Empanada assortment at Macondo
(photo by Steve Dolinsky)
I just love edible little packages. Whether they're golfball-sized har gow (shrimp steamed in rice flour wrappers) for dim sum, starchy pierogi stuffed with potatoes and cheese, or a simple empanada, jammed with beef, chicken, peppers or all of the above. The pleasures of eating with your hands, dipping into indiscriminate sauces and popping into one's mouth never gets old.
I've always thought, at least in Chicago, that Argentina grabbed the lion's share of PR when it came to empanada sales and marketing.‚ I've been hearing about El Nandu in Logan Square for more than a decade (their empanadas are very good), and the baked/fried varieties at Buenos Aires Liquor & Deli on the Northwest Side are hidden gems. Oddly enough, I tried some Chilean empanadas when I was in Toronto recently -- at a place called Jumbo Empandas -- and the shell was actually more crisp, a bit thinner than what I'm used to, and had a beautiful, bright sheen as a result of an egg wash before baking. Nearly every South American country has their own version of the empanada, and in Chicago lately, the Colombians are coming on strong.