Empanada Frenzy: Ecuador Essential Eats Part 4

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A local in Baños makes savory and sweet empanadas.

I know – y’all are probably sick of me gushing about Ecuador by now, but guess what? Empanadas!

Along with the overload of volcanoes we saw (seriously, there are so many volcanoes with so many names; I renamed them all Karl), empanadas are errywhere. A staple in South America, they come stuffed various fillings depending on the region. In Ecuador, green banana is common, as is cheese and one filled with cinnamon and sugar for dessert! The American equivalent would be hand pies, but we all know they just aren’t the same.

The word empanada comes from the word empanar, which means to wrap something in bread. I find that fascinating that there is a whole word devoted to this concept. It just goes to show that the Spanish know what’s up when it comes to their pastries.

Check out mis pasteles favoritos below. I’m very tempted to make some dessert empanadas of my own next week – what are your thoughts on what I should stuff them with? If I pick your filling, you’ll get a homemade batch delivered to you!*

So many options.

* Giveaway applicable to SF residents only.

Starting the trip right with baby empanadas at Hotel Quito. The spicy dipping sauce was awesome as well.

A green banana empanada on the right and a chicken one on the left from Restaurant Yaravi.

A sweet empanada from the local market. I also got a savory one, cus I’m a fatty like that.

The last empanada standing…at the airport! Don’t mind my grimy nails.

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Loco for Locro: Ecuador Essential Eats Part 2

Restaurant at El Mitad Del Mundo.

Now, when you’re galavanting about Ecuador at elevations of 9,000 – 13,000 feet and you only bring two pairs of pants (genius move, really), it gets pretty damn cold.

Luckily, South America has an answer for these nippy noodles – locro.

A traditional potato and cheese soup, locro is very popular in cities along the Andes mountain range. It has the consistency of a thinner potato chowder and can be served with additional slices of cheese (that taste similar to paneer), pumpkin seeds, avocado, and chili flakes. In restaurants, you’ll see it in the appetizer section, but it makes for a satisfying vegetarian lunch on its own, especially because it comes in American-sized bowls (merps).

I went on a locro spree in nearly every city I visited, so it’s safe to say that I’ve come to know a thang or two about what a good locro should taste like. The favorites are pictured below, along with where they came from. If anyone has a good recipe for this deliciousness, please send over!

Soup’s up.

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Crap photo, but such is the price I pay for a bowl of this deliciousness at 11pm upon arrival into Ecuador. This version at Hotel Quito remained my favorite throughout the trip.

Restaurant Yaravi’s verison, at El Mitad del Mundo, not too far from Quito. I liked the DIY aguacate and cheese add-ins, but the soup wasn’t hot enough in temperature.

I loved the addition of the pumpkin seeds in this loco at San Pablo, which added a nice textural element to the soup of which I’m always a fan. Chicharrones were another add-in, but I stayed vegetarian….for now.

Another locro libation at D’Anita, in Cotocachi. Hot sauce addition by yours truly, because #lezbereal, it’s a brown thing.

Linkables

Hotel Quito: Highly recommended; knowing Spanish is helpful, as there is a language barrier with some of the staff.

Restaurant Yaravi: Located amongst the shops of El Mitad Del Mundo, it serves traditional, no-frills Ecuadorian food. Pretty touristy, but solid food.

Cabañas del Lago: Beautiful bungalow rooms overlooking the lake and Imbabura volcano. Helpful staff with delicious South American food.

D’Anita: Another traditional restaurant in Cotocachi, a town known for its leather goods. Run by a family, everyone is attentive and accommodating, so don’t hesitate to ask questions. Outdoor patio is great during warmer weather, and fish dishes are delicious.