The Perfect Bolivian Salteña

Cochabamba is known as the “food city” to many Bolivians for its plethora of street food vendors that occupy every corner and line each block. You’ll find everything: deep fried empanadas, grilled anticucho (cow heart skewers with peanut sauce – delicious!!), sizzling pots of pork pieces, giant caldrons of sopa de mani with chicken feet, pollo and chorizo sandwiches, fresh squeezed juices, marshmallow pastries and more. However, the Bolivian salteña has quickly become one of our favorite street foods.

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Salteñas are generally served between 9 and 11 am with tea, coffee or soda as a mid-morning snack. It’s most common to take a seat by the food stand and spend a few minutes savoring this tasty snack by the side of the road. The perfect salteña is filled with a sweet, salty, spicy, chunky soup. The dough is sweet and a rich gold color, firm enough to hold the wet side, but chewy enough to bite into easily. If you are a Bolivian, or a well practiced wannabe, you know how to eat this juicy pastry with your hands, neatly sucking up the soup with every bite. If you are a beginner salteña eater like me, you will have juice running down to your elbows if you try to do it that way. If you are lucky enough to find a good soupy salteña, it’s best to take it with a plate and spoon, turning the dough into a bread bowl that is slowly carved away.

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Tip: The best salteñas in Bolivia are in Potosi. Look for a little salteña restaurant near la plaza principal.

Making salteñas is not an easy task, but definitely one for those seeking a little adventure in the kitchen. If you want to taste what I’m tasting, follow these recipes and cooking tips to enjoy the perfect salteña at home!

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For the dough (masa):

1 pound of flour
1/2 pound of shortening
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 cup of water with 1/2 tsp. salt dissolved
2 tablespoon of chili powder (yellow aji, in Bolivia)
2 egg yolks

For the stew inside (jigote):
1 pounds of meat (beef, chicken, pork or a mix) in small cubes
1/2 pound of bone marrow (beef, usually)
5 cups of beef broth, adding one package of unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons of powered yellow chili pepper
6 boiled (but firm) potatoes – diced
2 white or red onions – finely chopped
1 cup of cooked peas
3 tablespoons of parsely – finely chopped
1 can of kalamata olives – pitted
3 hard boiled eggs (optional)
1 cup of raisins (optional)
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of pepper
salt to taste

PREPARE the stew before preparing the dough. The stew must remain overnight in the refrigerator. So prepare the dough the next day right before you’re ready to bake the salteñas.

For the STEW, fry the onions and yellow chili pepper. When cooked, add 4 cups of the beef broth (having already added the unflavored gelatin to the broth) and allow to boil. Add the diced meat and cook 15 minutes. Take it off the stove and add the bone marrow, parsley, peas, cooked potatoes, pepper, salt and the 1 remaining cup of beef broth. Put it into a container in the refrigerator overnight. This will allow the gelatin to firm up the stew enough to be able to spoon the stew onto the rounds of dough you made. It will have become gelatinous which is necessary otherwise it would be impossible to fill the dough with the stew.

For the DOUGH, mix the flour, sugar, shortening, eggs, and yellow chili pepper. When the dough starts to get thick add the water. The dough will be come very firm. Knead the dough until it is well blended. Then roll out the dough and cut into rounds (like tortillas) that are 1/2 an inch thick and about 10 centimeters across).

Place one scoop of gelatinous stew onto each round of dough, add one olive, a few raisins and one slice of hard boiled egg to each if desired, fold over in half and crimp to seal (like you would the edge of a pie). Note: It is very important it be completely fully sealed because while it is baking the stew will become juicy again.

Place the salteña upright with the sealed edge on top of a greased cookie sheet. Brush the entire exterior of the saltenas with egg whites so they are shiny after baking. BAKE for 20 to 30 minutes at 550ºF until the crimped edge is very well toasted and the dough is a dark golden brown (also will look a beautiful yellowish because of the chili pepper).

Let sit 10 minutes, no mas. Serve piping hot with a spoon and lots of napkins. Makes about 15 juicy and delicious salteñas.

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Tip: You can freeze salteñas (unbaked) as long as they are very well wrapped. When you want to bake them, place them immediately from the freezer to the oven – do not thaw.

Disclaimer – Other variations of this recipe are also said to be fabulous. This recipe is from www.BoliviaBella.com.

Provecho!

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