocado, onion, bell pepper. tomatillo, garlic, parsley, and cilantro. The sauce was mild on pepper but heavy on wonderful garden flavors.

In both the arepas and empanadas, the masa added a texture of grainy earthiness. It also soaked up less grease than fried empanadas with flour crust. This crust was far superior.

Where to get Venezuelan empanadas?

Although you might not get the chance to have Venezuelan-style emapanadas at my friend Lizzette's house, I hear they serve them at Tuttopane bakery. I can't wait to try them.


Jdvn1 said...

I recommended Tuttopane in your original empanada post--they don't just have Venezuelan empanadas, but it's practically a Venezuelan bakery in disguise. For example, Tuttopane serves cachito (which is hard to find in Houston).

I've recently found another Venezuelan empanada place. There is a Shell gas station in Katy--bear with me--that sells Venezuelan food in its cafe. And it is pretty darn good. I'm not sure how it compares to Tuttopane, as I'd want to do a side-by-side comparison, but it's very good. Be warned that they close early-ish (5 or 6 during the week, I don't recall). If you're willing to try something a little different, you might try a cazon empanada, which is shark. This place also has pasteles (singular 'pastel') which is a similar concept to empanadas.

Tuttopane seems to use Venezuelan-style cheeses that are actually made in Stafford (there's a Venezuelan cheese maker in Stafford, apparently), while I think the place in Katy gets their cheese from Florida or something.

brucesw said...

Mind telling us where the cafe is Jdvn1? I had heard about a Venezuelan place in Katy and went looking for it but I thought it was a mobile unit.

I had my first Venezuelan empanadas at Arepas y Empanadas Dona Maria, a trailer on 1960B East in Humble a few years ago. The fillings weren't as interesting as Marini's but I liked the arepa based casing better.

I had even better Venezuelan empanadas at the short-lived Pana's Cafe on Scarsdale.

There's a Venezuelan truck at Crossview and Westheimer, one block east of Fondren, Sabor Venezolana, that has a large menu of street foods; I had a Carne Mechada empanada there - the beef made it one of my favorite empanadas I've ever had but it was pre-made and pretty much at room temp when served up. There's supposed to be another unit at 5130B Hwy 6 North.

The empanadas I saw at Tuttopane were also pre-cooked so I passed and got an arepa rellena with queso de mano.

BTW they had a Chilean empanada (baked) in the case at Tuttopane, too. anonymouseater may also want to try the Chilean empanadas at El Temucano on Synott (?), thin pastry crust baked empanadas that in my experience have very little filling.

Mary said...

I hear a lot about Miguelito's Venezuelan Restaurant on Richmond, but have not yet tried it. I'm interested in the tequenos, which I loved in Venezuela as a youth. They also have empanadas and arepas. Anyone been there?

Anonymous said...

I liked the empanadas I once had in Deli's cafe which is hidden in a Shell gas station by Mason rd in Katy.

Anonymous said...

I really like tuttopane's empanadas, chicha and pan de jamon (ham bread). Also, their cachitos are excellent, and I think is the only place where I've had cachitos like the ones in Venezuela!

NathanH said...

i see i am a little late on this posting...My venezuelan wife and i are moving back to houston from colorado, and i just noticed that Miguelito's is no longer open. Just as well, they served decent food, when they had any food to serve. Usually you'd go through half the menu before you got to something that they had that day. We love Sabor Venezuela, hard to get fresh empanadas there, but their arepa with reina pepiada filling is awesome.
We are looking forward to trying Tuttopane and the place in Katy, and other place that serves up great venezuelan food.

NathanH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jdvn1 said...

This is late, but the Venezuelan place in Katy is called Dani's Cafe (I didn't know it had a name), and is on S Mason Rd and Cinco Ranch Blvd, inside the gas station on the NW corner.

There's also now a Venezuelan food truck that serves up some great food at Highway 6 and Beechnut (pretty hard to see from the road, it's behind a car place by the Burger King).

Those are my top two places, now.

Sabor Venezolana on Richmond close to Fondren has been hit or miss for me, and I've always thought it was overpriced. Street food from a truck shouldn't cost that much. I guess if you go during a busy time, their food is more fresh, though.

And, Miguelito's, I believe, has been closed for a number of years (I think since before this blog post was posted).

I don't know of any Venezuelan place that will make empanadas to order unless they happen to run out. I'm not sure there's a Venezuelan place right now that doesn't serve tequenos, but I've seen some places run out. They're pretty popular!

I've heard there's a Venezuelan food truck in north Houston--I'm rarely in that part of town, but am curious if anyone's tried it. It's not exactly close to Katyzuela.

Carla Aranguren said...

Food is great at Deli's Cafe.

I have tried ALL the Venezuelan Restaurants in Houston and I have to say that the best two to sit down and eat are Deli's Cafe (#1) and Budare on Grand Parkway. Of course if you're looking for a quick bite you can go to Sabor Venezolano. Deli's Cafe is the best!! I went once and tried just about everything and it ALL good. This is the closest to food from home.