It was love at first sight with Catibias (Cassava Pasties), and complete infatuation with Mr. Queso de Hoja, the cheese vendor, whose, uh, balls of cheese were always the freshest…
Oh, how I miss the street vendors. All vendors really, but in particular, and in no small part due to their multitude, the food vendors, of course. The traveling hair accessories guy is great, and the baby-clothes dude was an ally, of sorts. But unless you owe these folks money, you can’t be certain of when or where you’ll see them next. I could set my watch on my 5 o’clock empanaditas de yuca, however. Without fail, the pastelitero would appear with his hot, savory pastries, clanking the lid of his big tin and cachú (ketchup) in tow.
Also a welcome sight was Mr. Lambicero, ambling down the street with his giant Tupperware full of conch salad, served to you in a styrofoam cup, complete with a lemon wedge; a nice treat on a Sunday.
There are too many other snack vendors to mention further (the boiled egg kids, the chicharrones guy, the old man and his corn-on-the-cob etc., etc.), to cater to your every craving.
Let us not forget the other food vendors too, the ones who mold your family’s menu into shape. What you have for your lunch could well depend on who happens to pass by. “Berro! Berro!” Hey, a watercress salad for lunch might be nice… “Guanduleeees!” Mmmmm, guandules guisados today sounds like a good idea. And who can resist the traveling fishmongers, proudly displaying their largest catches of the day? Much simpler than racking your brain in the supermarket, searching for ideas, they bring the supermarket to you (and less overhead too, making them that much cheaper).
Now if only they would adhere to some standard of decency in regards to the volumes of their loudspeakers, it would be a perfect street vendor world.
Jill, a member of our original team (where we knew her as Aunt Jane), and contributor to our book, is Canadian, mom to two Canadian-Dominican boys and resided in the Dominican Republic for several years.
Empanaditas de Yuca (Cassava Empanadas): a delicious, gluten-free empanadas made with cassava flour, and that has a surprising crunchiness.
- 1 tbsp olive oil [10g]
- 1 red onion (small-sized, minced [40 g])
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed [15g]
- 1/2 lb [113g] of ground beef
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce [60g]
- 1/2 bell pepper (diced [76g] )
- 3/4 teaspoon of salt (or more, to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon of pepper (or more, to taste)
- 1 sprig of cilantro (optional)
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of cativia (cassava flour or tapioca)
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 2 cups vegetable oil (corn, peanut or soy), divided
- 1/2 cup of diced cheddar
Find instructions and video for filling here. We're using plain beef filling without the optional ingredients. Notice that for this recipe we're halving the ingredients. Set aside.
Heat water to boiling point. Leave simmering over low heat.
Mix cativía, salt and 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Pour 1/4 cup of boiling-hot water and mix with a spatula. If the dough looks too dry, add more boiling water by the tablespoon, mixing each time until you have a coherent dough, but slightly on the dry side. Make sure not to add too much water.
Knead the dough until it is elastic but neither too sticky, nor too crumbly. It should resemble regular flour dough. If at any point it is too dry, or not elastic enough, add very small quantities of water and knead (see notes).
Divide the dough into 8 balls of equal size. On a lightly oiled surface roll out the balls forming thin disks. You may need to grease the rolling pin too if sticks too much.
Put a tablespoon of the beef (or a few dices of cheese) in the center, double over in a semi-circle and seal the border pressing it with a fork. Cut into a semicircle using a small bowl.
Heat oil in a small pan (so you have at least 2 inches [5cm] of oil) over medium-high heat. Deep fry the empanadas submerged in very hot oil until they are golden brown. Don't overcrowd the pot so the temperature remains evenly hot. Place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Serve immediately after frying. You can store the empanadas prior to frying by placing them on greased wax paper and covering tightly with plastic film. I haven't tried freezing them, so I am not sure if they can be stored this way.
Using homemade or store-bought cativía means that you'll need different amounts of water. There is no way to tell the exact amount, as they have different levels of humidity.
For store-bought cativía (fine tapioca) I used about 1/2 cup of boiling-hot water, adding small amounts (by the droplets), as I advanced into the preparation and the dough got drier and harder to work on.
For homemade cativía, I used a little over 1/3 cup of water in total, following the same procedure. I found homemade cativía easier to work with, and the dough was more pliable and kept its shape better.
I also tested Asian-style tapioca, which has a coarser texture, and bits the size of demerara sugar. This did not work very well, as it broke down easily, and didn't taste the same (I had this at home for more than a year, so the taste might be due to being old).
Yes, you can bake the empanadas. I did by heating the oven to 400 ºF [200 ºC] and placing the empanadas on a silicone baking mat and baking until lightly golden. They were crunchy, had good texture, but were very pale (see video).
You can also use cheese to fill them, it's not as common as the traditional beef filling, but it's also a great choice. For non-traditional options, go with your favorite filling, as long as it's not too wet.
Serving is two empanadas per person (8 in total), and approximate nutrition content is calculated with beef filling.