Bolivian Salteñas are a traditional Bolivian street food that is filled with a delicious beef or chicken filling and is slightly sweet and savory.
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by: Daniel Barker
Between 2005 and 2007 I was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Bolivia. I lived there for two years, changing from one part of the country to another every few months. I met a ton of wonderful people who changed my life and whom I will always cherish. One of my only complaints was the food.
At the time I wasn’t a big fan of rice, and rice is one of the main staples of Bolivian cuisine. It wasn’t just a little bit of rice on a plate either – it was a huge plateful of rice, usually accompanied by some type of meat and lots and lots of potatoes. I can’t say that all of the food was bad though – there were some things that I really loved – and one of those was a delicious, empanada-like food called a Bolivian Salteña.
I tried my first Bolivian Salteña probably a couple of weeks after arriving in Bolivia. I wasn’t sure what it was, but the other missionaries said that I had to try it and that they were so delicious – and delicious they were! The bread has a delicious, slightly sweet taste, and the filling is so savory and delicious. They come in different varieties – made with chicken, shredded beef, ground beef, and more. They traditionally have a slice of hard boiled egg on the inside, as well as an olive and sometimes even raisins (although I omitted both the olive and raisins from my version, because I am not a fan).
One thing about Bolivian Salteñas is that they are very juicy. They have been known to ruin more than one missionary’s shirt because of the juice that drips out if you aren’t expecting it.
In one of the little towns where I lived, Arani, which is close to Cochabamba, the majority of the people spoke quechua, a native language that is pretty cool, but pretty hard to speak and/or understand. A lot of the people spoke both Spanish and Quechua, but some only spoke Quechua. While I was there, one of the members of the Church that cooked for us sometimes shared her recipe for Bolivia Salteñas with me and I wrote it down so that I could make them when I got home.
Well, like most of the paperwork and letters that I brought home from Bolivia, that recipe was buried in a notebook, in a box in my garage – until just a couple of days ago. When I was going through my things, I found the recipe on a piece of paper that I had written on it all those years ago. I decided that I really wanted to try to make it, so I gathered up the ingredients, and checked out a few other versions online to compare and make sure that I had the process down and I set to making them.
I really hope that if you set out to make these, that you enjoy them and that they become one of your favorites, like they have become for me. Enjoy!