You are walking around the center of Quito, on a street called La Ronda, as something peculiar catches your eye.
You take a look at what a man is selling outside the restaurant in the corner and you can’t believe the gigantic size of the empanadas he holds.
You get closer and admire the plumpness of this dough-creation and you begin to wonder how much filling was probably needed to fill it.
Its flawless browning on the outside, the small bubbles that form in its crust, and the granulated sugar sprinkled on top leave you wondering if, after all this time, you’ve finally found the type of heaven you’ve been looking for. A sign right above the door of his restaurant promotes these empanadas as “Empanadas de Viento.”
You ask, in Spanish, for the price of one of these, and you are surprised when the man tells you that they cost 50 cents. With pleasant disbelief, you take two quarters out of your bag and give them to him in exchange for this delicious, doughy paradise that you are about to experience.
When he hands you the gigantic empanada, you are surprised to see that it doesn’t weigh nearly as much as you were expecting for such a large confection, but you ignore that thought because you still can’t wait to bite into this cheesy delight.
You open your mouth widely and take your first bite, and suddenly, you realize that this empanada is full of air.
Empanadas de viento, or wind empanadas, are a traditional Ecuadorian food. Grandmothers have been making this cultural and culinary staple in Ecuadorian homes for years and years and the tradition has been kept alive through the inheritance of the love for this type of empanadas within the Ecuadorian society.
Tourists and visitors of Quito, the capital city of this South American country, have also been able to appreciate the flavor and tradition that this food staple encloses. Empanadas de viento are made out of sweet dough and filled with fresh cheese.
When these empanadas are fried, they inflate, creating a hole full of air on their inside and allowing the small amount of fresh cheese to melt and flow freely in this newly created space.
White granulated sugar is sprinkled on top as soon as they are done frying, giving these a sweet and salty contrast of flavor and a tiny bit of sparkle to delight the eyes. Empanadas de viento generally come in differing sizes, from the size of a Vassar V-card to the size of a pillow.
It is usually easier to find the small version of this empanada in various restaurants throughout the Ecuadorian capital, but there is one street in Quito that is famous for the gargantuan sizes of their empanadas de viento. This street is called La Ronda.
La Ronda is a curved and steep street that extends for three blocks in downtown Quito. It is famous among locals and tourists due to its nightlife.
The buildings at each side of the street have been carefully restored throughout the years, allowing the colonial façade to remain as the most important feature of this street’s character.
As soon as the sun comes down, La Ronda comes alive with the music that comes from inside its bars, the dim illumination of its colonial-style lamp posts, the laughter and upbeat conversation in Spanish from the people enjoying the environment, and the glorious smell of empanadas de viento being sold in every step of the way. This is the ideal way to enjoy an authentic empanada de viento in Quito.
Because Poughkeepsie doesn’t seem to be close enough to Ecuador, here is the recipe to make empanadas de viento right here, at Vassar.
•1 1/3 all-purpose flour
•1 stick cold butter, cubed
•1/4 cup cold water
•1/4 teaspoon salt
•8 to 10 oz. grated cheese (preferably “queso fresco”)
•Vegetable oil for frying
•White granulated sugar for sprinkling
Mix 1 cup of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 stick of cold butter in a food processor. Immediately after the mixture is incorporated, knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until the butter has dissolved and mixed into the dough.
Add 1/4 cup of cold water and continue kneading. If the dough is too humid, gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup of flour and continue kneading until smooth. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes under a napkin. Divide the dough into 10 dough balls. Roll out each dough ball with a wooden roller and place about an ounce of queso fresco in the middle of each dough disk.
Put water in the borders of each disk and fold the dough in half, pressing the borders with a fork to form the edge of the empanada. Fry the empanadas in hot vegetable oil and sprinkle granulated sugar as soon as you drain the oil from them. Serve immediately and enjoy!