DINING WITH DEKEGood, inexpensive Chilean empanadas on the river

Mar 5, 2011

Editor’s Note: Deke and Shirlee arrived in Cuenca for the first time on a two-week visit to Ecuador in early March 2010, and Deke promised himself he’d expatriate within a year. After he and Shirlee visited Cuenca for a month in October, Deke went home to Reno committed to keeping the promise, and he returned on a six-month tourist visa on March 1, four days short of a year. You can read the visa story, among many others, at AccessEcuador.com, which has upwards of 100 pages about Cuenca and Ecuador.

I stumbled across Empanadas Chilenas on the way back to the apart hotel from my lawyer’s office, where I was attending to the bureaucratic details concerning my 12-IX tourist visa (click here for that story). I’d bumped into Francisco Astudillo Galarza at the Chamber of Commerce’s event to launch its new website, CuencaForExpats.com (click here for that story), and it’s a good thing I did. 

At the event, he explained to me that my visa had to be “recognized” by the Director General of Foreigners in Quito within 30 days of my arrival. Then I had another 30 days to get my censo (the Ecuadorian ID). I wasn’t aware of this, so I made an appointment with Francisco to quickly comply with the requirements. 

Francisco’s office is on the south side of the river, just beyond the roundabout at the intersection of 12 de Abril and Avenida José Peralta. After the meeting, I weaved in and out of the heavy traffic to cross to the north side of the river and looked up to see Empanadas Chilenas.

Empanadas are doughy pastries that are folded (empanar means to fold) around a filling that consists of beef, chicken, vegetables, even fruit. They're common in many countries of Latin America and southern Europe. 

Shirlee and I had a fantastic empanadafest in Cotacachi at Empanaditas Y Mas, a little hole-in-the-wall eatery right across the street from Meson de las Flores (since renamed Hotel Tierra del Sol), and we’d tried empanadas every chance we got from there to Cuenca — with pretty sad results, unfortunately. I’m still trying them, so I stopped into the little empanada place across the street from the lawyer's.

Empanadas Chilenas is a very simple operation that serves them stuffed with beef and chicken ($1.60 with a six-ounce bottle of soda) and seafood ($1.70). I tried one of each and these are the real deal: The dough, not too thick, is expertly folded around the ample, moist, and tasty filling that’s cooked with onions, peppers, and hard-boiled egg. 

And you can’t beat the price. My meal with three empanadas and two sodas (I skipped the third) came to $5.50 with tip.  

Though it was early, around 5 p.m., the joint was jumpin’, always a good sign. Several tables of diners came and went while I ate and another bunch bought their empanadas to go.

Empanadas Chilenas is on Avenida 3 de Noviembre right on the river at the bottom of Calle Miguel Molinos, the short street that winds up the hill, then makes a “T” intersection with Calle Larga right at the fine El Maiz restaurant. 

If anyone has any other recommendations for empanadas in Cuenca or Ecuador, drop me a line at deke@accessecuador.com. 

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