The empanada is one of Cuzco’s favorite snacks and Don Chicho’s have become a Cuzco tradition. His folded, savory pies captivate the most demanding palates of the city. These crispy and tasty empanadas even please the eyes just from their detailed and layered texture and the special way in which they are sold.
Every one in Cuzco, and even some tourists, have stopped sometime to buy these delicious empanadas that are accompanied, if one wishes, by mayonnaise, lime, and hot sauce.
Every empanada has a filling, whose flavor along with the taste and texture of the bread makes eating them an experience in synergy. But when the rocoto sauce, drops of lime juice are added to them they become an unusually tempting feast of flavor, filled with color and scent. It is hard to say “no” to another one.
The empanada is a prepared food composed of fine bread dough with a rising agent, whether short bread or puff pastry, and may be sweet or savory. It can be of meat or fruit. Generally empanadas are made from wheat flour [—] sometimes with the addition of a fat, such as oil or lard. Most of the gastronomic cultures of Spanish Latin America have their own empanadas.
Throughout the City of Cuzco are found small metal stands with glass faced boxes stacked with crispy, hot, empanadas just to tempt all who pass by. Wherever there are groups of people it is likely you will find one. Of these, the Don Chicho trademark has claimed the vast majority. Over the last decades all others have lost out to him. His stands–and they are his, not independent merchants who franchise with him– are found in thirty-nine different places. Even though other places, such as bakeries, cafes, and supermarkets, make and sell empanadas, Don Chicho owns the streets and almost sets the style for a good Cuzco-style empanada.
The Don Chicho business has worked hard to gain this presence and almost monopoly. For thirty years it has been offering these tasty treats n the street. For some they can be a meal while for others they are just a snack.
Yet, Don Chicho is not a large business. It only has some fifty workers, of whom only eleven–all men–make and bake the savory pastries. The people who prepare the hot sauce and slice the limes, as well as work the stands selling the empanadas are all women.
The center, where all the empanadas are made, is just a house in the neighborhood of Loroacancha, on the slopes beneath the important tourist destination of Saqsayhuaman.
The empanadas are served hot, from 8:30 in the morning until about 2 in the afternoon. The saleswomen gather at the home to receive the hot pies, they wrap the in baskets surrounded by cloth to keep them warm, and then go to their stand to begin selling them.
Each seller carries a variety of empanadas. Not only do they vary according to filling, beef, chicken, cheese, franks, mixed, and salteñas, they also vary in shape. Each filling has its own shape to distinguish them at a glance. They are sold for one sol each.
These traditional little dishes are not consumed on any special date, but are bought and eaten daily by people transiting Cuzco’s spaces. There really is a great demand for this finger food and the prestige from the demand ultimately relies on their quality and flavor.
All you have to do, now, it get off your chair, walk a couple of blocks or so to find one of the Don Chicho empanada stands, and ask the charming woman selling them to give you one or more and you will enjoy the touch of flavor that fills Cuzco’s mornings.