Few dishes are as cherished to Dominicans as Pasteles en Hoja It is an essential component of the Christmas and New Year's Eve feast.
Whenever I want to explain Pasteles en Hoja (Roots and Beef Pockets) to somebody who has never seen them I usually say "they are a little bit like tamales, with different ingredients".
I know it's a roundabout way of explaining it, but it gets the message across. Maybe.
What are Pasteles en Hoja?
Pasteles en Hoja are like tamales, popular in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Instead of a corn "masa", a plantain (or unripe banana) and root batter is used as the base. They can be stuffed with beef (most common stuffing), chicken, or whatever strikes your fancy.
This Christmas classic is made with many ingredients that, although common in the Dominican Republic, might be hard to come across in your own country, so plan this recipe ahead to give yourself time to hunt down all the necessary ingredients - it will be worth it. If you can't get the banana tree leaves, don't despair; you can use parchment paper instead.
There is also a yuca (cassava) version that I love every bit as much.
Dominican vs. Puerto Rican pasteles
The name Pasteles de Masa seems to be the most common way to find Puerto Rican pasteles recipes in Spanish. They are very similar to Dominican Pasteles en Hoja. Having once tried Puerto Rican pasteles, I can honestly say that I could have closed my eyes and imagined I was in Santo Domingo; they were that close.
Curiously, when I checked the oldest Dominican cookbook I own (first published in the 1930s), there were two versions of this dish, one the author called "Pasteles Puertoriqueños". The other was very similar to this recipe, but with the addition of yuca (we don't currently do so) so by then Dominicans were aware of the two versions of this dish, I believe.
Filling for pasteles
About our recipe
In all the years I've been blogging I've encountered countless ways of making pasteles (before I started writing about Dominican food I just cared about eating them, not how they were made).
Some people use unripe bananas instead of plantains, some reject using auyama as blasphemous, and anything in between. There is no one right way to make pasteles, and that's a great thing, we all like different things.
The main objective in my writing this recipe is that I want pasteles that are creamy, soft. Many pasteles turn out so hard it's like eating a boiled green plantain. Not this one. Don't be afraid when the batter seem a bit too runny, this is important, it's what will result in the kind of soft, juicy pasteles most people prefer.
We'd love to hear the tips you swear by for great pasteles, so let us know in the comments!
Pasteles en Hoja Recipe (Plantain and Beef Pockets)
- Filling (see list above recipe)
For the batter
- 1 large unripe plantain or 1½ medium plantain (½ lb [227 g] once peeled, see notes)
- ⅓ lb of peeled yautía blanca [151 g] (taro)
- ⅓ lb of peeled auyama [151 g] (or kabocha squash)
- 1 tablespoon of seasoning powder (must contain garlic and onion)
- 1 cup of milk [237 ml]
- 1½ teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoon butter [28 g]
- 1 tablespoon bija powder (annato, achiote)
- Ketchup (optional, see notes)
- Hot sauce (optional, see notes)
- Making the batter by hand: Grate the plantain, yautía, and auyama with the least coarse side of the grater. Once grated, combine all the ingredients for the batter and mix well.Making the batter with blender/food processor: Chop the plantain, yautía, and auyama, and combine with the rest of the ingredients for the batter. Pureé in a strong blender or a food processor until it's uniform, and you can't feel any clumps, but feels like grains of sand in it. It may take 5-10 minutes depending on the blender/processor.
- Wrapping: Put 2.5 tablespoons of the plantain and root mixture on one of the plantain squares. Put 2 tablespoons of filling in the center, cover with 2 more tablespoons of the root mixture to cover the filling.Fold the leaf square in the shape of an envelope. Wrap again in parchment paper and tie tightly.Repeat with the remaining batter.
- Boiling: When all are wrapped, bring one gallon of water to boil in a large pot over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of salt.When the water reaches a rolling boil, carefully lower the pasteles into the water. Cover and cook for 40 minutes. The pasteles will float when put into the water, but as they cook they'll start to puff and sink. Make sure to turn a couple of times during the cooking time so they cook uniformly on all sides. Once the 40 minutes have passed, remove one from the pot, unwrap, and check for doneness: the consistency of the batter will have changed throughout. If it's ready, remove all from the water, otherwise boil for another 10 minutes.
- Serving: Serve right after unwrapping, garnished with hot sauce and/or ketchup.